A certified movement analyst is going to be watching President Bush’s State of the Union speech in a special way. Karen Kohn Bradley says, “It is important for reporters and analysts to utilize the tools of nonverbal communication and body language in assessing the messages the American population receives from the White House, candidates and other leaders. What is conveyed through movement is, after all, behavioral patterns that impact policies, and ultimately, the lives of the people.”
Bradley has these tips for those of us watching it on TV: The Entrance: This year is George Bush’s swan song and so it may be more interesting to observe how he is welcomed than how he enters. One expects him to use the usual swagger and wink, and perhaps even to show some relief that this is the finale. Generally the Congress has been warm to him, but this year, given the sense of frustration the nation seems to have with both the Congress and the President, the real story might be in the tensions that are revealed as he enters the chamber.
The Speech: How much fable will he spin vs. how much will he try to justify? 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 VS. an almost-drowsy, overly relaxed unfolding of stories. 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 he is the laconic storyteller, we can understand the myth-creation that is to be his legacy, as he rides off into the sunset.
The Exit: A hasty retreat will tell us volumes about how anxious he is to get away from what promises to be either a tenser situation than most years, or a downright disregard for what he has to say. 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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