January 6, 2008

New Hampshire Debate: Seeing Hillary More Like People Who Know Her Do

Hillary-Nh-Debate-2 The problem with Hillary’s beautifully freewheeling response last night to John Edwards — in a minute defined much more by passion than anger anything else — is the stark contrast it drew with her “expression of self” the rest of the time.

To me, the most interesting part of the video clip (see below) is what happened at the very end, when the adrenaline started wearing off.  At that point, you could see the “baseline” Hillary grab for the wheel again, with that characteristic control and self-consciousness.

In the shot above (at about the 1:09 mark), what I love is the almost perfect tension between Hillary measured and Hillary unplugged.  In her eyes, there is still a sense of “Take that, John!”  At the same time (with the suddenly tense stare, then the immediate dipping of the head and the awkward puckering of the lips an instant later), there comes the feeling of “What the hell was I doing?”

Hillary’s Core Argument from the Final Debate (YouTube video)


Postscript 11:30 am PST: On re-reading my comments, I think they were too psychological without enough explanation.  What I’m say is that this minute in the debate allowed us to see Hillary in a less guarded and more genuine way — something that is, otherwise, all too rare.  In other words, I think her emotional reaction to Edwards caused her to be much more real.

Regarding the title, I’m always interested when her advocates, reacting to hits on her “likeability,” say: “the public doesn’t know the real Hillary.”  (I happen to have a relative who went to school with her who says this too.)  Watching her closely after all these months, I completely believe that Hillary is a warmer, looser, friendlier person — when her guard is down.  Unfortunately, I think her character is such that she can’t be herself nearly enough — and I say that on top of the allowance one would naturally make for the way all politicians have to wear a face.

Of course, I understand many people do not have the same sensitivity to Hillary as I do (or might not even agree with my read on her personality).  I do think the public tends to get confused by the psychological make-up of political figures, however, and helping reveal that character (especially in the way that specific speech acts or body language is consistently reflected in photos or video) is just part of my gig.

(screen grab: ABC News via You Tube)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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