Political Chemistry – The art of the two person interview

It wasn’t long ago they were engaged in a pretty heated battle to be the Democrat nominee for the Whitehouse – the winner would be a first regardless; the first black president, or the first female president. Now President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are on Sixty Minutes looking to bookend the first term of Obama’s presidency. In fairness however, the four and a half years since their bitter primary fight is a long, long time in politics. This interview will have gone a long way to neutering any animosity that the rival camps may have had. It is incredible to think how long Hillary Clinton as been politically involved at the highest level – she is an especially robust individual; Arkansas first lady for a decade, first lady for two terms, New York Senator for two terms, and now the most travelled senior diplomat of all time. Obama said in the interview, ‘Hillary will go down as one of the finest Secretary of States we’ve had.’ I’m sure you would agree, she is definitely in the running.

It’s an open secret that she is next in line on the Democratic side to run for president – make no mistake; this was an unprecedented interview that looked like an endorsement to me. Not only does the fact that this interview has appeared at all mark that, but also the fact that both Obama and Clinton come across as very sincere and very candid. It was as if they had a specific message that they wanted to transmit about how they felt about each other. I was keen to look at the body language, tells and verbal clues to see if it was real.

Being interviewed with another person (especially another politician) is fraught with danger. The chemistry may look strained, unconscious non-verbal leakage may be forever enshrined on YouTube and they may get the dynamic wrong. It is a massive risk but these two looked remarkably comfortable with each other. I found it very encouraging that both the President and the out-going Secretary of State really did show all the signals of a good relationship. Repeated and meaningful eye-contact is there to see throughout the interview. Their bodies are often pointed towards each other in a natural way. They don’t speak over each over, and their body language is inclusive. They were even laughing together. This helped to bolster the idea that they genuinely were friends who had completely buried the hatchet. Imagine Blair and Brown doing that, or Clegg and Cameron. This is of course a political move – they’re active politicians, so why wouldn’t it be?

This polished performance was typified by something that Hillary said when asked about reconciliation. “That’s all ancient history, we are professionals”. They sure are!

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