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Richard Greene Headshot

Critiquing the President on Leno and 60 Minutes

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As a teacher of body language, let me translate The President of The United States for those who condemn his Special Olympics moment, his entire appearance on The Tonight Show and his seemingly out of context laughing on 60 Minutes last night.

Everyone just relax.

President Obama is exactly the guy we were impressed with in 2004 and during every moment of the almost flawless campaign.

The Special Olympics Comment


What to notice: What people missed was Jay Leno provoking the President. When he mentioned his score of 129 the first time, Jay puts his hand over his mouth to stop laughter and then, in a totally mocking way, "congratulates" his guest on such a great score. He then does it a second time.

Totally in tune with his host, President Obama flows with Leno and goes even further into the self-effacing mode he was already in.

That is who he is. Self-effacing, gracious, remarkably devoid of ego.

Are there connotations and nuances that could be interpreted as offensive? Of course, but look closely at the totality of that interaction and it was clear that he was focused on denigrating his own performance as a bowler, not those who participate bravely in The Special Olympics.

The Tonight Show


Media commentators like Steve Adubato and others who suggest that the President needs to stay away from humor and shows like The Tonight Show need to go back to media training school. President Obama was a total star on that show and reinforced, over and over, his authenticity, comfort within his own skin, quick wit and comedic timing. I asked my producer to pull the funny bits from the interview for the "Hollywood CLOUT! Friday Comedy Night" segment on my Air America radio show and he came up with 11 great moments, most of them spontaneous . . . and truly funny. What professional comedian can do that??

Mr. President, go on The Tonight Show . . . and Letterman . . . and Conan . . . and Craig Ferguson. Your relaxed and witty style is reassuring and enjoyable to the vast majority of this country.

The Laughs on 60 Minutes


Again, point out one moment since 2004 that we have witnessed Barack Obama being cavalier, quirky, "off", out of touch, having "ticks" or even being close to deranged. Perhaps we have become too used to those qualities during the past eight years, but there is no evidence that candidate or President Obama could ever be described in this way.

The laughs are a bit tougher to interpret than much of his body language but they are totally consistent. He operates and communicates from a different place than most politicians and most human beings. It is a place, frankly, that gurus and peak performance experts work very hard to teach. It is called "The Witness State." Understand that and you understand, from a far deeper level, what makes Barack Obama special.

In short, President Obama has the rare ability to be totally present and centered with an interviewer and the subject at hand AND to also be consciously aware of the "meta" reality or meta nature of that subject. In consciousness terms it is like "walking and chewing gum" at the same time, but much, much harder.

The mundane reality of the 60 Minute question was that we are in a dire economic situation. The "meta" reality is that it is actually quite funny that every "expert" and politician has a different answer, that people want to fix an economic crisis without spending any money and that there is actually an industry more hated than banking.

It was the calm, jocular nature of FDR, JFK and Ronald Reagan that forged a deep and trusting relationship with the America people, often during times of challenge. Let's be grateful that we have another such communicator, particularly at such a time.