Romney’s benevolent—or patronizing?—smile

Bob B. writes:

I’m watching the Tea Party Presidential debate on CNN. Mitt Romney has this benign smile as he turns towards the speaking candidate. It is so phoney—you would think someone in his campaign would tell him.

What do you think?

LA replies:

I haven’t seen tonight’s debate, but Romney has been doing that in every debate. I agree that it’s weird and inappropriate. It’s as if he’s saying, “I’m being very polite to my opponents, but I’m also smiling so solicitously at them, as though they were children and I was their parent, because I, after all, am the front runner and they are losers.”

Also, the way he turns his entire body toward the candidate who is speaking, as though he, Romney, were the MC, is not appropriate. It’s a tactic by which he is trying to dominate the stage, which he is also assisted in by his height and by the fact that he’s always placed in the central, most prominent position among the candidates.

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Bob B. replies:

Yes—that’s it. Look at the kiddies having their fun, I’m so proud of them but I’ll win hands down.

Didn’t the Greeks have a word for that?

LA replies:

Well, it’s not quite hubris, which I think means a more serious kind of overreaching than a patronizing smile. :-)

Paul K. writes:

I’m attaching a screen-grab of Romney’s patronizing smile. It has a forced, almost creepy look to it, like McCain’s in the last campaign.

In this picture, I note that, as you pointed out, Romney has his body turned toward Ron Paul as the congressman speaks, while Perry more appropriately maintains a neutral posture. If Romney is intentionally trying to dominate by his stance, it isn’t working. I recall Al Gore’s attempt to do the same during the presidential debate, when he crept up on Bush while the latter was speaking. That move, which Bush responded to with a startled, slightly amused glance, made Gore look like the weirdo he truly is.


LA replies:

This is in the neighborhood of what we’re talking about, but it’s not the most typical Romney benign/patronizing smile, the one that he uses all the time. In this picture, he’s grinning, showing his teeth, directly at Ron Paul, who seems to be addressing him (though that’s not definite). In the most typical Romney smile, the other candidate is faced forward, addressing the moderator, while Romney turns full-body toward the speaker, with a benevolent, closed-lipped smile on his face.

Mark Jaws writes:

Why do we conservatives just nickel and dime our politicians to death? This smile stuff is pretty silly. In sizing up their candidates, members of the Left are interested in two things, and only two things. Can he or she win? And will they advance the agenda? If any of these eight characters can appreciably slow the growth of the federal government and thwart Obamacare, then I am on board with any of them. No one can be as bad as John McCain.

LA replies:

The left does not set the parameters for our discussions. And the question of candidates’ personality and behavior, including their oddities and tactics of oneupmanship, is interesting, it is part of the political contest which is now going on.

Did you think that discussions of Gore’s bizarre behavior at the 2000 debates were also silly and irrelevant? As I said at the time, the behavior of both Gore and Bush in those debates made for an amazing psychodrama, in which two incompletely formed men were trying to make themselves into fully formed, presidential men before our eyes. I also said that if someone wasn’t interested in that, he wasn’t interested in life.

Sorry to disappoint you, but candidates’ personalities are a central part of politics.

Also, talking about these things is fun, and U.S. presidential campaigns have always (at least since the early to mid 19th century) contained a large measure of showmanship and fun. So we’re just following tradition here.

Paul K. writes:

I got it now—you mean one like this:


LA replies:

Yes, that’s it. That’s Romney thinking he can sail to the nomination by acting like the benign father looking at his opponents as though they were his children, thus placing himself above them.

And maybe it will work. At least in some people’s minds, the president is meant to be a father figure, and Obama is certainly not that.

Paul K. writes:

You wrote, “In this picture, he’s grinning, showing his teeth, directly at Ron Paul, who seems to be addressing him (though that’s not definite).”

Actually, Paul was addressing Perry, mocking his economic leadership in Texas.

By the way, Perry was terribly mushy on immigration tonight—truly Busherino II.

I have to say Wolf Blitzer did a good job as moderator.

September 13

Brandon F. writes:

I may be wrong but it could actually be that Romney is just an affable, attentive, and friendly person. I don’t find his mannerisms haughty or patronizing at all. In fact I think he is the most “presidential” in speech and mannerism of any of the contenders.

Anything is better than that “aw shucks” cocky Texas style of Perry.

LA replies:

Yes, clearly he is the most presidential in demeanor and appearance.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 12, 2011 09:46 PM | Send

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