Joan Walsh at Salon just wrote a powerful piece about Romney that cuts to the heart of who he is. Called "Romney's Haunting Smirk," it focuses on the totally inappropriate smirk he gave after his impromptu press conference about the terrible events in Benghazi where four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed.
Walsh is doing something we don't do enough when we talk politics: She's analyzing Romney's physical behavior. All too often pundits focus only on what politicians say, how well or poorly they say it. Sometimes they even vaguely mention the "performance," but for the most part they ignore what a politician's face and behavior tell us -- if we only pay attention. They miss the obvious. Even someone like Maureen Dowd can miss how cruel Romney is, and only realize it after the now-infamous video of his talk to donors came out.
Remember all the journalists fawning over George W. Bush when he first ran for president? They talked about how funny and relaxed he was, and delighted in his nicknames for people. Well, his nicknames were often rude or insulting (like Turd Blossom for Karl Rove). But more importantly, George W. Bush was overflowing with contempt. He'd smirk and laugh at inappropriate moments, and when he smiled, his eyes were often cold. Psychologists who study emotion will tell you that's a clear sign the smile is fake. At press conferences Bush would also sometimes lean forward and poke his head at people like a belligerent drunk at a bar. The subtext was clearly "Don't you get it, you idiot?"
Romney has more control of his body. That's why so many reporters talk about him as robotic. But he can't completely control the cruelty that is a big part of him, dating at least back to his prep school days, and evidenced in his mistreatment of Seamus and his family inside the car, watching the grotesque abuse. You can talk all you want about how inept, ill-advised, even disastrous Romney's tweet and follow-ups have been to the new unrest in North Africa. But we should be grateful, in a way: The man has shown us his heart, and it's as blistering as dry ice.
Lev Raphael is the co-author of the psycho-educational books The Dynamics of Power and Coming Out of Shame.
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