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Body Politics: The Obama-Clinton Relationship, Pt. 1 (PHOTOS)

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One of the striking features of the relationship between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is how much they touch each other. As can be seen in the accompanying pictures, they touch each other in a number of different ways that are typical in ordinary day-to-day communication but not so typical on the political stage.

What does it mean? And is it a good thing?

One thing it means is that they both are comfortable with touch as a means of expression. The Obama/Clinton relationship is full of friendly touch. By contrast, imagine Richard Nixon giving a friendly squeeze to his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. Indeed, if you look at pictures of Hillary and Bill together during the past year, there's much more touch visible in Hillary's relationship with Obama than in her relationship with her husband.

Hillary also allows her face to be much more relaxed and vulnerable with Obama than in other situations she's been in lately. Those who know Hillary Clinton often speak of her inner sweetness, humor and openness. These are qualities that often do not come through in the "public" Hillary. In the accompanying pictures, note the play of open expressions on her face. It's very refreshing to see her bringing forth this side of her personality. She will need to stay in touch with that aspect of herself as she travels the world.

There's a bigger lesson we can learn from watching the ease with which Obama and Clinton make touch contact with each other. Touch has become a controversial issue in nearly every area of life. While there are good reasons for scrutinizing the role of touch in the workplace, the classroom and other places where it can be laden with hidden motives, the resulting touch-phobia that pervades current society has taken something natural and deeply human out of life. By showing two people at ease with touch, Barack and Hillary give us permission again to find easygoing and appropriate ways to touch each other in public.

In an upcoming post, we'll look at an important bit of body language we see in their faces. It holds a key to handling potential conflict between Hillary and Barack.

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