Chuck Todd: Numbers Cruncher Turned Body Language Expert

It was a scene that made your humble correspondent want to pull an Evis on his TV screen. Brian Williams and Chuck Todd, the NBC numbers crunching political director, were being questioned by Chris Matthews on Hardball yesterday about an interview Williams conducted with John McCain and Sarah Palin. Brian Williams was annoying enough with the way he wrote off Sarah Palin by citing poll numbers, as if they were written in stone, that she isn't qualified to be president. However, what really sent me over the edge was when Todd, at the 3:00 mark of this video, suddenly became an incredibly smarmy body language expert:

CHUCK TODD:  ...There was a tenseness between, first of all, between the two...there is no chemistry...I couldn't see chemistry between John McCain and Sarah Palin. It was...I felt as if we grabbed two people and said "Here sit next to each other, we're going to conduct an interview." There wasn't...they're know...they're not comfortable with each other yet. The other thing about it is you can tell or know they're losing. There's an intensity there. They're drained. The entire campaign staff is drained. The two candidates seemed guarded. They seem on edge. It's not as if they were rude or anything. It's not as if they weren't trying to be forthcoming. It's just...they just's a negative intensity. I don't know how else to describe it. But you'll see when you see the two of them together...the chemistry is not all there. You do wonder is John McCain starting to blame her for things. Blaming himself. Is she blaming him? You know you just wonder what is going on inside their heads. Are they upset with how the other has treated them. And is that why her numbers are low. But whatever it is, it's a negative vibe that you get in that room.

Hey Chuck! You're a numbers cruncher! Not a body language expert! Okay, after a brief respite from Chuck Todd's highly negative interpretation of McCain's and Palin's supposed body language, he returns again at the 6:00 minute mark. It's just a lead in to Chuck's new fascination with the art of interpretive body language which goes full throttle at the 6:30 mark. Please try to refrain from punching out your computer screen as Chuck blabs on and on about what our sudden expert in the field sees as negative body language by the candidates:

TODD: ...The other thing that I think that people may have overlooked in our poll yesterday had to do with the number of people who said John McCain's age is a factor. As her negatives have gone up, concern over John McCain's age has gone up a little bit. Those two go together. It's as if they realized, "Oh, I wasn't worried about John McCain...the idea of John McCain as president didn't bother me or he always seemed very presidential." That's not it. The was always sitting out there. And you wondered...Does her...does the problems that the voters have with her raise that other number with McCain? We've seen some evidence of that today. But again...

WARNING! WARNING! We are now at the 6:30 mark and about to enter the Chuck Todd Interpretive Body Language Smarm Zone. Please tie down your wrists so as to protect your computer screens.

TODD: ...I can't emphasize enough the odd body language. I know Obama and Biden don't have the great chemistry yet but there seems to be some chemistry. I didn't see any chemistry here. It very much feels forced. And you almost wonder. Now maybe it's the intensity of the moment. They know they're down. You have no sleep at night. You need that idea that you might win to probably keep you going. And maybe they don't feel that they can win right now. So they're missing that intensity. That was the thing that struck me more than anything...the lack almost wonder why they wanted the two of them sitting next to each other.

What's with this sudden interest in "chemistry" by body language expert Chuck? Oh yes, we all remember the how important to the New Deal the terrific chemistry was between Franklin D. Roosevelt and all three of his vice-presidents with whom he shared an "intensity." And who can forget the fantastic chemistry between Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin that was so very important to the successful prosecution of the Civil War?

Chuck gives us an encore performance at the 7:30 mark when he suddenly switches from newborn body language expert to film buff morphing into an undertaker delivering an obituary:

TODD: ...Both of these candidates are on the verge of pulling a  "Bulworth" or at least you feel like they're on the verge of pulling a "Bulworth." I think they're second guessing everything. You know, there's that moment and there's that New York Times magazine  piece that's out there. Talking about the behind the scenes of this campaign. Are they in search of a message? We're at a critical juncture inside this campaign for the McCain folks and that's who's trusting who. You've got people worrying about their reputations now. Now you're wondering do the candidates trust the staff. Does the staff trust is...this is a very dangerous time in a campaign that is behind. They desperately need some good news. Because you do wonder is that cohesion disappearing inside. Not just between the two mates that we saw today on camera but with the entire campaign structure.

In case you are not quite the film expert that Chuck is, "Bulworth" was a highly forgettable 1998 film. Here is an excerpt about that flick from the imdb plot summary:

Senator Jay Bulworth is facing speculation-induced financial ruin, so he puts out a contract on his own life in order to collect a large, new insurance policy for his family. Living each moment on borrowed time, he suddenly begins spouting raw, unfiltered--and sometimes offensive in word but satirical in spirit -- thoughts to shocked audiences and handlers in the speech of hip-hop music and culture.

Todd can talk about "pulling a Bullworth," but your humble correspondent still feels like "pulling on Elvis" after watching Chuck Todd ramble smarmily on the screen again. Oh, and since Chuck seems to be quite the instant expert in so many different fields, perhaps he can discover some newfound medical expertise and put it to use since his performance has given ol' PJ an incredible pain in his tush. Chuck sticks his nose into all sorts of things outside his range of knowledge, so perhaps he can stick his MD nose into looking very closely at my current problem. 

2008 Presidential Hardball Chuck Todd
P.J. Gladnick's picture