Just the FACS, Ma’am

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(Photo: This is not a Duchenne smile.)

Will the real Hillary Clinton smile please stand up? Last week, the NY Post reported an ongoing feud between Clinton’s New York and D.C. campaign staff. Apparently, the home-state staff, who got Clinton elected to the Senate playing on heartfelt themes of hearth and home, feels left out of the 1980s-pop-music-esque overproduction of Clinton’s image being put in place by the Washington crew for her 2008 presidential bid. The Post mercilessly pegged Hil on the New York staffers’ point: Ms. Clinton is all polls, but little pulse.

Take a walk through Clinton’s YouTube diary. Video after glossy, shiny video show Hil wordsmithing at great length to a variety of audiences–but if you listen, pretty much saying nothing. In fact, fully half of the speaking time in Clinton’s YouTube videos is devoted to smarmy voter testimonials, as if the American electorate is so stupid as to cast a vote for President based on a glowing review from Slappy the trailer guy as opposed to a candidate’s own stated positions. Even given Iraq and the second coming of Emperor W., I have trouble believing Clinton thinks the American public is that asinine.

I went into tonight’s New Hampshire Democratic debate with an open mind, though. People can change (even politicians when their press gets bad enough–yes, I know, but I like to think of W. as the outlier that proves the rule). Foolish me. Let’s review from the NY Times transcript:

SEN. CLINTON: “…I think it’s important particularly to point out this is George Bush’s war. He is responsible for this war. He started the war. He mismanaged the war. He escalated the war. And he refuses to end the war.”

So I guess, Hil, merely voting in favor of going to war as you did back about 3,000 lives ago somehow absolves you of any responsibility for the quamire we’re in? Yes I know, as you said last night, you just thought you were practicing “coercive diplomacy” with your vote. My mistake, you’re right, that makes it better. Moving on…

MR. BLITZER: “So let me just be precise; that the question was, do you regret not reading the National Intelligence Estimate?”

SEN. CLINTON: “I feel like I was totally briefed, I knew all of the arguments that were being made by everyone from all directions. National Intelligence Estimates have a consensus position and then they have argumentation as to those people who don’t agree with it. I thought the best way to find out who was right in the intelligence community was to send in the inspectors. And if George Bush had allowed the inspectors to finish the job they started, we would have known that Saddam Hussein did not have WMD and we would not have gone and invaded Iraq.”

You know, Hil, you would have saved us all a lot of time if you had just said “no comment”, because the above certainly is no answer to the actual question with which you were presented.

SEN. CLINTON: “Wolf, let me add that we faced that in the Senate last year, as to whether we would or would not vote for it [making English the official language of the United States]. The problem is that if it becomes official, instead of recognized as national, which indeed it is, it is our national language, if it becomes official, that means in a place like New York City you can’t print ballots in any other language. That means you can’t have government pay for translators in hospitals so when somebody comes in with some sort of emergency there’s nobody there to help translate what their problem is for the doctors. So many of us — I did, at least — voted to say that English was our national language but not the official language because of the legal consequences of that.”

So your position on the issue would be…? I mean, besides standing a pyrrhic procedural hurdle, what exactly is your stance? I’m sure millions of legal Mexican immigrants (among others) would love to know.

MR. BLITZER: “I want to go very quickly to everyone. What would be, Senator Clinton, your top priority in the first 100 days?”

SEN. CLINTON: “Well, if President Bush has not ended the war in Iraq, to bring our troops home. That would be the very first thing that I would do.”

Wow, I was really surprised you didn’t hem and haw until Obama answered first, like you did when you (finally) voted No on the Iraq War funding bill. But somehow I just don’t believe you.

In his seminal 2005 book, A Whole New Mind, business author-guru Dan Pink scribed about Ekman and Friesen’s Facial Action Coding System, or FACS. According to FACS theory, there is a surefire way to tell an insincere smile from an honest one (a so-called Duchenne smile): look at the eyes. When we smile, we make use of both voluntary and involuntary facial muscles to do so. Our voluntary zygomatic muscles pull our lips up into a smile–that’s easy to fake. But no amount of fakery can make our orbicularis oculi muscles scrunch the corners of our eyes into happy little folds. Those crinkly eyes are the mark of a true smile. And in the absence of honest sentiment, those smiling eyes cannot be willed to happen.

Don’t take my word for it, take the BBC’s Spot the Fake Smile test and see for yourself how easy it is to discern amity from artifice on the human face. Which, of course, brings me right back to Hillary Clinton. After you take the BBC test, you may want to go back and re-watch some of those Clinton YouTube diaries. Or last night’s debate. Or, really, almost any video footage of the candidate whatsoever. You could do shots every time you saw Clinton cop a Duchenne smile and never get buzzed.

And that’s pathetic.

In the end, I can’t disagree with those miffed New York staffers. It all comes down to polls vs. pulse for me (and I know I’m not the only one out there who feels this way). How on earth can you expect me to trust you with my vote for President, Hil, when you just can’t keep your FACS straight?

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