First we’ll cover the White House meeting, then in the second part, Trump’s 11/21/16 announcement regarding the status of his transition team’s progress.
If this is the first body language/speech analysis post of mine you’ve ever read, a brief re-cap: the 3 things I’m looking/listening for are 1) what’s being said (the words coming out of Trump and Obama’s mouths), 2) what’s really being said (in other words, what they really mean when they say something, and 3) what’s not being said, also described as, what has been left unsaid. And usually it’s that third component that’s most revealing.
For those wondering, well, ok, but what is your bias? Surely whether or not you like these men personally will influence how you interpret what you see and hear? Yes, it’s probably true that my feelings toward them will affect my perception of their words/actions in this short video. So, full disclosure: I voted for Obama twice and Trump once (so far).
They start interacting at 1:03 in the video below, and the footage flips back to George Stephanopoulos at 4:18.
Now, lets start with the 1:05 freeze frame. Interestingly, Trump is sitting in a slightly smaller chair. Both men are doing the man-spread “I am a dominant male” posture with their legs open. Then President Obama says, “Well, I just had the opportunity to have an excellent conversation with president-elect Trump” — and the word “well” here is significant. The use of the word well means that he’s conceding or admitting, it actually was excellent and that he wasn’t expecting it to be.
But now look at Trump’s hands while Obama is speaking, specifically from 1:04 – 1:17. His hands are in a pensive, self-steadying pose, but his fingers tap each other intermittently, and at 1:14 he looks away from Obama and starts to open his mouth as if to speak, then he closes it at 1:15. I’ll tell you what this means: it means that he’s thinking about something that just happened, immediately preceding the cameras and the press entering the room. So he’s either recalling something that he was just told or something he just saw, and whatever it was, it was so significant that he’s still thinking about it now and at the same time, concentrating on what President Obama is saying. Now Trump is a classic alpha male, an alpha’s alpha so to speak (Obama is a sigma male and maybe I’ll do more analysis of him later) and so it’s likely a very simple and practiced task for Trump to listen to what people are saying in conversation and mull something over simultaneously. Still, it’s telling that he is tapping his fingers like that. Whatever it was, it wasn’t something pleasant. But, by the time he looks back at Obama at 1:17, he has his fingers firmly pressed together and his face is set. This is the facial expression you will see on an alpha male when they have come to a decision. Who knows what the decision was? But notice that the tapping of his fingers — an unconscious indicator of indecision — stops.
At 1:20 the camera zooms in on President Obama and we see him warmly gesture toward Trump several times on the words or phrases “coming 2 months” and “transition” and “ensure” and “president elect” and “successful.” These are inclusive hand gestures and we can determine that they are sincere because President Obama unconsciously gestures closer and closer to Trump with each word. I will briefly make the case that Obama is not sad that Hillary lost (his body language toward Trump makes it crystal clear, but my argument here deals with Hillary and Obama’s personal history). First, let’s recall that President Obama and Hillary were not and are not friends. And for those who think that Obama appointed Clinton to the State Department because he liked her, I present an alternate view. What better way to get that final jab in, after a bitter prolonged primary contest in 2007, than to hire your rival to work for you so that not only did you defeat them resoundingly in a public display of dominance, you take it a step further by making them your employee so that every day they go to work, they have to wake up in the morning knowing you are their boss? Yeah, Obama is the ultimate player. (Hey, don’t hate the player, hate the game.)
With that in mind, it wasn’t surprising to me that there wasn’t a hint of animosity coming from Obama toward Trump in this video. Obama is probably of two minds on the Trump victory: ambivalence is all over his impassive face (especially indicated by the limited amount of eye contact he makes with Trump, which we’ll get to momentarily). The reason he keeps talking about the country, and doing what’s best for the country (he says it’s his “number one priority”) might be because he isn’t actually sure that Hillary wouldn’t have been worse for us. In other words, Obama most likely didn’t want Trump to win because he doesn’t personally like the birth certificate brew ha-ha that Trump promoted and at the same time, he knows Hillary is deeply corrupt (google “state department pay to play hillary clinton foundation” or read all about her corruption here) and, as Obama pointed out so perceptively in 2008, “Hillary Clinton will say anything and change nothing.”
Do you doubt that Obama is not nearly as upset about Hillary’s defeat as Hillary and her weeping followers are? Watch this (it’s embedded to start right at 8:39 – stop after the press laugh at Biden’s joke a few moments later). Now, was that a man who is sad that his replacement is DJT? Was that the voice and facial expression of a man who feels sorrow over Hillary’s loss? Note the jovial manner with which he compliments VP Biden at 8:40 for never having lost an election before. If I had more time, I’d do an analysis on this video alone. Suffice it to say, there is most likely a tiny part of Obama that is filled with glee that Hillary lost after everything — one dirty lowdown smear campaign after another — she hurled at him back in the ’08 Dem primary.
Back to the Obama-Trump meeting. When, at 1:40, President Obama says, “I have been very encouraged by the interest in President-elect Trump’s wanting to work with my team around many of the issues this great country faces,” he’s not only encouraged, he’s happily surprised. His word choice here, again, indicates that Trump approached him with an inquisitive, “teach me what you’ve learned” attitude, and Obama is glad. (Also, try closing your eyes and listening to him say “my team” — the pitch of his voice goes up a bit; this means that his team is comprised of people that he deeply loves and cherishes; please notice that his pitch goes up on “great country faces” too.) It’s not really surprising that Trump would ask Obama for advice though. As an alpha, Trump knows instinctively that one strategy to master a task (or role) is to learn from the challenges, regrets, and mistakes of others so that they don’t become his mistakes and regrets. (As a wise fortune cookie sage once wrote, “Intelligence is learning from your mistakes; wisdom is learning from other people’s.”) There were likely a lot of, “what did you do when …?” and “what do you wish you had done differently when _____ happened?” type questions from Trump to Obama. And Obama’s words and tone here indicate both encouragement and relief.
Now, let’s look at President Obama’s hands between 1:29 and 1:55. Notice that whenever his hands come back together he either a) steeples them casually as in 1:08, 1:15, and 1:20 or b) he tucks his left hand into his right hand so that his right hand conceals his left hand’s fingers, as in 1:29, 1:45, and 1:50. The first gesture is a practiced signal to convey that he is calm, cool Barack and the second is an unconscious indicator of anxiety. It’s literally hand-ringing, which is a self-comforting motion. Who knows what he’s worried about? I imagine the list is quite long when you’re president. It would be more odd if he had no anxiety indicators — what is he, a robot? No, he’s a human being emotionally influenced by the domino effect of every single decision he makes. (We’ll see if Trump’s hair doesn’t have a few patches of silver in 8 years. Maybe he won’t and that would be cool — however, I wouldn’t judge him negatively for it if he did.)
Now at 2:41, Obama looks at Trump and makes eye contact with him as he says, “I want to emphasize to you” but then, as he continues to speak, he lowers his gaze, then looks away, then looks back, but keeps his gaze lowered. The camera zooms out, and Trump, still looking at Obama, waiting for Obama to re-make eye contact, finally looks away and toward the press at 2:50. First, I think that Obama is very distracted by the constant noise of the cameras flashing — it’s extremely loud. Second, I think Obama is trying to remember some memorized lines. Notice how much more comfortable he is at the very end when he’s joking around about the press with Trump (at 4:02). And finally, as I mentioned before, the lack of eye contact also indicates feeling of two minds (or two emotions) toward Trump: Obama can’t help but like him because most likely, Trump greeted him (earlier in the day, prior to the cameras rolling) with a “let’s let bygones be bygones” disarming kind of alpha introduction and handshake. Obama was probably prepared for hostility — genuine warmth was not what he expected at all (which is why it’s so disarming and why alphas use it as a strategy. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer by turning them into assets.) Trump nods in genuine agreement as Obama says, “We now are gonna want to do everything possible to help you succeed because if you succeed, then the country succeeds.” Then he hands the floor over to Trump.
Now, there are two Trumps. Trump from the Apprentice and the real Donald Trump (which is why it’s so fitting that his twitter handle is @realDonaldTrump). Trump from the Apprentice sits as if he’s sitting on a throne — always. Without exception. His posture commands respect and to some degree, fear.
Real Trump always hunches a little bit forward, as he does throughout the majority of this scene with President Obama. And if you watch him in the interview on 60 Minutes with his whole family, again, he hunches forward, and I believe that this is to obscure his stature so that no one feels threatened or relegated to the background (I’ve seen many alpha males do this; if you go onto youtube, you can see videos of both the CIA and FBI directors sitting in a very similar way: slightly slouching even, in order to make the interviewer feel less uncomfortable.) At the same time, Trump doesn’t hesitate to use his stature to command respect when appropriate — the Anderson Cooper “backstage” interview comes to mind. Fascinatingly, when Trump was on the campaign trail, he seldom evoked the king posture, but by using expansive hand gestures, he still made the people around them feel as if they were in the presence of the classic “benevolent ruler” archetype. This is a strategy to make people feel enveloped in safety without actually touching them. And Trump is really good at it.
Now watch Trump’s hands as he begins to speak at 2:56 (and notice that Obama is watching him intently. Obama has a good poker face but look closely, and you will see pleasant surprise in his expression). All of a sudden at 3:01, Trump remembers he should do something with his hands. As noted earlier, Trump is a classic alpha male — an alpha’s alpha — and they know intuitively that hands speak and worse, tell secrets, and so they start practicing early in life holding their hands still. But they’re also brilliant strategists; this means that it’s likely that Trump would have sat down and brainstormed various hand motions that would be useful in conveying an honest and trustworthy persona long before that fateful escalator descent announcing his candidacy, and then begun practicing them prior to his campaign so that they would come across as naturally as possible. So it’s fun for me to see the two Donald Trumps fight each other for dominance in this last bit of footage. He has probably been doing the common hands-steepled-together pose since his 20’s; it’s steadying, nonthreatening, calming to whoever he’s interacting with, and conveys a thoughtful reflective (not impulsive) person. Good. Meanwhile, it appears, some of the hand motions that he added to his body language arsenal, pre-campaign, pop up from time to time: at 3:02 when he brings his hands out and then together, and then back out again (signaling that he is putting things together, that he has a hold on the or a situation): at 3:22, he says, “we discussed a lot of situations,” and then, almost as an afterthought, as if he is reminding himself to use his hands again, Trump says, “some wonderful and some difficulties” and he brings his hands together with the palms up to show that he is holding the situation up, that is to say, “handling it.” I LOVE how at 3:11, after stating that originally Trump and Obama were only going to meet for 15 minutes, Trump reveals, “the meeting lasted for” — he looks warmly at Obama — “almost an hour and a half.” Now, this is old school alpha rapport-building technique: he is glancing at Obama as if to say, “let’s tell them, shall we?” as though he and Obama are letting us in on a little bit of gossip, a tidbit we otherwise would never have known about: the audience or viewers then feel special, invited, accepted, enveloped in the Trump cocoon. The secret is now between Trump and Obama — and 330 million American people. We’re ALL in. This is how alphas make everyone in the tribe feel valuable and accepted.
At 3:22, he says they discussed a lot of situations, “some wonderful and some difficulties” and again, his hands come together with the palms up to show us that he is holding up any problems, that he is “handling” it. Then no hand motions again until at 3:43, when he remembers to incorporate the 3-fingered OK symbol when saying that he and Obama discussed some of the “really great things that have been achieved.” At 3:53, they shake hands and neither man attempts to dominate the other. THIS IS GOOD. Trump has his lips pressed together in the facial expression that suggests that he is willing to acknowledge that Obama is a cooler guy than he thought (or in some way, better than he’d originally thought). Now, the handshake is very quick, suggesting residual bad feelings on both sides, so let’s acknowledge that too. At the same time, the way that they make eye contact as they shake signals that they each accept the other’s appeal to millions of people.
And, in an interesting display of camaraderie at 4:02, Obama taps Trump on the arm and says, “it’s always a good rule: don’t answer any questions when they just start –” and Trump smiles and jokes, “it’s always the last one!”
Then Obama lets the press know he’s done with them and they are free to leave by saying, “no questions” and “come on, guys, let’s go” (the song, “Closing Time” comes to mind) and at 4:10, Trump says, “very — very good man.” Then he repeats it (“very good man”) and looks down and to the right, as if he’s recalling something he was told recently about President Obama. I conclude that this is ultimately good; a president is only one man and the whole purpose of Congress and the Courts is to stop that man if he tries to go farther than the people want. To see Obama or Trump as either all good or all bad is simply not accurate, and so I look forward to learning what it was that Obama did specifically that Trump was referring to when he said, “very good man” twice.
Some of you are aware that I predicted back in October of 2014 that Hillary could not and would not win this election and that that was why we needed to start finding a viable alternative back then (and I suggested Bernie Sanders).
I do enjoy making predictions.
Even when I’m wrong! That said, here goes:
- Trump will negotiate with CEO of Apple (in 2017) and some i-phones will eventually be manufactured in the USA.
- Trump will further walk back remarks on torture. I believe this will happen very soon after he’s sworn in, after he speaks with DNI Clapper and CIA Director Brennan. (Let me know in the comments if you would like a post on the Brennan-Trump feud going back to this past summer. Two alpha males circling each other at the CIA? Get out your macrame invisibility poncho and hop on the DARPA cloud — wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall to witness that first meeting?? All kidding and teleporting aside, I predict that it will end well, and that the Iran Deal will be salvaged too after Trump is let in on the less public details. Briefly: alphas are human lie detectors, value loyalty above all other traits, and are extremely protective of “their people.” Once John Brennan and Donald Trump realize they have more in common than not, they will get along amazingly well. They should each give each other a chance, at the very least.)
- Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) will be repealed and replaced in January 2017. It will keep the option to have coverage through one’s parents’ plan for people up to age 26, keep the rule that insurers cannot deny coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition, but repeal the requirement that employers offer health insurance to all full time workers, providing a huge boon to the economy as companies and especially retail stores/companies, offer full time opportunities to their employees again. (If we’re going to go true free market solution, we’ll have to disconnect the purchase of health insurance with employment — in other words, remove the burden on employers and allow insurers to sell to anyone in any state in order to break up the regional cartels, driving down prices in order to reduce the burden on consumers as well. I just took Microecon over the summer and am taking Macro right now, so these free market solutions are on my mind. And of course, fellow Berners, I remain a staunch fan of a Single Payer National Health Care System; I’m simply open to multiple ways of solving the problem of people not getting the health care they need.)
- The House will pass a law repealing Medicare and it will narrowly, with in 5 votes, lose in the Senate in 2018.
- The House and Senate will keep a Republican majority until 2020, when the Senate will turn Dem majority.
- Trump will win re-election in 2020; Minnesota will go red for the first presidential election since 1972.
- NAFTA will not be significantly altered until Trump’s second term — but then it will be gutted (to the benefit of both the American and Mexican people; remember that comparative advantage, the economic theory upon which these unethical “free” trade agreements are based, means an advantage for the ruling and corporate classes, not the People).
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please comment below or tweet at me at @Sarah__Reynolds.
3 thoughts on “Trump Visits Obama at the White House: Body Language/Speech Analysis + Bonus Trump Admin Predictions”
I kept getting “404 Not Found” when clicking on your post, so I went to your archives, and finally was able to read this entry. Interesting, as always, though I disagree with many of the things you say here. Hillary was not my first choice, but my third, after Warren and then Bernie. Yes, she’s a Corporate Dem, but in my opinion, far more SANE than Trump, who is egotistical and corrupt. He will make sure he and his family prosper greatly from his presidency, and MY prediction is that he will be impeached for his self-dealing ways. Well, let’s see how it plays out, huh? We live in some interesting times!
Thanks for reading, Clay — that is so odd that you got a 404 message. I hope you thought it was interesting though how not-sad President Obama seemed in the video with Biden!
I didn’t delete the new post notification that I got earlier, which led me to a 404, just so I could check on it again later. It’s later now, (2:23 AM 4 DEC) and it STILL gets me to a lovely 404 message. So, not odd at all, and that’s why I mentioned it.