The blinker or busy hands? Who are you gonna vote for?
Forget a discussion on foreign policy, terrorism, homeland security, and the sad state of the economy; the candidates barely answer these questions anyway. Much more is communicated to the audience in the presidential debates through the candidates’ body language and presentation, which is all we’re really looking for anyway, right?
First, let’s take a look at George W. Bush. While behind the podium at the first debate, Bush never once stood up straight and instead leaned against the podium, resting his elbows on top, like a teenager giving a high school speech rather than a commander-in-chief speaking to the free world. Also, throughout the debate, Bush seemed agitated and hostile. While giving his rebuttals, he often grew flustered and lost his train of thought, and as Kerry gave his responses, Bush would frown and grimace.
“Bush’s scowls and smirks affect the public’s reaction to him, whether that reaction is positive or negative,” said Dr. David Rohde, a political science professor here at MSU. “Bush is the candidate that relates to the public better,” he added. “That is one of his great advantages in the upcoming election.”
Now, let’s turn our attention across the stage where Kerry stood– straight and tall, I might add. His demeanor throughout the first debate was calm and cool. One of his downfalls, though, was that he rarely looked at the audience as he spoke; rather he directed his arguments toward the mediators. As he spoke, his wild gestures and constant hand movements said even more.
Mike Hoerger, a psychology senior, felt that these mannerisms detracted from Kerry’s speech, saying Kerry’s hand gestures “Looked contrived and unnatural. His upper arms don’t move at all. It seems like his advisors are trying to improve his hand gesturing skills.”
Even though the debates have come to an end, you can still see the candidates’ mannerisms in action in speeches and interviews. Make a game out of counting how many times Bush blinks when answering a question. Watch for his patented deer-caught-in-the-headlights stare, his profuse head-jerking while he is being attacked, and his inability to formulate coherent sentences. While watching Senator Kerry, notice, as sophomore Brenton Montie did that “he is gawky; he just has a Herman Munster body.” Brainstorm other characters Kerry remembles. Also, be on the lookout for new gestures while his hands are flying away at the next public appearance.
In years to come, as we look back on these debates, chances are we won’t remember the defining words or issues. Instead we will remember the performances, both good and bad. But, hopefully, when we step into the voting booth come November, we will remember the candidates’ content, and not their cariacatures when deciding who will best lead our country for the next four years.

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