I have often joked how when we have a political debate after we watch the candidates stake out various claims and positions, we then see reporters talk about their body language. They tell us who looked confident and sincere and who seemed cautious or in other ways unsteady.

This is infuriating because this is exactly the area in which reporters have no comparative advantage over the people viewing the debate. We all engage in conversations and negotiations with people in our everyday life. Most of us are used to assessing the sincerity and integrity of the people we deal with. When we are watching politicians put forward their case on television we can all judge their sincerity and confidence. There is no particular reason to believe that the reporters giving their commentary can do a better job at this than the rest of the people watching the debate.

On the other hand, the reporters could, in principle, know more about the truth of the politicians' claims. They could know about the background to their policy proposals, where they have been tried, and the issues that have been raised by various experts. Reporters almost invariably fail to provide this sort of analysis, which would be a useful service to their audience.

Anyhow, we got a full and explicit example of the body language treatment this morning on National Public Radio. Their discussion of the meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump explicitly focused on the body language between the two leaders and assured us that they have struck up a genuine friendship.

I didn't have a chance to see the events on television, but let me record my skepticism here. At least we now know for sure the skills required of NPR reporters.