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Pres Debate #2 (2a)

October 12, 2016

I want to include observations of physicality, body activity (partly because of Trump’s “eating disorder,” i.e. his seeming—to me, at least—obsession with the body, surely one of the deepest patterns of our imagination).

I viewed the debate twice+, the first time to watch but mostly to listen and take notes, the second time especially to watch body language. As I saw it:

T was very active physically, with some part of his body always actively engaged and always in attack mode, sometimes to concentrate on what H was saying (he has an interesting “tell” when H says something that he is prepared to pounce on—he purses his limps and tilts his head), but often to intimidate, threaten, demean, humiliate, and outright shame (in my book, a gesture of obliteration). Always, always to dominate (Josh Marshall at TPM has been very good on that point). He often paced, and sometimes (now famously) stood behind H while she was responding to a guest questioner. Of course he was always playing to the camera, with a message for his base, of toughness and revulsion.

But his signature physical gesture, to my mind, was to jab his finger at H when he was criticizing her. Early on, he merely pointed, along with a “her” or a “you;” but later he seemed to be jabbing with every second or third sentence. I’ve seen one photo of it that was taken from Hillary’s point of view. It was ugly. I’d have felt thoroughly pissed. She probably was thinking, “What a two-bit fool.”

H was conventional for these town halls, walking to the questioner, then staying back out of the way when T was speaking, often being still, but carefully listening. She used facial expressions of disagreement from time to time, but did not over do it.

She was verbally assaulted and physically bullied throughout the debate; she was inundated with lies and obfuscation; and yet, throughout, she was steadily presidential, intelligent, clear, sympathetic, stable, the adult in the room (with a kid in a power tie).

In my sense of it, developed over the years since I watched John F Kennedy v. Richard Milhous Nixon (what a difference the years make), it is very important that H spoke carefully, especially on foreign affairs, so as not to make “wrong” or accidental signals to allies or enemies, since she is speaking as the next president.

That was a triumph for democracy.

Her physicality was to look appropriately self-presenting, when representing the American people and their government, on the national and international “stages.”

[Ha!  When I was assigning “categories” for this page, just now, I almost clicked on “torture”!  Well it’s just above “Trump.”  Shades of My Man Dick.]

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