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State of the Union?Is Bush Telling the Truth?

President Bush gives his annual State of the Union address on Januarary 31st. US voters will be watching Bush closely on television. We recently posted a story about scientific ways to spot spin among politicians. Now we have more scientific information on what to look for.

Movement analyst Karen Kohn Bradley studies the nonverbal and movement behaviors of political leaders. In order to detect political ?spin? (a polite synonym for "lies"), she says we should look for the following:

The Entrance: Over the last few years, President Bush has entered the chambers with a broad focus, directing winks, smiles, and nudges towards particular people. If that changes this year; if he enters with head down, or with a more determined, more grim countenance, it signals he is feeling the heat. If he continues that former pattern, we can understand he is ignoring the heat.

The Speech: Which aspect of his persona will he present? Will it be the "have gun, will travel" cop of the world we saw in 2003? Will it be the nervous and confused boy we saw in the first debate of 2004? Or will it be the beset-with-worry stern-faced town father of recent press conferences?

Watch for hypervigilance in the eyes, excessive grimaces, the furrowed brow that contrasts with the attempted smile, the lip-licking that signifies nervousness, the auditory attending that causes people to think he is being fed his speech through an earpiece (as opposed to the visual scanning that people who read their speeches on a monitor often display)- all of these indicate a man under pressure and in psychic danger.

Also, be aware of his phrasing. Does he breathe at the appropriate points within the flow of the words or is the language broken up in choppy and strange ways? If it is the latter, it is possible he memorized or is being fed the speech in segments that do not require him to actually understand what he is saying. If it is the former, he worked hard on the speech, and stands behind his words.

The Exit: If he lingers on the way out, shaking hands and holding the upper arms of key supporters as he winks and smiles at them and others, he feels relaxed and relieved. If he hastens out abruptly, he is not so sure of how well he performed.

Often, he looks up at Laura Bush as if to check with her as to how he did. At such moments it is easy to see the current nature of their relationship, which is usually quite supportive.

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