September 06, 2008

 If you must run, learn to sit

How did you think Obama's venture into O'Reilly's den on Thursday went? Video here. I give him high marks for cool and for content - though I reckon O'Reilly is beginning to run for cover, as Rupert Murdoch finally realizes the wind has shifted.

But I hated our man's posture. Perched on the front of his seat, leaning forward, face tilted up: the nice young man ingratiating himself with his future father-in-law. Look at this screenshot:

Obama O'Reilly.jpg

Contrast Hillary Clinton in the identical situation a few months back:

Clinton on O'Reilly.jpg

Obama stands beautifully. He doesn't stoop, like many tall men: maybe it's all that basketball, when you have to keep looking up. And he moves well, like the athlete he still is. But I guess that when he sits face-to-face, he's learnt to avoid the impression of dominating by leaning unthreateningly forward, reducing his height advantage and bringing him closer to his interlocutor. But a President, a Commander-in-Chief is expected to show gravitas, and dominate his interlocutors. Sit back and upright; only lean forward to make a point.

General de Gaulle, who realized before other French politicians that television had changed the rhetorical rules of the game, went to the Comédie Française for advice. His regal style in press conferences, peculiar but highly effective, was no accident; it was inspired by the way pros would act a mediaeval king or Roman emperor in Corneille or Racine. I recommend Obama take a few lessons from a top-notch classical actor. How would Lear, Coriolanus, or Tamburlaine sit on a throne?

Here's another example:

Queen at 80.jpg

This is the official portrait of Her Britannic Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on her 80th birthday. Ms. Windsor has never enjoyed Barack Obama's huge natural advantages of height, intelligence, and good looks: but she's leveraged what she has into regal dignity in good part by sitting right. They do teach this to royalty, but riding horses since childhood also helps.

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