Body language of the first 2012 presidential debate

Expert anaylzes the meaning behind the candidate's words


This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," October 5, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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O'REILLY: Body language segment tonight. Everybody is talking about President Obama's demeanor in the debate this week. So, what does Tonya Reiman think?

Well, here she is. So, I want to start with the two candidates walking into the debate forum.



JIM LEHRER, DEBATE MODERATOR: We welcome President Obama and Governor Romney.



O'REILLY: OK. So the first thing I noticed was the president grabbing Romney's arm.

REIMAN: Right.

O'REILLY: And talking his wallet.


O'REILLY: No, he didn't really. But he, you know, getting a little -- kind of semi hug.

REIMAN: Right. That's not the first thing I notice. The first thing I notice was the swagger that the president came out with.

O'REILLY: He was bopping, right?

REIMAN: His arms are swinging high. Romney is not. He is very stiff when it comes to walking out on stage.

O'REILLY: Right.

REIMAN: And then the hands meet. The patting goes on.

The interesting thing about that is as somebody goes to pat your arm, they are trying to demonstrate that they are the more powerful. But what we don't see is Romney is also patting. So, President Obama comes across as powerful because we can see him patting. But Romney had the same amount of power going on.

O'REILLY: Do you believe that they actually think about what's going to happen when they walk out and how they are going to shake hands and their posture? Do you believe they think about that?

REIMAN: I think they know about it, yes. Absolutely.

O'REILLY: What do you mean know about it?

REIMAN: I think they are told what to do. Walk out and make sure that this is how you proceed.

And one of the interesting dynamics was, President Obama leads the way. So, Romney tends to turn to like break off, but Obama doesn't let go. He holds on for a beat longer.

O'REILLY: But is he in the power position. He is the president.

REIMAN: And he breaks first. But he wasn't the president in 2008 when he did the same exact thing to John McCain.


REIMAN: He tries to take control.

O'REILLY: He has aggressive body language when it comes to physical confrontation.

REIMAN: I would say dominant body language.

O'REILLY: Now, we're going to use two sound bites. The first one Mitt Romney saying what he would cut. Go


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Is the program so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I'll get rid of it.

Obamacare is on my list, I apologize, Mr. President. I use that term with all respect.


ROMNEY: Good. OK, good. So I get rid of that.

I'm sorry, Jim, I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm going to stop other things -- I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you too. But I'm not going to -- I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.


O'REILLY: I thought Lehrer was Big Bird. First, let's go with the president looking down while Romney is speaking.

REIMAN: Right.

O'REILLY: That's not a good thing, right?

REIMAN: Again, I'm comparing this to 2008. This wasn't a good thing. Typically as he looks down, he is trying show his disagreement. I don't agree what you are saying. And I could see that with the tight jaw, clinched lip. There is also a level of intimidation I think in parts of the clip where he doesn't feel good about what's going on with Romney. I think he feels insecure with Romney.

O'REILLY: Shouldn't he be looking at Romney isn't that much better body language?

REIMAN: Much better. More powerful to look at him.

O'REILLY: Right. If you're looking away, you kind of showing weakness, right?

REIMAN: Yes. He's basically saying you don't deserve my eye contact, therefore I'm not going to give it to you.

O'REILLY: So, he's being condescending to the governor.

REIMAN: Yes. And that's not what you need to be doing here.

O'REILLY: Right. And it comes across to the viewer because they are watching split screen.


O'REILLY: All right. Now, presentation by Governor Romney --

REIMAN: Use very powerful gestures, he used the palms down and fist not the power point. So, it was very good.

The only two things I noticed is when he said Obamacare and in addition when he said I'm not -- you know, I have to get rid of Big Bird, he tucked down. He closed off his chin.

O'REILLY: What does that mean?

REIMAN: It tells me although he is powerful and dominant he recognizes -- not afraid -- but recognizes that he is hitting on two points: face to face with the president insulting him slightly and face to face with Jim Lehrer.

O'REILLY: So, he knows the confrontational aspect and he shoots back a little --

REIMAN: But didn't take away from his powerful nonetheless. Came across as strong.

O'REILLY: All right. In the final sound bite, here is President Obama going after the governor.


OBAMA: He now says he is going to replace Obama care and assure all the good things that are in it where going to be in there and you don't have to worry. And at some point, I think the American people have to ask themselves is the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans to replace secret because they are too good?


O'REILLY: You see, Romney looking right at him the whole time with, you know a neutral expression on his face.

REIMAN: Neutral?

O'REILLY: Well, it's a little disdain. It's not like -- you know?

REIMAN: He has to get rid of that smirk. They both need to improve what I called their black face, their neutral expression. But --

O'REILLY: No smirking.

REIMAN: It's terrible. People think of it as arrogant when he smirks like that. It's not a good expression to hold.

O'REILLY: I agree. I don't like the smirking thing.


O'REILLY: I would rather have the furrowed brow thing.

REIMAN: The concern. I'm listening to you, not the huh, that silly smirk that he does.

O'REILLY: All right. Now, I need your advice.


O'REILLY: Tomorrow, when I go out on stage to meet Jon Stewart --


O'REILLY: My instinct is to get him in a hammer lock right away. Physically pummel him so I he would be off his game for the rest of the debate. Would that be good body language?

REIMAN: I don't think that would work out well. You might be seen as aggressive.

O'REILLY: People already know that. They already know I'm aggressive. And Stewart thinks I'm yeti anyway.

REIMAN: Yes. But what if he'd beat you?

O'REILLY: Come on, let's stay on the realm of realism here.

So, no hammer lock?

REIMAN: I would not do that. I would stay with --



O'REILLY: Just be nice? And just -- all right. Tonya Reiman, everybody.

REIMAN: Gentle. The perfect man you always are.


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