Which Candidate Will Blink More At Debates? Will It Influence Your Vote? And Does Anybody Care?

Ever since political debates have been televised, the appearance of a candidate is key. Richard Nixon infamously came off as less-than-impressive compared to the more photogenic John F. Kennedy. Tomorrow, President Obama and Mitt Romney will come together for the first of three televised debates this month, and while people who actually care about the issues will, you know, be listening to their actual positions, but for people who like to judge a politician not by what they say, but by how they look saying it, the eyes have it.

Specifically, how many times the eyes open and close. You see, The Daily came out with a story yesterday detailing a correlation between debate blinks and electoral victory.

According to the analysis of Joseph Tecce, a Boston College psychophysiologist who has spent decades studying the body language of presidential hopefuls, the candidate who blinks more during debates has lost every election but one since 1980. The lone exception was in 2000, when a faster-blinking George W. Bush bested Al Gore in the electoral college … but lost the popular vote.

During the 2008 general election, Tecce’s theory has borne out nicely: Obama, who blinked 62 times per minute, trounced McCain who clocked in at 104 times per minute.

Bur even the most reasonable person would say, “Correlation is not causation!” Tecce argues that humans are likely to “recognize faster blinking as a sign of distress in others.” He predicts that the “blinking contest” at the debates will be a close one, finding that during their respective convention addresses weeks ago, Romney blinked 33 times a minute while Obama blinked 41 times a minute.

However, this theory does not seem to apply to the primary races, because of some scientific, otherworldly reason we don’t have full knowledge of yet or something. In 2008, John McCain blinked a lot more than Romney, and Obama blinked a lot more than Hillary Clinton. The Daily also notes that Rick Perry blinked at a “near-reptilian rate” (their phrasing) of 16 times per minute. Apparently this was enough to warrant a comment from Perry’s former campaign manager, who gave a calmer and more reasoned response than most people would have.

“There are a lot of nonverbal cues that you practice along with practicing policy and delivery, but blinking is not in that category… And quite frankly it seems a little absurd that someone would do a study on it.”

Yes, it is. It’s certainly an interesting thought to imagine that blinking could have ANYTHING at all to do with someone’s electoral chances. But isn’t that too narrow of a subject to focus on with something as big as “let’s decide who we want as our president”?

So let’s leave the political blinking to what it’s really meant for: a sketch on Letterman.

h/t USA Today

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Follow Josh Feldman on Twitter: @feldmaniac

Which Candidate Will Blink More At Debates? Will It Influence Your Vote? And Does Anybody Care?

Ever since political debates have been televised, the appearance of a candidate is key. Richard Nixon infamously came off as less-than-impressive compared to the more photogenic John F. Kennedy. Tomorrow, President Obama and Mitt Romney will come together for the first of three televised debates this month, and while people who actually care about the issues will, you know, be listening to their actual positions, but for people who like to judge a politician not by what they say, but by how they look saying it, the eyes have it.

Specifically, how many times the eyes open and close. You see, The Daily came out with a story yesterday detailing a correlation between debate blinks and electoral victory.

According to the analysis of Joseph Tecce, a Boston College psychophysiologist who has spent decades studying the body language of presidential hopefuls, the candidate who blinks more during debates has lost every election but one since 1980. The lone exception was in 2000, when a faster-blinking George W. Bush bested Al Gore in the electoral college … but lost the popular vote.

During the 2008 general election, Tecce’s theory has borne out nicely: Obama, who blinked 62 times per minute, trounced McCain who clocked in at 104 times per minute.

Bur even the most reasonable person would say, “Correlation is not causation!” Tecce argues that humans are likely to “recognize faster blinking as a sign of distress in others.” He predicts that the “blinking contest” at the debates will be a close one, finding that during their respective convention addresses weeks ago, Romney blinked 33 times a minute while Obama blinked 41 times a minute.

However, this theory does not seem to apply to the primary races, because of some scientific, otherworldly reason we don’t have full knowledge of yet or something. In 2008, John McCain blinked a lot more than Romney, and Obama blinked a lot more than Hillary Clinton. The Daily also notes that Rick Perry blinked at a “near-reptilian rate” (their phrasing) of 16 times per minute. Apparently this was enough to warrant a comment from Perry’s former campaign manager, who gave a calmer and more reasoned response than most people would have.

“There are a lot of nonverbal cues that you practice along with practicing policy and delivery, but blinking is not in that category… And quite frankly it seems a little absurd that someone would do a study on it.”

Yes, it is. It’s certainly an interesting thought to imagine that blinking could have ANYTHING at all to do with someone’s electoral chances. But isn’t that too narrow of a subject to focus on with something as big as “let’s decide who we want as our president”?

So let’s leave the political blinking to what it’s really meant for: a sketch on Letterman.

h/t USA Today

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Follow Josh Feldman on Twitter: @feldmaniac

New Evidence Of Warnings Before Benghazi Attack: Consulate Bombed Twice Prior To 9/11 Assault

As questions mount regarding the appropriateness of the Obama administration’s response to the attack on America’s Libyan consulate in which four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed, new evidence has emerged which shows American officials had warnings that the consulate was a primary target for Islamist militants in Libya.

RELATED: Media Silent After Intelligence Sources Claim Obama Admin. Misrepresented Facts About Libya Attack

According to a report in the Daily Beast from national security reporter Eli Lake, the American consulate in Benghazi was bombed twice prior to the deadly attacks on the consulate on September, 11. The bombing incidents, in which assailants attacked the embassy with explosive devices, occurred on April 2, 2012 and again on June 6, 2012.

Furthermore, according to the testimony of whistleblowers that approached the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Islamist militants posted threats to the consulate on Facebook prior to the attacks. Militants claimed responsibility for a May 22 attack on a Red Cross facility and called that attack a “message for the Americans disturbing the skies over Derna” in a post on the online social network.

The details of the threats to the consulate were put in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). That letter was obtained by the Daily Beast and Lake.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), a cosignatory of the letter to Clinton, told the Daily Beat that the whistleblowers in question were “people who have firsthand knowledge of the incidents themselves.”

Last week, Lake reported that multiple intelligence sources had alleged that Obama administration officials knew that the events of September 11 resulted from a coordinated, multi-stage terror attack and not a spontaneous uprising. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice asserted on multiple Sunday news programs following the attack that it was the administration’s belief that the attacks were not premeditated.

Lake’s report details a number of security threats which Western diplomatic personnel have faced in Libya, including a May 1 carjacking in which a member of the American embassy’s security forces was “beaten and detained” by militant youth. He was eventually freed after Libyan forces engaged in a firefight with assailants to recover the captive. In another incident in June, an attacker fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a convoy carrying a member of the British diplomatic staff.

Read the full report via The Daily Beast

> >Follow Noah Rothman (@Noah_C_Rothman) on Twitter

New Evidence Of Warnings Before Benghazi Attack: Consulate Bombed Twice Prior To 9/11 Assault

As questions mount regarding the appropriateness of the Obama administration’s response to the attack on America’s Libyan consulate in which four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed, new evidence has emerged which shows American officials had warnings that the consulate was a primary target for Islamist militants in Libya.

RELATED: Media Silent After Intelligence Sources Claim Obama Admin. Misrepresented Facts About Libya Attack

According to a report in the Daily Beast from national security reporter Eli Lake, the American consulate in Benghazi was bombed twice prior to the deadly attacks on the consulate on September, 11. The bombing incidents, in which assailants attacked the embassy with explosive devices, occurred on April 2, 2012 and again on June 6, 2012.

Furthermore, according to the testimony of whistleblowers that approached the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Islamist militants posted threats to the consulate on Facebook prior to the attacks. Militants claimed responsibility for a May 22 attack on a Red Cross facility and called that attack a “message for the Americans disturbing the skies over Derna” in a post on the online social network.

The details of the threats to the consulate were put in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). That letter was obtained by the Daily Beast and Lake.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), a cosignatory of the letter to Clinton, told the Daily Beat that the whistleblowers in question were “people who have firsthand knowledge of the incidents themselves.”

Last week, Lake reported that multiple intelligence sources had alleged that Obama administration officials knew that the events of September 11 resulted from a coordinated, multi-stage terror attack and not a spontaneous uprising. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice asserted on multiple Sunday news programs following the attack that it was the administration’s belief that the attacks were not premeditated.

Lake’s report details a number of security threats which Western diplomatic personnel have faced in Libya, including a May 1 carjacking in which a member of the American embassy’s security forces was “beaten and detained” by militant youth. He was eventually freed after Libyan forces engaged in a firefight with assailants to recover the captive. In another incident in June, an attacker fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a convoy carrying a member of the British diplomatic staff.

Read the full report via The Daily Beast

> >Follow Noah Rothman (@Noah_C_Rothman) on Twitter

New York Times, MSNBC Pearl-Clutching Over GOP Super PACs Featuring Babies In Political Ads

New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters struck a nerve over the weekend when he published a report critical of new ads from pro-Republican Super PACs that feature babies. “Attack ads have come to this: President [Barack] Obama makes babies cry,” wrote Peters. The meme that Republican PACs have crossed some imagined boundaries by utilizing images of infants in their campaign ads proved too provocative for the left-leaning cable news network, MSNBC, to ignore. On Monday morning, they featured two segments slamming the PACs for using babies.

Babies are one of the oldest props in politics and advertising, whether they are being kissed at campaign rallies or swaddled in fresh linens in a commercial for laundry detergent. And, of course, a little girl starred in the grandfather of all attack ads, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 “Daisy” commercial.

But this year babies have surfaced in ads designed to help Republicans chip away at the overwhelming support the president enjoys among women.

Peters noted that these ads are “almost always produced by teams of ad men, not ad women.” He quotes Linda Kaplan Thaler, a veteran of the Al Gore, Bill Bradley and Hillary Clinton campaigns, who said she found the ads to be beyond the pale.

“Scare tactics are nothing new, but with babies? This goes to new extremes,” Kaplan Thaler told Peters. “And when you are in a situation where you are telling voters something and not inviting a real conversation, you run the risk of voters having their own conversation.”

Peters quotes CNN contributor and GOP consultant Alex Castellanos as the opposing voice speaking from a Republican perspective. Of course, the Republican perspective in this case agrees with the Democratic perspective.

“People know they’re in a hole,” said Mr. Castellanos, the Republican advertising consultant. “What they want is to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. They don’t want you to throw the baby in the tunnel.”

Unsurprisingly, MSNBC jumped on the opportunity to criticize Republicans for doing what politicians have done since Demosthenes. MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts invited Kaplan Thaler on his program to talk about how off-base and atonal the messaging was behind the baby ads.

“It’s such an obvious ploy,” said Kaplan Thaler. “Women see thorough it.”

Roberts noted in passing that the Obama campaign is also running ads featuring babies. That did not inspire the kind of unequivocal condemnation that the pro-Republican ads engendered in the Democratic consultant Kaplan Thaler…  In fact, her employment history could, at least partially, explain her muted reaction? … Nah.

About 30 minutes later, Alex Wagner’s panel on the MSNBC program NOW featured a segment similarly critical of the baby ads.

“Do you think this works with mothers,” Wagner asked Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead.

“It really works with babies,” Winstead replied to uproarious guffaws from her fellow panelists. She went on to say that women would not be receptive to ads featuring babies because they believe that women should have access to birth control and somehow Mitt Romney aims to curtail that access.

Never mind that the women Winstead does not believe will be receptive to this ad have already forgone their access to birth control at least once – perhaps she thinks that he ordeal of caring for an infant is enough to refocus the mind of a young mother on the importance of access to contraception.

“This is counterintuitive for getting women, I think,” Winstead concluded, because why would a young mother care about her child’s financial future tomorrow when there are abortion rights issues on the table today?

The MSNBC panel agreed that these ads were intended to target women voters, a segment of the electorate that Romney has “forfeited” in their estimation over the course of the last four weeks. “Welcome to America, baby,” Wagner said mockingly. “You’re teething and have $50,000 in debt.”

Like most misapprehensions and appeals to conventional wisdom, the simplistic belief that women care for nothing beyond their access to contraception results from having failed to do the requisite homework. When women are asked to rate candidates on things other than what are traditionally considered “women’s issues,” women are often more concerned with the state of the economy and debt than their Republican-leaning male counterparts.

In the latest bipartisan Fox News poll, 33 percent of women said that the government wastes or misspends “more than fifty percent” of revenue compared with 29 percent of men. When asked if a potential terror attack or the growing national debt was a bigger concern to them, 53 to 29 percent of women answered the debt. Women are split, 44 to 44 percent, on whether the president’s stimulus helped the economy by adding jobs or hurt it by increasing the debt.

Finally, by 64 to 27 percent, all voters (including men, women, Republicans and Democrats, across every income bracket and demographic) believe the news media has been more focused on trivialities than on serious policy issues. Given the recent focus of the news media on the increasing frequency of babies appearing in Republican ads, one would have to assume that voters are probably more informed than cable news programs give them credit for.

> >Follow Noah Rothman (@Noah_C_Rothman) on Twitter

New York Times, MSNBC Pearl-Clutching Over GOP Super PACs Featuring Babies In Political Ads

New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters struck a nerve over the weekend when he published a report critical of new ads from pro-Republican Super PACs that feature babies. “Attack ads have come to this: President [Barack] Obama makes babies cry,” wrote Peters. The meme that Republican PACs have crossed some imagined boundaries by utilizing images of infants in their campaign ads proved too provocative for the left-leaning cable news network, MSNBC, to ignore. On Monday morning, they featured two segments slamming the PACs for using babies.

Babies are one of the oldest props in politics and advertising, whether they are being kissed at campaign rallies or swaddled in fresh linens in a commercial for laundry detergent. And, of course, a little girl starred in the grandfather of all attack ads, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 “Daisy” commercial.

But this year babies have surfaced in ads designed to help Republicans chip away at the overwhelming support the president enjoys among women.

Peters noted that these ads are “almost always produced by teams of ad men, not ad women.” He quotes Linda Kaplan Thaler, a veteran of the Al Gore, Bill Bradley and Hillary Clinton campaigns, who said she found the ads to be beyond the pale.

“Scare tactics are nothing new, but with babies? This goes to new extremes,” Kaplan Thaler told Peters. “And when you are in a situation where you are telling voters something and not inviting a real conversation, you run the risk of voters having their own conversation.”

Peters quotes CNN contributor and GOP consultant Alex Castellanos as the opposing voice speaking from a Republican perspective. Of course, the Republican perspective in this case agrees with the Democratic perspective.

“People know they’re in a hole,” said Mr. Castellanos, the Republican advertising consultant. “What they want is to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. They don’t want you to throw the baby in the tunnel.”

Unsurprisingly, MSNBC jumped on the opportunity to criticize Republicans for doing what politicians have done since Demosthenes. MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts invited Kaplan Thaler on his program to talk about how off-base and atonal the messaging was behind the baby ads.

“It’s such an obvious ploy,” said Kaplan Thaler. “Women see thorough it.”

Roberts noted in passing that the Obama campaign is also running ads featuring babies. That did not inspire the kind of unequivocal condemnation that the pro-Republican ads engendered in the Democratic consultant Kaplan Thaler…  In fact, her employment history could, at least partially, explain her muted reaction? … Nah.

About 30 minutes later, Alex Wagner’s panel on the MSNBC program NOW featured a segment similarly critical of the baby ads.

“Do you think this works with mothers,” Wagner asked Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead.

“It really works with babies,” Winstead replied to uproarious guffaws from her fellow panelists. She went on to say that women would not be receptive to ads featuring babies because they believe that women should have access to birth control and somehow Mitt Romney aims to curtail that access.

Never mind that the women Winstead does not believe will be receptive to this ad have already forgone their access to birth control at least once – perhaps she thinks that he ordeal of caring for an infant is enough to refocus the mind of a young mother on the importance of access to contraception.

“This is counterintuitive for getting women, I think,” Winstead concluded, because why would a young mother care about her child’s financial future tomorrow when there are abortion rights issues on the table today?

The MSNBC panel agreed that these ads were intended to target women voters, a segment of the electorate that Romney has “forfeited” in their estimation over the course of the last four weeks. “Welcome to America, baby,” Wagner said mockingly. “You’re teething and have $50,000 in debt.”

Like most misapprehensions and appeals to conventional wisdom, the simplistic belief that women care for nothing beyond their access to contraception results from having failed to do the requisite homework. When women are asked to rate candidates on things other than what are traditionally considered “women’s issues,” women are often more concerned with the state of the economy and debt than their Republican-leaning male counterparts.

In the latest bipartisan Fox News poll, 33 percent of women said that the government wastes or misspends “more than fifty percent” of revenue compared with 29 percent of men. When asked if a potential terror attack or the growing national debt was a bigger concern to them, 53 to 29 percent of women answered the debt. Women are split, 44 to 44 percent, on whether the president’s stimulus helped the economy by adding jobs or hurt it by increasing the debt.

Finally, by 64 to 27 percent, all voters (including men, women, Republicans and Democrats, across every income bracket and demographic) believe the news media has been more focused on trivialities than on serious policy issues. Given the recent focus of the news media on the increasing frequency of babies appearing in Republican ads, one would have to assume that voters are probably more informed than cable news programs give them credit for.

> >Follow Noah Rothman (@Noah_C_Rothman) on Twitter

Hillary Clinton Aide Calls Reporter ‘Unmitigated A**hole,’ Tells Him To ‘F*ck Off’

As a reporter, asking for comment from a government official can be a daunting task — there are the ignored emails, hostile and/or dodgy answers, and outright “No”s. But you surely never expect to be told to “fuck off.”

Sunday morning, BuzzFeed political reporter Michael Hastings had the pleasure of being told to do exactly that by Hillary Clinton‘s spokesman Philippe Reines. After Hastings asked the Clinton aide a series of questions about the State Department’s handling of the Benghazi consulate attacks earlier this month, and this week’s denouncement of CNN as “disgusting,” Reines became hostile and a heated on exchange of insults ensued on both ends.

The exchange began with Hastings sending the following email to Reines, chock full of seemingly innocuous, but forthright, questions about State’s handling of the violent attacks:

A few quick questions for you. Why didn’t the State Department search the consulate and find AMB Steven’s diary first? What other potential valuable intelligence was left behind that could have been picked up by apparently anyone searching the grounds? Was any classified or top secret material also left? Do you still feel that there was adequate security at the compound, considering it was not only overrun but sensitive personal effects and possibly other intelligence remained out for anyone passing through to pick up? Your statement on CNN sounded pretty defensive–do you think it’s the media’s responsibility to help secure State Department assets overseas after they’ve been attacked?

The “statement on CNN” Hastings referred to was Reines’ Sunday comments that CNN is “disgusting” for its “indefensible” airing of portions of murdered U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens‘ diary. In his response to Hastings, Reine reveals annoyance at the BuzzFeed reporter’s questions and indicates that he believes there is underlying antagonism in the tone:

I’m adding my colleague Toria Nuland who I believe you know. She has addressed much of your questions below during her daily press briefings, so I’ll let her weigh in to remind you of what’s already been thoroughly answered. As far as the tone of my email, I think you’re misreading mine as much as I’m misreading yours as being needlessly antagonistic.

But on your questions pertaining to CNN’s handling of the diary:

• You know that all USG personnel were evacuated from Benghazi after the attack. So I’m not sure why you’re asking why State didn’t find the diary first.

• On material, I’ll let Toria reiterate, but the answer is no. Though you might want to ask CNN if they took anything else from the crime scene that they haven’t yet told anyone about.

• In terms of the media’s responsibility, I’ll start with the outlandish statement that I believe the media does have responsibilities. Your question seems to imply they have none and any expectation of responsible behavior is too much to ask. To be specific: I believe CNN had the responsibility to act as human beings and be sensitive to their loss when they first approached the family.

I believe CNN had a responsibility to not make promises to the family it would not keep.

Reines’ response also seemed to reveal that he and Hastings have previously butt heads, as he takes a slight stab at past allegations of shoddy journalism on the BuzzFeed reporter’s end:

I believe that you of all people, after famously being accused of violating agreed upon ground rules and questionable sourcing, would agree that it’s important for a news organization to maintain its own integrity if it is to be trusted. That begins with keeping its word. If you can’t manage that, then don’t give it.


I realize that the way this works is that you only you get to ask me questions, but I have one for you: if you were in Benghazi, went to the scene of the attack, found the ambassador’s diary, read every word of it, would you have called them and asked their permission to use it, then when you weren’t granted that permission agree that you wouldn’t use it in any way, and then a few days later just change your mind?

If the answer is yes, then you obviously agree that CNN handled this perfectly fine.

If the answer is no, if you would have decided its contents demanded reporting immediately, how would you have handled this differently then CNN?

And you should feel free to use every word above, in its entirety. Though I suspect you won’t.

Hastings’ response:

Thanks for getting back to me. No, you read my email correctly–I found your statement to CNN offensive.

From my perspective, the scandal here is that the State Department had such inadequate security procedures in place that four Americans were killed. And then the Ambassador’s diary–and who knows what else–was left behind for anyone to pick up. Thankfully, it was CNN–and not Al Qaeda or some other militia–that found it and was able to return it to the family. That CNN used portions of the material in the diary they found at the scene–material that appears to contradict the official version of events that State/WH has been putting out–is completely in line with practices of good journalism.

[...]

The misinformation here seems largely to be coming from State and the administration. The defense that the administration has offered that there was no intelligence warning of an attack is weak. If there was no intel, then clearly the CIA and other intel agents stationed in Benghazi weren’t doing their jobs well. If there was intel, then we have some kind of cover-up–whether out of incompetence or ass covering before the election or just the trauma of losing four good men, it’s hard for me to say at this point.

It was at this point that the exchange became openly tense. Reines sternly wrote back:

Why do you bother to ask questions you’ve already decided you know the answers to?

Hastings hit back:

Why don’t you give answers that aren’t bullshit for a change?

“I now understand why the official investigation by the Department of the Defense as reported by The Army Times The Washington Post concluded beyond a doubt that you’re an unmitigated asshole,” Reines wrote back. “How’s that for a non-bullshit response?”

“Now that we’ve gotten that out of our systems, have a good day,” he concluded, “And by good day, I mean Fuck Off.”

Hastings then responded with a personal shot at Reines’ reputation with women:

Hah–I now understand what women say about you, too!
Any new complaints against you lately?

“Talk about bullshit,” Reines wrote back. “Answer me this: Do you only traffic in lies, or are you on the ground floor of creating them? And since Fuck Off wasn’t clear enough, I’m done with you. Inside of 5 minutes when I can log into my desktop, you’ll be designated as Junk Mail. Have a good life Michael.”

Full report over at BuzzFeed.

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>> Follow Andrew Kirell (@AndrewKirell) on Twitter