"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

The fashion tipoff

Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Despite my near total ignorance of fashion, I’ve always liked the color hot pink. It’s not for everyone. But when it’s worn by the right person at the right time – it’s dynamite! I just never figured it would help me understand candidate behavior in a presidential debate.

I’ll leave the “what did it all mean” debate details to media heavyweights more intellectually attuned to such stuff. Besides, they get paid for the job. I’ll just stick to the hot pink.

Go back to the end of the debate on Tuesday night. After all the furor was over. If you looked up in the bleachers just above the section reserved for the questioners, Ann Romney was in the first row on the right – in hot pink. Michelle Obama was in the first row on the left – in hot pink. Damn poor planning that. Each almost an equal distance from the stage. Best seats in the house.

But – within half a minute of the moderator’s last words to the camera – Ann Romney was on the stage. The candidates had not had time to even turn to formally acknowledge each other with small talk. As is customary. Not that these two guys were going to do that. Fat chance. And it appeared to me Ann Romney made sure it wasn’t going to happen if she could help it.

She quickly climbed the few steps and placed herself on Mitt’s right side – smack between him and the President. About eight feet away. If Mitt had turned to acknowledge Obama, he would have had to go around – or through – Ann. If the President had turned to his left to speak to Romney, he would have had to go around – or through – Ann.

Within seconds, she consciously nudged Mitt to his left and the small group of his supporters standing there. No further acknowledgment between the debaters was going to occur if she could help it. Obama looked left, saw the situation and – about that time – Michelle reached his side. His left side. Shoulder to shoulder, about four feet from Ann – with no glance or other recognition between the two women.

The moment hit me like a brick. Two well-dressed women – in nearly identical hot pink – separating their husbands from each other and assisting both in avoiding what would have been tough and perfunctory – if not totally meaningless – small talk. Two lionesses protecting the family.

Within three or four minutes, the Romney’s and their entourage were gone. But the Obamas hung around for some 40 minutes, shaking hands, signing autographs and posing for pictures with members of the audience. Suddenly, just one woman. Just one hot pink dress.

I immediately flashed back to the end of the earlier Biden-Ryan debate – after all the talking was done. Within a couple of minutes – and after the obligatory handshake with smiles yet – wives, kids and grandkids circled both men. Then, in a minute or two, both families mashed together into one hugging, smiling and chatty crowd. Adult Ryans were kissing each other – and adult Bidens. Adult Bidens were kissing each other – and adult Ryans. Kids in both families talking and running around the stage. It was just one of those very, very good moments in our national politics you don’t often experience. A good end to a good experience.

But the Romney and Obama slugfest? Well, if you wanted to determine the winner, all you had to do was watch the hot pink. Really made the whole winner-loser decision easy for me. Wonder what the coordinated color is for next week in Florida.

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