Since our last post, we've been asked many times to comment on Sarah Palin's mannerisms. Her Body-Talk is not as blatant as her running mate, probably because she has a background as a performer in beauty pageants and television. She has learned to conceal the smirks and clenches that play so openly across the countenance of John McCain.
In our work we call body language the Five Flags, because there are five major ways human beings react when they're not speaking the authentic truth. Twitches and jaw-clenches are examples of Flag #1, Body-Flags. To understand Sarah Palin, though, you need to understand Flags #2 and #3, Voice-Flags and Attitude-Flags. The English word 'personality' comes from two Latin words, per and sona, "through sound." The Romans knew that the personality comes through in the tone of voice and other vocal aspects.
From thirty-five years of clinical experience, we can tell you a lot about Sarah Palin's real personality and why it makes many people even more nervous that John McCain's.
Attitude-Flag #1: The Aggressive Confidence Of The Con-Person
Sarah Palin has mastered one fundamental requirement of a Republican president: she can smile and look you directly in the eye while telling an outrageous lie. At least when John McCain lies, his body screams his discomfort by putting on an eye-catching display of twitches, phony smiles and robot moves. McCain's body language is so strange that it's easily observable; he appears to be operated by a puppeteer who is a couple of triple-espressos over the line. That's a good thing, though. We'd much rather have a presidential candidate who reads like a comic book when he's lying than one who conceals those whoppers under a grin and a wink. Sarah Palin belts out her deceptions and distractions with a radiant confidence we usually only see in sociopaths and infomercial pitch-persons. The last public figure we saw who could grin and lie with that kind of sunny confidence was O. J. Simpson.
Voice-Flag #1: The Exaggerated Folksiness Of The Huckster
Our partisan colors may peek through subtly from time to time, but we do our best to be non-partisan lie-catchers. We cringed when Bill Clinton did his famous "I did not have sex..." line. We immediately looked at each other and said "uh-oh," because his body language let us know loud and clear that he did indeed have sex with "that woman." About ten minutes after Clinton's declaration, our phone started ringing from producers of talk shows wanting us to comment on Clinton's body language. They knew they'd seen something, but they couldn't figure out exactly what.
More recently, we cringed when we heard Sarah Palin start using more of those pseudo-folksy expressions such as "You betcha" and "doggone-it." She was droppin' so many g's on-stage at last week's debate that the janitorial staff may have had to work over-time pickin' 'em up, by gum. The last eight years have taught us all a sobering lesson: you don't have to be smart to be the President of the United States. However, we hope that America is smart enough to see Palin's exaggerated folksiness for what it is, a cheap trick to cozy up to us so they can sell us four more years of Bush Lite. We hope America will hear those "You betchas" and send Mc Cain/Palin a message right back: Just because you pretend to be dumb and folksy, you don't automatically get to live in the White House.
Voice-Flag #2: The Metallic Shriek Of The Fear-Monger
To emphasize certain points, Sarah Palin takes her voice up the tone scale to a metallic shriek. This tone will be familiar to many of us: it's the voice your mother employed as a last resort to get you out of bed when you were a teenager. It's designed to scare you, to rake fingernails across your inner chalkboard. She often uses this voice when she first takes the stage at a rally. It works quite well there, because it cuts like a knife and jolts any of the faithful who might be dozing to sit up in their seats. We hope Americans are not so sleepy as to vote in favor of hearing this tone of voice for four years.
Here's the bottom line: The McCain/Palin campaign strategy is based entirely on stirring up fear. It's a classic way to distract people from thinking about real issues and to cover up the lack of any real solutions. Their thinking goes like this:
•If we can get people scared that Obama might secretly be a Muslim or a terrorist, maybe we can get them not to think about the real issues.
•If we can get people scared that Rev. Wright might turn the inaugural benediction into an anti-American rant, maybe we can get them to believe America's economic problems are just something cooked up by the elite media as a way to play "Gotcha" on poor Sarah and John.
•If we can scare people into thinking Barack HUSSEIN Obama is going to put Louis Farrakhan in charge of the annual White House Easter egg hunt, maybe people won't notice that we have absolutely no solutions to the real problems they face.
Barack Obama has so far opted to run a positive campaign based on hope and thoughtful solutions. It's our fervent desire that he continue to do so, because it's about time we turned our national attention to positive possibilities. Over the past eight years we've had enough fear-mongering to last a lifetime.
(Stay tuned! In our next post we'll look at two more important bits of body language that we all need to be paying attention to during the campaign. We've noticed these flags at play in both Joe Biden and John McCain, and they spell trouble for all of us.)