body language: barry, biden and the Supreme Court Justices

February 6, 2009

I see I never posted this. It says a great, great deal. Now that I think of it I forgot to post the presidents in the Oval Office. That was extremely revealing.

On 1-14, barry and Biden met behind closed doors with the Supremes. Missing was Justice Alito, which was no coincidence. Their meeting is discussed here. I just want to talk about the body language, which is remarkable.

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(Photo) barry, Justices John Roberts, John Stevens, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, Joe Biden

First off, the Justices do not seem grouped by political views. What is important is that there are five – what was needed to make the decision. barry and biden are holding on to the chairs like they have taken over – barry asserting his dominance by leaning over the chair with his two forearms. He is affable, but is embracing himself – separating himself from the group in a dominant way – he doesn’t need any of them. I don’t know whose chair that is but I would not be surprised if it was the Chief Justice’s.

Biden is an excellent subject to watch. There is never any doubt what he is thinking or feeling – even before he says it. He must have spent a lot of time cleaning blackboards as a kid. It’s what makes barry the most angry because he can’t mask Biden like he tries to mask himself. Watch barry’s reaction when Biden makes the joke about Justice Roberts’ memory. You’ll see a great deal of unmasking in barry’s face: anger, embarrassment, bewilderment and ruined birthday party. Whatever happened in this room barry owes Justice Roberts and that is why he was so angry – because Biden should have known better.

Biden has claimed his spot – to the left and across the table from barry, facing him at an angle. His hands are placed modestly on the chair but they are at the peak of the chair. He knows his place and has a firm grasp on it and is not about to let it go. His dominant hand is covered by his non dominant one. It is a subtle sign that he is trying to cover something up but he knows that’s what he needs to do to keep his position. The two of them are laughing and smiling at each other like we’ve got them now – we’re set. There is a distinct look of conspiracy – one they have had for a while – one they knew they were going to win. They have the judges flanked – literally boxed into the corner. Biden has his back to the dissenters – to his right and behind him. He doesn’t need them anymore. He has the Chief and the Senior Member in his and barry’s circle. It’s enough.

This is all quite fascinating really.

Now look at Chief Justice Roberts. He is to barry’s immediate left, very close, and just slightly behind him. Barry is leaning forward to make sure of his dominance, while appearing to be relaxed. Roberts is standing erect, asserting his dominance in his environment. His hands in front of him and away from his body, showing that if challenged, he would be able to stand his ground. He usually commands the room, but today he had been inched over and is a close second. He also is smiling, fully engaged and complicit on an equal basis. He has made his decision but is still unsure. (May explain the botched oath – that was not in any way a simple mistake.)

Next comes Justice Stevens. I don’t know anything about seniority but I would guess he is the most senior. He is comfortable in the space that he has been respectfully afforded. He is the most relaxed, amused in a bystander type of way, having seen it all. He is leaning barry’s way and has not completely closed himself off from the others – though he is in front of them. No one is a threat to him – nor does anyone find him threatening. He is the most intelligent person in the room, is curious, well-mannered and a very good listener. He’s drawn himself in toward Biden. No matter his views – my guess is he allows the most latitude. I would pick him to present my case to and I would make sure I was impeccably dressed and respectful but not deferential. His (great) grandchildren probably adore him.

I don’t know how the mechanics work, but I would guess he is the most hands on in actually writing his decisions. Here he has his left hand in his pants pocket but the jacket is still modestly buttoned. A sort of subtle collegial upper hand. Hands in the pockets is a distinct behavior of men of that generation. The elder Bush did the same but he had both hands in his pockets – very different.

Justice Thomas has made the loudest statement. He wants none of it. He is furthest away, and although boxed in, he is the focal point of the picture. The decision rested on him. Biden finds him threatening – he has his back turned directly at Thomas, who is directly in line with barry and looking right at him, waiting to take him on. This particular argument is not over. I bet Thomas holds a mean grudge. barry is protecting himself from Thomas with his right hand higher up on his arm. I wish I could see Thomas’ face better – but more importantly his hands. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were fisted. He is pretending to smile but is not looking at the one telling the joke. My guess that he never took his eyes off barry and barry didn’t look at him.

Justice Ginsberg is extremely physically weakened – her abdomen looks swollen and it looks she is trying hard to stay upright. She is holding her own as far as her position in the group – she is in the center by choice – but has pulled into herself in pain. She doesn’t even appear to be part of the proceedings – she is there because she is fulfilling a duty and knows her importance as a woman. Her face is a grimace and she is holding herself very rigid, tightly gripping her hands. When I first saw her, I saw pain, sorrow and impatience. I now know she has pancreatic cancer, which is very painful, and explains everything.

Justice Souter I know nothing about – well I don’t know any of them – but he doesn’t send off much of anything. Did someone put in a word for him or was he an alternative to someone? I see him as someone who can float but once he decides he is firm in his position. He was probably a loner as a kid and I would hazard a guess he doesn’t have strong people skills or a wide range of emotion – like a Quaker or Puritan type. I wonder if he has ever been married.

He has taken a spot and is rooted in it – his arms crossed in front of him – left hand not completely tucked in. I sense this is a normal way of standing for him – more self-protection than defensive. He’s looking down when a joke is being told – laughing despite himself and at odds with his posture. I sense he likes Biden and could easily be persuaded by him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a damp ineffectual handshake to a woman.

Most interesting is the fact that the other Justices are not in the picture. There is no way to conjecture why. What is clear is they chose not to be in the picture. It would have been interesting to see them in the flesh because I’ve only ever seen their names on dockets.

After this meeting, barry’s mood lightened – I noticed it before I was aware of the meeting. At the time, there were two cases before the Court (Lightfoot v Bowen and Berg v Obama/Biden), so the meeting was completely inappropriate and not at all required. Bush had not done it and Clinton and Gore reportedly made a production out of it, which I can’t imagine barry wouldn’t want to top.

There’s one thing that I have been wondering for months. Mr Bill said in his anger and frustration that after the Inauguration he would sit down and tell what was really going on. I have to wonder if that was why Hillary was picked for Secretary of State – we know courtesy of Dr Biden that she was ever considered for either initially.

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