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Body Language Bingo: A Guide To Watching The Presidential Debates

Most of us are familiar the old joke, "How do you tell if a politician is lying?"

Of course the punch line is, "His lips are moving."

This is funny and, more often than not, sad but true.

Well, I have an idea that might help us decide which of the two presidential candidates is lying the most. Once we make that determination we can decide which one to vote for in the upcoming election, or as I too often do, pick the lesser of the two evils.

There are three presidential debates this 2012 election; the first is scheduled for October 3rd followed by the second on October 16 and the third on October 22. What I suggest you do is to watch the debates, but turn the sound off on your television. Since many homes are now equipped with DVRs, you can record the debate and play it back later with sound if you want to actually hear what each candidate said. I actually suggest doing this as part 2 of the process I am proposing.

This is how it works. On the TV sitcom Seinfeld, the fictional character Kramer claims that up to 94% of what we communicate to each other is non-verbal. Based on some of the experts on the political talk shows I watch, Kramer's opinion is as good as any. According to experts cited by the Center for Non-Verbal Communication, the proportion of our emotional communication that is expressed apart from words can exceed 99%.

So, why wait for the fact checkers and pundits with their post-debate analysis to tell you which candidate is lying about what? Get instant gratification or disappointment by doing it yourself. Most of us have developed these skills and may not even realize it.

Simply start looking for the wordless messages made by each candidate by means of gaze, gestures, postures or facial expressions. Let me give you some political historical examples.

After Illinois Congressman Dan Rostenkowski was indicted, he held a press conference where he stated, "I did not commit a felony." As he made this claim of innocence he gestured with his hand from his forehead down to his chin as if he was wiping his face clean. Rostenkowski was eventually convicted of that felony of which he so vociferously proclaimed he was blameless.

Before he was incarcerated, former Governor George Ryan, the organizer behind the licenses-for-bribes scandal, always put his right hand in his pocket. Since most of his press conferences were scripted and he seemed to be incapable of speaking impromptu, I have to assume that the non-verbal message of always hiding his hand was indicative of him always lying. We will have to watch and see if he continues with this habit when he starts having local media interviews after being released from federal prison in 2013.

During the debates, keep a score sheet with a column for each candidate. When you see a gesture that you believe appears to be passive, reluctant or uncomfortable on the part of the candidate, make a hash mark in his column. All that is necessary for lying is that the liar presents himself as being sincere in his presentation while his non-verbal communication uncovers the candidate's hidden secret. He doesn't believe what he is saying.

Once you watch the debate in silence, go back to the beginning and play it back with sound. Now you can see if the body language you so carefully documented on the score sheet contradicts with the bullet points regurgitated from the candidate's mouth.

During this second viewing, now with sound, clues of deception may be heard in the verbal responses, such as in Bill Clinton's infamous "I did not have sexual relations with that woman " or Rod Blagojevich's inability to simply shut his mouth.

Nixon is an example of both verbal and non-verbal clues. While stating he "never obstructed justice" and that "I am not a crook", he simultaneously crossed his arms and shook his head back and forth. The arm crossing was indicative that he wanted some physical separation from his listeners, and his head gesture is a common sign by liars that the speaker disagrees with what he is saying

You can make a second column for each candidate. This time make a hash mark when you see that the verbal responses now actually contradict the previously documented gestures.

Both of the presidential candidates are a wealth of non-verbal communication. President Obama is often accused of aloofness and has a swagger to his walk. Some might call that cool and confident, others might say cold and cocky. Governor Romney has been called robotic and jittery, almost as if he is looking for the closest exit. Maybe this has something to do with his experience as a CEO at Bain Capital.

Does my suggestion sound too long and a waste of time? Are you fed up with Obama and Romney or politics in general? Well then, make it a drinking game! Choose sides, the Romneys vs. the Obamas. Every time your guy gets a hash mark, drink a shot. Pick your favorite tequila, scotch, gin, or bourbon. It really doesn't matter, but my preference is Ouzo,

In the end, the losers will be the ones puking or passed out on the floor. Be sure to have a designated driver or cab money.

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Ed Hammer is a retired police captain and author of the book One Hundred Percent Guilty and numerous columns on politics and corruption. He can be reached through his website.

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Previously by Ed Hammer:
* George Ryan's Park Bench
* George Ryan's Dogs and Ponies
* George Ryan's Other Jailhouse Interview
* Bugging The Chicago School Board
* Cop vs. Teacher
* Signs of Change
* Pols vs. Teachers
* The Terre Haute Redemption
* Rahm's War On Teachers
* About Those Indicted Nurses

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on September 26, 2012


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