Mark GoulstonSpeak your words with overspin and be authoritative — or speak your words flush and be authoritarian.

As I watched the debate between Obama and Clinton in Austin, Texas, I thought of tennis.

I never progressed very far in tennis, because I never mastered the skill of hitting the ball with overspin. Try as a I might, I would hit balls flush and invariably they would overshoot the baseline of my opponent and I would lose. The combination of my hitting the ball flush and my opponent hitting it with overspin where it would deftly land in my court, pick up speed made it nearly impossible for me to return or win. As I listened to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in their recent debate, it became clear to me how the mildly evangelical inflection of Obama's voice kept hitting deftly the right chords in the audience and with me with overspin, which triggered well aimed and positioned traction within much of the audience. On the other hand, Clinton kept hitting the words flush which both missed their mark and certainly missed having the traction that she was hoping for. Speaking with over spin sounds more authoritative; speaking words flush sounds more authoritarian.

The main traction she appeared to gain was in her closing comments about the greatest tests she has had to face, where she quickly switched the focus from hinting at her well known challenges to those of soldiers returning from war. However, the traction that this caused was not from overspin. It was caused by the audience wondering how she would handle/dodge such a question, when the challenges she faced as"first lady" were very embarrassing and very public. As all of us "rubber necked" and were poised to watch her crash and burn when trying to dodge that shameful episode in her life, she deftly changed the focus to American soldiers and their pain and suffering, being the more important tests to be focused on. By catching us with our base, shame-on-us, "voyeuristic" pants down and switching to the compassion we should all be feeling toward our hurt and wounded warriors, Clinton deftly won that set.

Whether it was enough to win the match and tournament, remains to be seen.





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