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The Secret Tells in a Rand Paul Interview

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According to Fox News, a principal difference between Rand Paul and Ted Cruz is that Paul is confidently reaching out to a broader electorate than his Texan Tea Party colleague. As a result, polls indicate that some 39 percent of Republicans are currently thinking Rand-for-President in 2016, as compared to just 24 percent for Cruz.

Those voters however, are wrong about that confident outreach. The evidence is on display in the senator's interview style.

Although a surface level look at Senator Paul does suggest a politician confidently trying to broaden the base of his appeal, a closer inspection provides reasons to dispute this. Rand Paul's interview style suggests he has frequent self-doubts about the acceptability of his message.

Here he is being interviewed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer:

"Yes, but..."
Notice how often Paul answers questions with some variant of "Yes, but," "Maybe," or "I'm not sure about that."

He frequently agrees with the interviewer's question, before slowly sidetracking off into why he actually disagrees.

As a vocal pattern this reveals defensiveness on the part of the interviewee. Suspecting that their response is likely to be unpopular, people who frequently respond "Yes, but..." are trying to soften that response through making an insincere concession. Occasionally this trait leads Paul into responses such as: "Yes. Maybe. I'm not exactly sure about that..."

Used once or twice during a discussion such concessions are consensual, but as a repeated pattern it indicates evasiveness.

Now let's take a look at Paul being interviewed by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. The "Yes, but..." trait is once again on display. Of particular interest in this interview though, is another consistent Paulian habit:

"Oh look, a polar bear..."

Paul's twists and turns and digressions are fascinating.

In this example, Maddow is probing Paul's controversial views on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and receives the response:

"But with regard to racism, I don`t believe in any racism. I don`t think we should have any government racism, any institutional form of racism. You know, one interesting historical tidbit, one of my favorite historical characters is William Lloyd Garrison. And one of the interesting things about desegregation and putting people together, do you know when it happened in Boston?"

Maddow looked perplexed. First of all she had been asking about whether businesses, as with Arizona law SB1062, should have the right to discriminate specifically against gay people, and now Paul was talking about racism, somebody called William Lloyd Garrison, and desegregation in Boston...?

"Oh look... a polar bear!"

The polar bear trick has three advantages for the evasive interviewee. Firstly, it can throw the interviewer off the scent. Secondly it's a wonderful way of wasting time and talking-out the clock. Thirdly, and here is where Paul uses it well, it appears to soften the interview, and by invoking a warm cuddly story it can re-cast the interviewee into a lovely warm fuzzy light. Notice the use of the cutesy word "tidbit," and the confiding tone of "one of my favorite historical characters." Both traits are consistent with an interviewee seeking to hide behind the nearest passing polar bear.

What we consistently see in Senator Paul's speaking style is obfuscation as soon as the conversation moves to a point where he believes his policy positions are going to prove unpopular. This is where, in delivery, he differs from Ted Cruz.

Cruz might have been born in Canada, but he should have been born in the English county of Yorkshire. Yorkshire people are famously plain spoken. They live by the mantra: "I like what I say and I'll darn well say what I like."

That's Ted Cruz. We might not like what he has to say, but he has no hesitation in saying it, regardless of how unpopular the policy position might be. The traits and tells hidden within Senator Paul's interview style however, suggest a politician frequently concerned about the acceptability of his own message.