Diplomacy (n.) the conduct by government officials of negotiations and other relations between nations.
By definition, the work of diplomacy has always been wrapped in the inherent ability to communicate. The impending national U.S. elections serve as the perfect example of the importance encased in a candidate’s capacity to relate – not only with fellow lawmakers and politicos, but also with the American public.
Referencing the first presidential debate between Obama and Romney as an example, countless post-debate interviews applied Obama’s seeming indifference and lackluster delivery as a commentary on the content of his message.
Though content and delivery should be considered as independent matters for consideration, they often are inseparable to the audience. This is critical, as a review of the debate transcript would easily and readily reveal Obama delivered more of a detailed, agenda-driven approach regarding action items and tangible goals to implement over the next four years.
In the eyes of the 67.2 million beholders, Romney’s emphatic and high-energy command of the stage was both deliberate and unshaken – all that, despite an overt attack on Big Bird, one of the larger than life caricatures responsible for teaching me (and countless other polyglots) the English language.
Whether Republican, Democrat or somewhere in-between, the overwhelming consensus that declared Romney the “winner” speaks to the power of presence.
This is something that the Republican baby-booming Reagan-ites out there will understand – the gruff, haggard appearance of Reagan juxtaposed with the “crisp” and handsome appearance of John F. Kennedy, Jr. was one of only two times in history that a televised debate changed the course of the presidential race.
Transferring this grand “relatability” to the presidency, then, the question is whether domestic lawmakers and the international community will have as great an appreciation for the triumphant candidate’s ability to relate, or communicate. And, whether this ability to relate is viewed as a more impactful register than the content of the message.
Traversing the obvious barriers of language and cultural complexities, successful foreign diplomats share a clear vision for the future, with reserved flexibility to negotiate on bi-partisan, or multi-national platforms. On the international stage, as most would assume, the “likability” and overall demeanor of any one individual will hold as much water as a sieve when compared to the ideas and resulting policies that will guide the course of history.
For the sake of all Americans, let’s hope vanity does not trump substance this time around.
By Tina Jeon