ApPeaRance vs. content

      54 Comments on ApPeaRance vs. content

Kennedy vs. Nixon in a 1960 debate

Conventional thinking says that when then-Vice President Richard Nixon debated then-Senator John F. Kennedy, those who watched the debate on television thought Kennedy had “won” while those who listened to it on radio thought Nixon had been the victor. It’s often noted that while Kennedy looked young, vigorous, well-dressed and handsome, Nixon’s crumpled suit, recent weight loss, and perspiring face made for such a visual contrast that Kennedy appeared more presidential in people’s minds. However, if you read the transcript of the Kennedy-Nixon debates, you might be hard-pressed to discover which of the candidates was more qualified and well-prepared.

Appearance matters in public relations and visual media, and no less during presidential debates. In 1976 and 1980, 5’9 Jimmy Carter stood on a step to make him appear the same height as President Gerald Ford and Governor Ronald Reagan, who were both over six feet tall. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush was roundly criticized when the camera caught him checking his watch during a town hall-style debate against Bill Clinton. Al Gore’s constant sighing at George W. Bush’s responses hurt his performance.

While they’ll appear together when Hofstra hosts the first debate September 26th, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were interviewed separately at a “Commander in Chief Forum” on NBC last week. Trump came under fire after the program for praising Russian President Vladimir Putin, and also his seemingly insensitive answer to the issue of sexual assaults in the military. Conversely, much of the criticism directed at Clinton regarded her appearance; she didn’t smile and may have came across as harsh or even angry. As a result, many pundits believed Trump “won” the forum.

In presidential campaigns and just about everything else, people too often base their opinions on style rather than substance. So here’s a challenge: Read the transcript of the “Commander in Chief Forum” and try not to visualize the candidates’ appearance or style. Review their words for content and substance:

Then, share your opinion. Who”won” the forum based on their words? Why is appearance so important and influential? Does content alone really ever matter? Your thoughts?



54 thoughts on “ApPeaRance vs. content

  1. A. Murphy

    In today’s society, so many decisions are based on a person’s appearance and the vote for president of the United States is no different. Candidates are looking for attention and are looking to hopefully use that attention to inform audiences of their message. With that being said, I believe too much weight is being put on appearance and not enough is being put on substance. We are forgetting that being a nation’s leader is not about looking pretty, but rather about understanding the needs of the country, coming up with a well supported and feasible plan, and having the guts to follow through.

  2. ari okonofua

    It’s honestly difficult for me to pick a winner of the Commander-in-Chief Forum. Appearance and visuals drive society now a days and this is in part due to social media where you flaunt photographs to the public. If I was to judge this presidential election off of looks, it would go to Hilary because she always looks put together and polished but Trump always looks frumpy (personally). In this video, Hilary’s responses seemed very serious and short but I like that she was to the point.

  3. Sshak

    Based on the transcript, it appears as though Hilary was better equipped. This just goes back to the idea that people are going to have their own experience, even if they are watching or reading the same thing. People will hear what they want and dwell on things they find more important than others, therefore the winner will be who you ultimately side with more completely.

  4. Ana Carolina Calderon Portilla

    I think Hilary Clinton is quite prepared and has a lot of information about the current situation of the country; it also helps her that she has been involved in the government since long time ago. She is pretty familiar with how is the system working and what are the opportunity areas.
    In other hand, Mr. Tump is a very confident person, no matter what, he sticks with his thoughts.
    I noticed that while Hilary was trying very hard to convince the public with long arguments, Mr Trump just kept saying the same “we are going to make America great again”. He didn’t let anybody took him down for a minute. He answered with mostly short comments in which he focused in sounding very confident. He made the people feel he knew what he was saying and that he has a plan for everything -even when he always comes with vague answers, never into details.
    Hilary, in my opinion, should have put more emphasis in how sure she is about her strategies, rather than trying to excuse herself for the wrong decisions she has made. I think a shorter explanation of that would have been better.
    Definitely Ms Clinton was more prepared with her answers, but the euphoria and confidence that Mr Trump projects it is what have made him get a lot of voters. Let’s not forget that he is a “show person”, what he has been doing for years – besides business- is giving a show, and that is what lot of americans likes to see.

  5. syanok

    Strictly based on the Q&A transcript, Hilary won. She provided clear responses to the questions that made sense and were direct, and she showed that she is knowledgeable.
    Appearance, even outside the realm of PR, is very influential because we are a very visual society. As a collective, we simply take things (and people) at face value without initially taking the time to dig deeper. Many of the decisions we make are done superficially.
    Content always matters. There needs to be a degree of substance to the messages and rhetoric you share, but in today’s social media world it cannot stand alone. Substantial content must be presented in a way that is understandable and captivating to the publics it is presented to or targeted towards.

  6. Miss Sherwood (@IamArthena)

    People watch television for the entertainment. When Hilary did not smile for the cameras, it was unsatisfying to the public eye. The same Nixon, people were turned off by his perspiration. Today, a majority of our nation watches reality TV and its repetitive plots. There is very little care about what the content on television is as long as it is dramatic. The dramatics of Donald Trump have brought him very far in this presidential election, even though he has not came out with any real policies yet. In fact, his dramatic character has earned him an excuse for almost every insensitive comment he has made. For example, the one he made about the rape of women in the military. Our country loves entertainment and puts it on a pedestal, content is only the runner-up that few people care about or remember.

  7. Brianna Holcomb

    Appearance has come to play a stronger role within our society due to the fact that appearance has come to mean more and weigh heavier than ever before. A whole app, Instagram, is practically dedicated to how you look and how your present yourself to the public. Presidential candidates, and other political figures, must now take these things into account when they are running. A commentator will spend just as much time discussing the appearance of the candidate as their policies. However due to how heavily we hold the appearance of our candidates many will tune in to hear or see what they looked like rather than actually listen to them speak. This has become a very dangerous aspect of presidential races because it allows the people to pick based solely on appearance rather than skill.

  8. Ashley Pina

    The importance of appearance has surpassed the need for content in today’s society. Viewers, readers and consumers no longer possess the attention span to look for real content and facts from the media. Knowing this news stations and papers strive to make stories more visually appealing, instead of boring viewers with the facts.

    Reading the transcript of the Commander in Chief Forum was very interesting. Even though I was reading the words of the Presidential nominees, I could still envision exactly how they delivered their responses. I saw Hilary’s solid expression and a hand raised as Matt Lauer tried to cut her off, and I could pretty much draw Trump’s grimace as Matt suggested he was slightly unqualified. These expressions have completely driven this Presidential campaign, you can’t turn on the news or open a paper without a huge image of either candidate portrayed in the likeness in which the media source would like you to believe is true.

    In terms of who won this forum, I believe Hilary did a better job of actually answering the questions that were asked. She also took some of the questions as an opportunity to dig at her opponent, but for comparative sake I believe she is the clear victor. Trump’s responses held no merit and were often used as a platform to boast about his businesses successful international relations, instead of describing in relevant detail what makes him qualified to head the greatest military in the world.

  9. capriceoliver

    I would have to give it to Nixon regardless of appearence. Appearence definitely trumps content today. This generation is all about appearence with all the social media platforms. Video has become the most popular social media tool, people want to hear and see you. I think its really sad because if this presidential election was based on content I believe Trump would not have made it this far. I am over this whole clown show and ready for it to end honestly!

  10. meghanorsino

    I think that in our day and age of digital media that appearance is crucial in PR and other visual media. For example, with the first ever televised debate between Kennedy and Nixon, viewers believed that Kennedy “won” because of his composure and youth on camera, not specifically because of what he was saying. And even more so now, younger generations are looking to the internet or visual media to gather knowledge and form opinions on important issues and events, including the 2016 Presidential Election. That’s why it’s so important for candidates like Donald Trump to appear to be “winning” or “the best choice” rather than focus on the content of his plans/speeches. Similar to the phrase “fake it ’till you make it,” Trump is trying appeal to people using tactics such as being flashy and being brutally “honest” because he has no political experience to rely on. He knows that focusing on appearance, rather than prior experience, has snagged the White House for Presidents in years past.

  11. Kristen simon

    While I’m sure Donald Trump made for an entertaining interviewee, I believe his lack of knowledge and experience made him an immature candidate. During the interviews Clinton was able to refer to her expirence as a senator and as a First Lady during multiple questions to get her point across. Even though she has made some mistakes in her past she was able to own up to them, one of them being supporting the war in Iraq, and was able to tell the public how she would handle a similar situation in future situations.

    When Trump takes the stage he doesn’t quite answer the questions bluntly, and has no political expirence to allude to and barely has a solid plan to the public. It seems clear that Clinton was the winner of this debate.

  12. Regina Ferrara

    Reading the forum and trying to focus on the substance, I would have to say Hillary “won” due to the fact that she has plenty of experience in the government. Of course this is a major factor because usually the more experience someone has the better they are at what ever they are doing. Hillary did answer in a very serious way, it was not too pleasent, but sticking to just the context, Hillary sounds more “Presidential.” Trump on the other hand was full of life in the way he answered the various questions, he spoke simply, and it was nice to read. Trump has great experience in the buiseness world, but as for the government Hillary has the upper hand.

    Appearance matters whether people like to admit it or not, at this point people subconsciously judge on looks rather then substance. In the world of media looks are heavily focused on however content is still important especially during something as serious and extreme as the presidential debate.

  13. Tova A Kline

    I believe that Hillary won the forum. Her answers were much more balanced and concise with her campaign, as well as explained her position and her experience whereas Trump looked to be bumbling a slight bit.
    Hillary, while under major scrutiny for the emails was able to effectively combat criticism in her questions and explain her reasonings and used the evidence from the FBI.
    In my opinion, Trump in the words he uses is too loose of a cannon and has no idea what is going on in this country from a political stance. To me, all of his answers came from a business perspective and he was not able to give a true position on many topics.

  14. Danielle Ferrara

    While reading the forum I believe Hillary won due to her use of her experience and knowledge from working in the government for a great amount of time. Trump definitely seems very passionate when it comes to defeating ISIS but due to his lack of actual experience he does not specifically describe his plans since he has not been in a position in which he was directly involved. Neither candidates are perfect but during this forum and topic Hillary seems definitely had more expertise when it came to it which is why I believe she “won”.

    Appearance is so important and influential because in this world it is natural to read people’s body language and judge ones looks. A certain type of behavior or movement can come across as someone being nervous or uncertain even if the content is factual and strong. While if someone seems like they know what they’re saying with confidence and owns a stage or space, they seem more credible with what they are saying. While content is still extremely important appearances do play a large part.

  15. Jack De Gilio

    It’s definitely interesting to read Trump and Clinton’s words rather than hear them on news stations such as CNN. Part of me feels as though both candidates had some flaws in the debate that I may not have paid as much attention to if I were to watch it. I understood what Clinton had to say, but I felt like she seemed tense during this debate. In the past, when I’ve watched her speak during the Democratic debates, she usually seems more relaxed. As for Trump, his responses did feel more energetic, but I still felt like his responses were kind of vague.

    While I do think that it’s important not to judge both of the these candidates on their appearance, I do think that it does give an idea of who seems more confident and prepared to take over the most important job in the country. JFK was more relaxed than Nixon during the first televised presidential debate, and therefore voters most likely believed that he was more prepared to be sworn into office. Also, an interesting thing one of my high school history teachers once mentioned: the candidate who blinks less during the televised presidential debates always gets elected as the president.

  16. Monique Laynburd

    I believe Clinton won. She seems a lot more educated. She supports her claims and has a lot of knowledge to back herself up. Hilary uses words such as “we” when referring to the future America, while Trump only talks about his own past. While I think content should be more important than visuals, we as Americans are conditioned to gravitate to what is more attractive, rather than what is right or what makes sense.

  17. Anthony Pugliese

    Based on their words Hilary Clinton clearly “won” the forum. In their words Clinton has a plan and her words provide strength to support her vision for these particular issues. As for Donald Trump, he seems to be more animated and conversational the way he approaches this forum. Trump’s responses throughout the interview seemed open ended and far more animated than serious and specific.

    2016 is a scary time. This is because appearance matters more than anything. Conversely, looking back to Kennedy versus Nixon in a 1960 debate appearance always mattered. Nevertheless, visual media is astonishingly more relevant now than 1960. This leads me to state why appearance is so important and influential. People often trust, like and follow a figure who is well put together and attractive. This plays outside of politics, but in life. For example, a comparison of two individuals in an interview. Candidate A is wearing a suit, polished dress shoes, neatly pressed shirt and tie. Versus candidate B who is wearing an untucked polo shirt, khaki pants and loafers. Automatically, the interviewer took a liking to candidate A over candidate B. Coincidentally, candidate B has a lengthy resume and is to greater extent suited for the position. In conclusion, candidate B received the job offer over candidate A. The moral of this story is to show although appearance matters more than ever, content alone really matters. Appearance can get you far, but content is the most important. Another example, rapper Eminem versus Macklemore. Macklemore appearing to be far more fashionable and manicured versus Eminem who tends to wear a white t-shirt and blue jeans. But, Eminem is substantially more important and influential than Macklemore because of his content. In short, appearance can only take one so far.

  18. zhenpanda

    Clinton is very formal whereas Trump is very relatable. Trump seems genuine and so does Clinton but Trump makes himself out to be someone almost incapable of “scheming” and “lying”.I think I can understand if people like Trump.
    Coming back to the topic of appearances, I think the majority of the population judge others by their appearances and status; and so, unfortunately, because it’s the 21st century where “making an appearance” seems unavoidable, people will judge you by them.
    Anyhow, I would not ever want to be president if it meant being constantly scrutinized and criticized for almost every facet of your life rather it be checking emails and occasionally spilling some “bad words” and also, having the fate of so many lives in your domain.

  19. sdmediaproductions

    In my finding I do not believe either candidate won the forum. But If I had to choose won I would say Hilary Clinton becasue her words were very political and very political correct. Her word choice sounded like someone with experience. In terms of content I believe she did not say much. Many of the times she danced around the questions that were being asked. I felt like Trump had more content in his questions. Reading the transcript Trump came off more clam and prepared. Clinton sounded aggressive and defensive. The host’s attitude added into it as well. I also felt Trump had a more response time to questions. Overall all i believe Trump won the debate in the area of content and seeming genuine where she won the debate in more of her political correctness.

  20. Ashley Odom

    Humans are emotionally perceptive beings, and leave little leeway for logic. Many are blighted with preconceived notions, jealously, fear, suspicion, and so on. So when it comes to subjects such as the Presidential Debate, or in this case, the “Commander in Chief Forum,” appearance plays an important and influential role. It dictates an audiences’ view of a person, or candidate, almost immediately. People notice the details: the person’s posture, how structured they are, their clothing preferences, their facial expressions, and many more of their physical attributes. Everything makes a personal statement. How a person is first perceived will largely determine how much creditability or influence they have.

    If I had to choose a candidate, I would have to say that Hillary Clinton “won.” She won merely because her words, the substance of them were organized. She spoke them confidentiality and thoroughly, and projected her “ethos” rather well. I got a strong essence of who she was just through the method she delivered her content.

    But that doesn’t mean content truly matters. In such conversations, people only hear what they wish to hear. It’s all in how the presenter delivers their content, the substance of their words.

  21. Stephanie Adomavicius

    Today more than ever before society is quick to judge on appearance.

    In the case of this presidential election, since we don’t personally know Clinton or Trump, appearance (meaning attire, personality/demeanor, body language, tone, etc). is crucial in molding our opinion and helping us relate to them. Although I think neither was successful last week, I would give the edge to Clinton. In general I consider her to be more poised and “presidential” looking. Yet, the fact the she was criticized for being unfriendly/defensive and not smiling enough, in comparison to her needing help entering a van during yesterday’s 9/11 memorial, paints two very different images of one person. If she answered all the questions perfectly would she still have been criticized for not smiling enough? If Donald Trump had a different public image/deameanor/appreance would his comments about Putin be taken differently? The issue of content versus appearance will always take center stage.

  22. Owen Lewis

    There is no question in my mind that, on content, Hillary won this debate. And I have no doubt that she will continue to win when content and substance are in question. Donald Trump is a performer. He presents well (to his base), speaks in an entertaining and digestible manner, and doesn’t add the complexity of fact (mostly) into his answers and comments. He distills an intricate political and economic system into easy-to-interpret and often incorrect terms, which I’m certain is appealing to voters who lack the time necessary to make sense of very disorienting material. This is certainly not his entire support system, but I presume this uncertainty accounts for a sizable portion of it.

    Couple this with the fact that Donald Trump is a performer, and image truly does make a difference. Fortunately, he’s too emotional a candidate and often proclaims either politically incorrect or flat out racist and sexist comments. This makes Hillary Clinton’s studied, and less exciting approach more attractive to those who are dismayed by the rhetoric of his campaign.

    Image is an important factor, up to a point. Donald Trump has proven that there is indeed a boundary that can be run up upon despite a well-received (not positive) image. When this boundary is breached, the more moderate choice becomes the more appealing one.

    As I have implied, Hillary Clinton is miles beyond Donald Trump regarding statements of substance. Unfortunately, image does play a significant decision maker in most things. In this case, Donald Trump simply took it too far. I have no doubt she will be our next president, though I don’t know that I would be certain of this if Donald Trump was moderate in his speech and more patient with fact.

  23. nhakels

    A persons appearance says alot about who they are where they come from. In PR its hard to say which one is more important content or appearance, and its a good topic to discuss about because a person may look very presentable but may speak the dumbest thing ever, so i think everything goes hand in hand.

  24. Rian

    If everyone lost was an option, I’d choose that one. Matt Lauer definitely lost, Clinton lost and Trump lost. Secretary Clinton’s language actually felt combative. Her repeated use of the word, “Look,” before making her point came off as abrasive and frustrated, granted she only had a few minutes to make major points and was constantly interrupted by Lauer even in the middle of answering a question from an audience member.

    Trump was brash and lacked specific details, as he always does. And Matt Lauer allowed Trump to direct the conversation in ways he did not with Hillary. Trump would not answer questions with specific detail and in some cases he wouldn’t answer the question at all. Lauer never challenged him when he did this. Lauer would just follow his lead. And he did not interrupt him or remind him of time constraints.

    I think Hilary answered the questions best and with the most directness so since I must choose a winner, I’m going with Hilary. It’s unfortunate that as a woman, she needs to smile, to receive approval from audience viewers, as if smiling would make her more competent. Clearly content does not matter. If people felt Trump won based on appearance, then they certainly did not listen to a thing he “didn’t” say.

  25. Michael James

    The grim reality of a seemingly broken system has left the common folk attempting to identify with two rather abysmal options, and it has indeed put me in the position of being partial to neither candidate. As cynical as this expression sounds, it is an answer that leaves my soul at peace. Opening disclaimer aside; I found that after reading through the transcripts it is Donald Trump who seemed worthy of taking home the victory. Let us revert to the subject of appearance before delving into to the actual substance. It is claimed that within seven seconds a first impression is made. Seven seconds is a rather superficial time window this meaning the majority of this judging period is based on physical appearance. If one was to solely base their opinion of these two characters based on physical display, then how could we possibly pick a victor? Mr. Trump, with his burnt orange skin, pursed lips, and thinning hair that flaps around in the wind like blades of grass, is not the easiest on the eyes. Hilary, in my opinion displays a rather mischievous persona. To avoid further political discussion I will leave it at that. Both of these physical personas, well, I find them mortifying. In my opinion there is a link between their physical presence and substance. Donald Trump looks rather rogue and potentially unqualified. Many Americans and humans in general would find this correlation to be rather true. Hillary, as mentioned in my opinion, looks rather devious, and that is putting it lightly. Her federal perjury is a prime example of how her physical appearance is seemingly related to her substance or agenda. I will acknowledge that usually this is not the case, however some individuals, such as the options we have been presented, are incapable of hiding their true intentions. As for transcript substance, I found Donald Trump to be the victor. Although often brash, he is saying what a lot of people want to hear and based on his TV personality, I believe he is being brutally honest. (Although I’m skeptical as he was once a proud Hillary Clinton supporter.) Once again, from my perspective I found Hillary to be on the defensive as she made an attempt to continue to say whatever it takes to gain public approval. As much as I believe looks are misguiding, and should never be the end all be all, or basis behind a decision. It is in my opinion that the mannerisms and presentation of these two political figures should be studied, as their body language is screaming of hidden secrets.

  26. Connor Giblin

    If I had to choose a winner of the forum, I would have to give a slight edge to Hillary Clinton. The reason is because I felt she specifically explained her plans for how to combat the suicide rate for veterans and her stance on Iran’s nuclear race. Donald Trump seemed hesitant to give specific ideas about his plans to defeat ISIS and just how he would shorten the wait time for veterans to receive medical help from the VA. However, I don’t think this was a positive performance from either candidate. If I wasn’t aware of the criticisms for each speaker, I would’ve assumed based on their answers that Clinton and Trump had issues answering Matt Lauer’s and the audience’s questions and maintaining their appearances when doing so. Both seemed exasperated at times when grilled with their past actions on issues. With all the backtracking from Trump and the admission of regret from the two, I could visualize both of them stammering looking flustered.

    This is why appearance is so influential. When we are not satisfied with the speaker’s content, we look for another excuse to downplay the candidate. If the content is insufficient, we lean on their emotional reactions and appearance to interpret their personal beliefs when the spotlight is on them. This idea is explained to both candidates, specifically Mr. Trump. Matt Lauer asks him if he is ready to sustain the emotional burden of being the President. The nation looks at the President and looks for steadiness and conviction. If their appearance doesn’t reflect that, the nation loses confidence in the President. It’s the reason why people are concerned about Mrs. Clinton when it was revealed she has pneumonia. However, appearance is also more important in this election because a woman is running for president. Our society associates a woman’s power with her appearance: her clothes, her hairstyle, her expressions, etc. Appearance always plays a big role, but more so when it comes to women because our society has been shaped that way.

    I think the relevancy of context depends on the medium through which it’s being judged. In the end, I believe what a candidate says about running for president holds more weight because the presidency isn’t run based off of appearance. However, in a beauty pageant or a job interview, appearance can be a deciding factor. A television station could hire someone who has a better appearance, but not many qualifications, over someone with a more extensive background, but doesn’t fit the appearance the station wants. Content alone isn’t a deciding factor, but I think depending on the medium, it does matter a lot.

  27. Josh Solomon

    I believe that we are a click bait society at this point that doesn’t care about context or content of any sort. Our society now sees a word and pin points one word out of context and couldn’t care less what the intent of the person was who said that controversial statement. And as far as Hilary is concerned people should be more concerned with what she said rather than her physical appearance. I feel that this lack of care for content or context is very concerning.

  28. Jennifer OMalley

    Human beings are visual. Human beings also, whether consciously or unconsciously, form judgments very quickly. Naturally, appearance is going to be a large part of our quick judgments since it is our first impression. Attempting to read the transcripts without picturing Clinton or Trump and without thinking about the judgments that have been made about the forum, one candidate comes off to me as more qualified and rational than the other. Content-wise, even if she did seem frustrated and somewhat cold, Clinton’s thoughts and responses are still more “presidential” than Trump’s controversial statements. But, her appearance and facial expressions can easily negate that when people are watching her speak instead of just reading a transcript. Trump appears to be more confident and less defensive of himself. Of course, it is also worth considering that Clinton is a woman, making her appearance likely to be even more harshly judged than any male opponent. Today, the news has been reporting on the fact that Clinton appeared unwell at a 9/11 Memorial Service and that she apparently has pneumonia. The human condition of being sick, and appearing to be under the weather when you are, has people talking about her strength as a candidate. It sounds silly, but simply looking sick, even with a temporary illness, is clearly a big deal. FDR for instance kept his handicap hidden for his entire presidency out of fear for how his appearance would effect the American people’s opinion of him. He was probably right to assume that the people would have less trust in his abilities had they seen his wheelchair.

  29. Laura Logan

    Our world has grown more and more visual. With the developments in television, the Internet, and even virtual reality, society has become more reliant on visual cues and content. The 1960 debate between Vice President Nixon and Senator Kennedy is iconic in the study of how visual media has changed our relationships with the candidates, and even more, our relationships with the world beyond our local spheres.

    Many people have many different theories on whether or not Kennedy would have “won” the debate if the public had listened to it over radio broadcast or read it in print. The lack of visual representation of each candidates demeanor, in my opinion, would have caused for a very different outcome. However, upon reading the transcripts from NBC’s Commander in Chief Forum, I found it very difficult to not visual the candidates, or hear their voice’s. We have been so immersed in this election for the past year or so that it is very difficult to separate appearance from substance.

  30. Jessica Mohen

    Content alone only matters in a written document read by an interested reader unexposed previously to the author. The words on the page are not influenced by the reader’s prior knowledge, to praise or criticize the writer. It is tough to remove our own biases when performing analysis. Appearance makes it easy to relate or un-relate to others, making bias more common. Hillary Clinton showcases that she has the background, historical knowledge, and experience required to act as President. A forum of this sort is most helpful to see how someone can think on their feet while knowing they have the biggest megaphone. Hillary Clinton may be more suited for the day-to-day decisions, while she struggles with engaging the audience. Human nature, personal tendencies and mistakes cannot be discounted when dealing with people. Matt Lauer pressed her about the email server scandal, which is tough to defend. Donald Trump’s statements may seem clear and concise in the Forum as he defends himself well, but his comments do not seem to be backed with historical or experiential knowledge. We trust that he would be working with a team of experts if elected president. In the technology age, many things that we may we would retract and disagree with later, but it is all recorded. His statements are often offensive and discriminatory; he is definitely “over the top”. However by the same token, presidential candidates probably made similar mistakes in the past, but maybe they passed a note to their friend or said questionable statements in their living rooms instead of posting on twitter. Neither of these candidates “won” the forum.

  31. Michael Esposito

    I believe as a whole, society is very visual. We are constantly fed pictures and visual content. As human beings, as well, we make judgments based on appearance. I believe that the appearance of someone can easily over power the quality of their words to an extent. However, I think if someone is visually appealing but their words cause them to sound extremely stupid, then their words can over power their appealing visual appearance. After reading the forum I found it hard to decide “who won” because it was easy to tell who was saying which things. I could see each candidate talking in my head as I read it, which goes back to the fact that society is constantly fed images and visuals. I think that the quality of content over the quality of appearance will always prevail in the end. Looking good will only get you so far and at the end of the day your words have to be intelligent to get you places, especially the presidency.

  32. Tai Davis

    I believe Hillary Clinton won that forum. Because facial expressions are so attention grabbing, people look to interpret the expressions. If a person does not seem confident or enjoy what he/she is saying, especially if it pertains to his/her views, then no one else will be confident in it. Same goes for clothing, many will shy away from the person that does not look put together because it sends a message that either that person is unorganized/unprepared or does not take the task at hand serious. Content solely matters when there are no other distractions which is nearly impossible.

  33. Jordyn Miller

    Unfortunately, as a society, it is ingrained in us to believe that appearance is important above all else. Although one may not be able to speak to everyone in a room, they can easily be seen by someone not even remotely in their circle. While I do believe this is true to some extent, society very obviously places the majority of focus on appearance. This is because media makes it so easy to capture people’s bad moments, and pass judgment based on one picture, completely nullifying any real context behind the photo.
    Although appearance is definitely important, content also does matter. Appearance can help to obtain status in an election or in a job; however, if one does not have the mind and opinions to properly back their positions and to support their views, they will not be able to advance to their full potential in any position.
    In regards to the transcript of the forum, Clinton definitely seemed to have her answers more readily available, and more thought out than Trump. She cited her previous experience, and was speaking with the nature of America in mind. When it was Trump’s turn in the discussion, his answers were much more based on himself, and he seemed to be rude to Lauer at some points. He focused on criticizing the decisions made by others, such as Barack Obama, rather than first explicitly stating his policies and ideas he plans to carry out as President. The fact that many people are stating that Trump “won” the forum proves that America is image-obsessed. Just because Clinton did not smile and look charming, the way it is believed a woman should, she was automatically judged and credit was taken from her.

  34. Arianna du Manoir

    The visual appearance of an individual can greatly influence our perception and opinion on them. The same concept can be applied to scripted television series. There are many potential actors in the industry that could read and act the lines in a script very well. That being said, networks look for certain “looks” in their shows, as no matter how well an individual can act, viewers are immediately attracted to a character by how they look physically.

    The statement, “first impressions are everything”, is more than just advice one gives to a person leaving to a job interview. Leaving a bad impression can cause a person to have an opinion of you that is unchangeable, and in many circumstances, it can have a negative impact. Once the forum aired, before analyzing the candidate’s responses, majority of news articles first focused on Hilary Clinton’s facial expressions. Journalists noticed how Hilary did not smile, kept a stern look on her face, and appeared to be in a bad mood throughout the interview. While some of her responses were quite intense, not all of them were, but that imagery of how she looked when speaking makes it hard to feel connected to the candidate. My own personal views towards Donald Trump makes me dislike him no matter what, but from a distant perspective, one would argue that he was the most calm out of the two and did not give a sense of wanting to intimidate anyone.

  35. Marielle McCartin

    After reading the commander and chief forum, I believe that neither of the candidates presented outstanding qualities that would make them a adequate leader of the armed forces. But despite this, If I had to choose, I would say that Trump ” won” this forum. I do think that reading this without seeing the candidates made it easier to listen to their words rather than judge them on their appearance , body language, and have long lasting opinions shield the value of the words in which they spoke. Hillary’s responses seemed to be in defense of herself, instead of presenting an innovative idea or plan for the country as a whole. Trump answered more positively and gave reasons why he would be able to run the armed forces efficiently and securely. Reading the transcript of the debate made it easier for me to choose what I agree and disagree on. If i watched the debate, it would have been difficult to just listen to the words of the candidate because of the distraction that physical appearance is. This showed me that the content of the words being spoken can have a different meaning and impact when you are not focused on appearance or able to read the body language of the person speaking. Content is the most important aspect of the debate,but appearance can change the impact the content has on the audience incredibly.

  36. Cam Keough

    Donald Trump’s appearance is something that he clearly overdoes, from the glowing yellow skin to the bleach blonde hair, he clearly is concerned with his aged appearance. He struts around with his model wife and his seemingly perfect family. Hillary on the other side, is looking heavy and old but still always certainly presents herself as neat and clean. Clinton focuses her campaign on what seems to be logic, whereas Trump makes large, more flippant remarks about the campaign. Based on the content and examples provided, Clinton certainly “won” the forum. In this case, since they were separated, appearance played a smaller role than a head to head debate. In the coming debate at Hofstra I expect to see Trump rely on his size and appearance of dominance, whereas Clinton will rely on logic to pull her towards the win.

  37. Chrissy Carvalho

    Humans are incredibly visual creatures. This stems from very early in our existence where we had to make snap-judgements of individuals in order to survive. This means that we do judge people by their appearance. Political candidates are not exempt from this physical assessment, even though we should definitely just analyze them on content. The debate between Nixon and Kennedy is the classic example of this concept.

    In terms of Clinton and Trump, I believe that Clinton won the forum based on their words. Clinton was more composed and gave thoughtful answers to each question posed, while Trump talked around a lot of the questions and gave a lot of filler. In the previous Trump speeches that I have watched, he usually wins the crowd with simple phrases meant to rally his supporters, even though they may have little to no substance. Clinton shows her experience in the forum with her detailed answers while Trump decidedly does not. This would matter more if people paid more attention to content and less to appearance but that simply is not the case, and Clinton has to learn to appear less “cold” and “harsh”, as those are usually the biggest complaints.

  38. Bernie Dennler

    Even reading a transcript, it is difficult to pick a winner of the Commander-in-Chief Forum, when the event itself failed to provide a sufficient format for these two candidates to address the issues facing the country in a meaningful fashion. Hillary Clinton, is known to be something of a policy wonk. She dabbles in details; she is the nerd of presidential politics. This is her strength against Donald Trump, a candidate who traffics in soundbites and tweets, not facts and policy. You can see this just reading the transcript of the event. Clinton wants to go into detail about her plan to address the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, yet is repeatedly reminded by host Matt Laurer that they are running out of time and that she needs to be as “as brief as possible.” Solving the geopolitical quagmire that is the Middle East today is not an ask that invites brevity. Clinton was able to at least demonstrate her competence as a potential Commander-in-Chief, but her stumbles on the email questions will likely prevent her from winning many converts. Hillary continues to insist that none of the emails sent or received on her private server bore classified headers; yet we know some emails were, in fact, marked with a (C).

    Fortunately for Clinton, Donald Trump does himself no favors if you actually read his statements and ignore his reality television-style bravado. He speaks in short or fragmented sentences making vague, unspecific claims about his record and plans. He says, “I have good judgment. I know what’s going on. I’ve called so many of the shots,” but fails to provide any actual support for this claim. When Trump does tiptoe into specifics on policy, his statements are politically groundbreaking and, frankly, terrifying. In the course of this 20-minute interview, he manages to use unverifiable claims about classified intelligence briefings as political weapons, suggests seizing all of the oil in Iraq using the rather imperial-sounding logic that “to the victor belong the spoils,” and suggests he might purge Obama’s military generals.

    These claims are without precedent in our modern politics, and are of far more consequence than the appearance of the two candidates at this mismanaged television event. Unfortunately, this entire election seems to have become an entertaining sideshow to drive ratings and clicks. It’s a great story with two larger-than-life celebrities at the center. The American political system has been headed this direction for some time now, probably since the dawn of televised debates. To the political dorks among us, content matters; but so long as the boundaries between politics and entertainment remain broken, style will prevail over content.

  39. Justin McCue

    While we as humans use all of our senses to understand our surroundings, we can be found though to be primarily visual creatures. Whenever we cannot be visual however, we resort to our other senses. Comparing the reported visuals of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to my interpretations of the non-visual transcript, my results were rather differing from each other. One thing that struck out at me was that it was reported that Hillary did not seem to smile and look friendly during the interview, but reading the transcript I did not get that interpretation in my mind. In my interpretation, it was reversed for me. I felt that Hillary seemed more friendly in the transcript and I pictured her smiling and happy, while my visual of Donald was curt and short to the point. I feel that the technologies we have today of the media, TV news, and also social media definitely changes the game of the election process. I would think that if these things were not present, our candidates would be pictured and seen much differently through the minds of the voters. Back before the time of TV and social media, voters had to rely on the words of the candidates and therefore were forced more to actually listen to what they were saying rather than their appearance and how they presented themselves. Nowadays, the media seems to bring more focus on the opposite, focusing on their presentation rather than focusing on their actual beliefs and words. In conclusion, while analyzing the words both the candidates said, I feel like I swayed more toward Clinton winning the forum. While both of the candidates have their flaws in their words, such as repetitiveness or avoiding questions, Hillary seemed more like-able just from the transcript.

  40. Emily DiLaura

    What an interesting read. In many classes have a discussed the famous debate you bring forward in this article and I think it is so relevant to bring that to the attention of the current debate going on as well, Clinton vs Trump. It is quite obvious by looking at the two, that they hold themselves in a very different manner. I actually read something online recently from Humans Of New York, where they interviewed Clinton. She spoke about how, as a female in a professional setting, she has had to learn how to hold herself in a different stand visually compared to her male colleagues. As a female, often it is easy to come off cold and harsh even when acting the exact way a male would be cheered on for.
    You mentioned in your post that Hillary did not smile much, which is interesting, because I have found that it is rare to see Trump smile at all. It’s interesting how when the roles are flipped, things can be taken so differently.
    Upon reading the transcript, I think as an objective person you can see that Clinton won this forum. She was well mannered and addressed the questions with facts, research, and a game plan. Although at times she targeted her opponent, she managed to answer people’s questions without becoming rant-y. Trump, however, spent a lot of his time on the mic just saying things like ” I am doing a lot of different things” instead of explaining what those “things” were. Trump is great at being vague with what he says, unfortunately, leaving many questions unanswered.

    At the end of the day, content is far from the only thing that matters because after all, our first judgements usually come from appearance. The way someone looks physically ends up creating our first thoughts on them, which makes how these candidates carry themselves been more important. In PR we learn that words have a huge impact, but so does appearance.

  41. elliotrubin

    Based solely on the two candidates remarks, it seems overwhelmingly that Hilary performed better at the “Commander-in-Chief Forum” last week. While Trump was generally avoiding the questions, or giving vague responses (or like in the case with the Iraq War, changing his stance from his original position to something more suitable at the moment, and avoiding accountability), Hilary was doing the opposite. While she might not have been proud of all her decisions as Secretary of State, she still owned up to them, because she recognized that in order to be a successful leader, you need to take responsibility for your actions. One potential reason why people who watched the interviews with both candidates on T.V felt that Trump “won” could very well be that he’s tough, and therefore people naturally view this aspect of his personality, regardless of his actual content, as someone who is better fit to lead. Because Hilary does not naturally posses this brash personality, people might view her as weak, and therefore give less value to her words than to her opponent’s. While Hilary definitely appeared to have the better rhetoric, because she might not have visually presented herself as well as Trump, she was viewed as the “loser” of the forum. For better or worse, content in presidential elections is never the sole characteristic that puts a candidate over the top in an election. For example, in 1960, despite radio listeners believing that Nixon had beaten JFK in the debate, T.V watchers noticed Nixon’s sweating, and believed he had won. Additionally, it is worth noting that in all of the other presidential elections mentioned above, the candidate that appeared more “out of place” or “different” than the other lost the election. While these could just be coincidences, and the public may have voted for JFK, Reagan, and Clinton anyways, it definitely is noteworthy that in all of those elections, the public voted on the candidate that appeared more confident, ready, and put-together. In addition to a candidate’s varied experience, one thing that can not be overlooked when selecting the next president, is confidence. People might underestimate the value of confidence in a leader, however this asset is just as, or if not, a more important skill than other skills and experience a candidate may learned though the years. A confident leader should be able to handle military operations effectively, as well as diplomatic missions, in addition to knowing when they should defer to someone with more expertise. Much as in the prior elections, it appears that the public are with the candidate that came off more confidently. Only time will tell, however, if it will yield similar results.

  42. Brianna Beaumont

    Visual representation is very important. How you look and dress reflect what kind of person you are. The way you present yourself can help you land an internship, job or even win a debate. In the case of who won the debate, based solely on words, Clinton won. Although I think Clinton won, both candidates had troubles answering a straight yes or no to the questions, but all politicians have that problem. Clinton spoke more of the things that she has done before for veterans and on the things she has planned for the future. Trump had hinted on his past relationships with veterans but he did not actually give any information on what he has done and what plans he has. Content , in my opinion is more important than appearance. For example, Trump may have looked more composed but he failed on being able to answer the questions fully.

  43. Justin Chupungco

    People tend to say “never judge a book by it’s cover.” However, visual representation and appearance tends to play a huge factor. However, personal “content”, such as personality and ideas of a person hold much importance as well. Donald Trump is outspoken, and his statements always stir a response in the people, as seen in the forum. Though his comments stir controversy, he appears very passionate about politics. Hillary Clinton seemed angry and snappy in her responses, especially when asked about her e-mail controversies. She seemed upset and bothered. Though it was mentioned she didn’t smile in the forum, Hillary has political experience and has been in politics longer. And though she was described as angry, her responses seemed more fact-based, and logical. She backed up her responses over Trump, who gave stranger answers that didn’t quite fit as well as Clinton’s did. This is why overall, I believe Clinton “won” the forum over Trump. Though the public tends to prefer better-looking leaders, as seen in past presidential elections, the content within has to be considered also. This blend of appearance, and personal content is vital to consider when thinking of the next president.

  44. maferzr

    We live in a society that relies on visual content as much as logical content. I believe that as a public figure appearance is very important but it should be coherent with the words spoken. The truth is that people rely on authentic and integral individuals and that can not be achieved without both factors. It is also very important to understand that as a society we hold some expectations, and many of us have subconscious prejudices that we apply to both candidates. A lot of people consider Hillary to be harsh and unfriendly because they unthinkingly associate her as a woman to a more “warm and welcoming” figure. Although I do not support these prejudices I believe that it might affect her performances. Either way, I believe that Clinton presents more of an integral image than Trump since his professional attire is non coherent to his aggressive and impulsive responses.

    I do believe, however, that as a public figure it is crucial to not only have strong opinions and ideas, but to be able to present them in a way that people will not only understand them, but also welcome them. This is why I believe Kennedy “won” so many years before, and Clinton is “winning” this election.

  45. Adam Palasciano

    Reading the“Commander in Chief Forum” gave me a better perspective on the two candidates vying for the position of President of the United States. Overall, Hillary Clinton most definitely “won” the forum. She gave many quality responses to Matt Lauer’s questions which were backed up by facts and real information. On the other hand, many of Mr. Trump’s responses were short and seemingly irrelevant which showed his lack of knowledge in foreign policy which, in my opinion, is a negative characteristic for any person competing for the position of Commander in Chief of the United States. Although, appearance is very important and influential to an audience, in this case the American public. The candidate must act and appear in a professional and “presidential” manner if they are going to achieve in securing the position. Content alone matters but in combination with proper presentation as well.

  46. katiespoleti

    After reading the transcript of the “Commander in Chief Forum,” I realized just how hard it is to judge a persons credibility solely based upon their words. Even though content is a crucial component of any conversation, I believe one needs to be able to see the emotions of the party trying to get their point across to be able to determine if they’re being sincere or not. When Clinton was talking about the mistake she had made in the past with regard to her private email account, her words alone read as snappy and frustrated. I’m sure if I were able to see her facial expressions and gestures behind the apology I’d be more equipped to judge if it was truly sincere. However, I do think that Clinton backed up her points with substantial evidence and plans for the future more than Trump did and for that she “won” the forum in my perspective. The phrase “Actions speak louder than words” is something that will always stick for me. Someone can easily say that they’re going to do something but it’s not until I see it being done that I believe it. I think that scenario goes hand in hand with content vs. appearance.

  47. Anna Baxter

    Ever since I was young, my parents ingrained in my brain that my personality matters more than my appearance. Essentially, our personal “content” carries more weight than our appearances. However, I have found that to be somewhat untrue. Frequently appearances matter more than content, especially in televised events such as presidential debates. People are generally more likely to support the well-dressed, more physically appealing candidate. Obviously this proposes new issues. If people are blinded by physical appearances, they cannot focus on what is truly good for, in terms of a presidential election, the country. However, many citizens also do not want an unattractive candidate to be the face of the country. The battle between appearance and content is likely to continue for many years to come.

  48. Victoria Conway

    Visual representation is crucial to people because it is human nature to instantly judge. Although, some may try and hold back their opinions, it is difficult to block out all first impressions. After reading the transcripts, it was quite interesting to try and solely focus on their words. However, I felt Trump was rather repetitive with his phrases, while Clinton was very defensive. Most of Clinton’s answers were short and cold. There was not much development on her thoughts. In my opinion, Trump won the debate. However, in the publics eye I do not believe that content alone can single handedly be the only weighted factor when deciding who wins a debate.

  49. Casey Lamkin

    I think it’s interesting that it was mentioned Clinton never smiled and she looked like she was angry and in a bad mood, because after reading the transcript that’s exactly how I would have imagined her to be. Her answers seemed short and snappy, not short and sweet. Instead of getting to her point in regards to the topics at hand, it felt more defensive and reserved. Although Trump is criticized for his aggressiveness and hardcore demeanor, I would say that in just reading the transcript Trump just merely felt passionate, while Hillary seemed nasty. This is such an important point to bring up because beyond physical appearance, sometimes I think the personality race is just as much a problem for our country. We can’t base our vote off the best personality or appearance, this isn’t a beauty pageant, it’s a presidential election and the candidate who wins should have the best platform. And that’s that!

  50. Vanessa Major

    We are visual creators and that has its pros and its cons. People form their opinions based on how something or someone looks, we do this everyday in different capacities. I also would like to say that our sense can be at war with each others as what is heard invokes a different feeling or perception from what is seen. The debate shows that although a presidential candidate may look a certain way, it does not necessarily mean they are unqualified for the position. We all have an idea of what the commander-in-chief should should represent, however at times those expectations are thrown out the window by a momentary visual. As stated style and substance are in a constant fight.

  51. Pingback: » ApPeaRance vs. content

    1. Adam Engel

      Having a great appearance is what draws the attention towards you. Well in this case Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are fighting for that. When Hillary Clinton did not smile and has a harsh look on her face when she was ask the question of the sexual assaults in the military at the commander in chief forum people do not find that professional. When Donald Trump wears his bright ties and has his hair puffed up and puts makeup on his skin to make is yellow skin glow more, that is a sign of someone trying top grab attention. We all have an idea of what the commander-in-chief should should represent, but the more you shine and grab attention more likely of a chance you have to win come November.


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