After the much-scrutinized hug between Vice President Kamala Harris, 57, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, 39, this week, a body language expert said if it looked as awkward as a Harris laugh, it was not only because it truly was, but it also showed Buttigieg being subordinate.
The latter point is significant as debate has waged about Harris' future in the White House amid recent departures by her staffers.
Ultimately, one might read into the body language that if someone other than President Joe Biden is to run in 2024, it seems more like Buttigieg would be a running mate to Harris and not at the top of the ticket, Nashville-based body language Scott Rouse told Business Insider.
Rouse advises U.S. special forces at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on how to size up enemies or potential threats and has trained alongside the FBI, Secret Service, and Defense Department.
He gave Business Insider an in-depth review of Harris and Buttigieg's interactions this week, including the aforementioned awkward hug Tuesday morning on the Joint Base Andrews' tarmac.
"Her feet are pointed toward him, whereas his are sort of spread a little bit," Rouse told Business Insider. "But his left foot is pointing just a little bit away from her. When you want to focus on a person or a thing in a room, or in your surroundings, your feet will point toward that person. He seems a little bit ill at ease because he's back and she's leaning forward.
"If you really are happy to see someone, you're going to step right up to them and hug them and pull them toward you. He's trying to make space from her where she's a little bit more into it than he is."
The report also noted Harris sat in the driver's seat at an all-electric bus depot, while Buttigieg looked on with his hand in his pocket.
"Her eyes are wide open, see looking right at him, you can tell she's not very comfortable in that seat," Rouse told Business Insider. "She's kind of like a child there. But let's take a look at him. If you look, again, let's take a look at his feet. Neither one of his feet are pointing toward her. One is pointed toward the door a little bit.
"The main thing we're seeing here is his hand in his pocket. When you see someone with their hands in their pocket, and you don't see them, or their thumbs, that shows that they don't feel dominant in that situation."
While speculation has swirled about Harris' future in the White House, with some people even claiming President Joe Biden might name her to the Supreme Court before his presidential term ends leaving Buttigieg as a potential vice presidential nominee, the interactions suggest the awkwardness is not a rivalry as much as a deferential relationship.
Also, according to Business Insider, Harris' husband Doug Emhoff has been seen with Buttigieg's husband, Chasten, and they have become friends, pouring more cold water on allegations of any potential 2024 Democrat primary rivalry.
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