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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 05/ 7/2008

A Geppetto for Bill Clinton

By Michael Dobbs


Clinton rally, Indianapolis, Ind., May 6, 2008.

"Tonight we've come from behind, we've broken the tie, and thanks to you it's full speed on to the White House."
--Hillary Clinton, May 6, 2008.

Brave, defiant words from Hillary Clinton. But observe the facial expressions. For many people watching television on Tuesday night, the most striking impression from the Clinton victory rally in Indiana was not the words that came out of Hillary's mouth, but the look on Bill's face. It was the look of a man who knows that a dream is slipping away.

The Facts

Try this experiment. Take a look at this extract from Clinton's speech in Indianapolis with the volume turned down. Watch the expressions on the faces of Hillary, Bill and Chelsea, and let me know what you think.

Here is what I saw. A candidate with a mask of upbeat determination on her face, who knows deep down that the game is lost but is still on auto-pilot, unwilling to accept defeat. A proud and loving daughter who will support her mother to the very end. An exhausted spouse who is sick at heart because he knows, from his vast political experience, that the fight is over. He dutifully applauds at the right moments and occasionally punches his fist in the air, but his face reveals his true feelings.

Even as the hope of a miraculous upset faded away, Hillary still came across as the energizer bunny, running on batteries that never seem to wind down. After giving it his all, in dozens of small town meetings across North Carolina and Indiana, Bill looked as if all the energy had suddenly been drained out of him.

The Pinocchio Test

The Fact Checker will no doubt be ridiculed by many readers for checking facial expressions, rather than verifiable facts. But sometimes body language can be more eloquent than the most stirring rhetoric. The look on Bill Clinton's face said it all, qualifying for a Geppetto for agonized, heartfelt honesty.

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By Michael Dobbs  | May 7, 2008; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Candidate Record, Candidate Watch, Geppetto's Checkmark  
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