Thursday, October 16, 2008

Obama vs. McCain: Three for Three

The debates are over, and I thought this was the best of them. I don't think the side-by-side at the round table format served McCain so well, showing viewers his shaking hands and that perpetual thumbs up.

He seemed so palpably relieved at the end, when he thumped Obama and pumped his hand, saying "Good job! Good job!" I get the feeling that he'll be relieved in November, too, when this is over for him – he doesn't seem up to the enormous challenges.

Too often McCain, in this and the other debates, tried to gain traction by attacking Obama, raving vaguely about this or that. It has been impressive to see how cool, calm, and collected Obama remains: coming back on point with clear sentences, facts and clarifications – force, lucidity, and ease. Flashing a grin at the occasional attack absurdity, and then regaining his serious countenance. Refusing to take the bait. For this he gets called "flat" by some of the pundits, who seem to relish the prospect of more Jerry Springer-style TV.

This unflappability is one of Obama's most attractive features: his steady calm invites intelligent interaction rather than emotional bluster. McCain's darting tongue and self-satisfied sneers and grins add too much erratic static to the conversation: whether it's with voters, Joe Plumber, Joe 6-Pack, or in future conversation with Putin, should he "rear his head." We sorely need someone with a different conversational demeanor.

I hate to dwell so much on personal appearance, but I do think this points to deeper issues, born out by McCain's self-definition as "maverick." I looked up "maverick" on Wikipedia, and here's what I learned:

Samuel Augustus Maverick (July 23, 1803–September 2, 1870) was a Texas lawyer, politician, land baron and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. His name is the source of the term "maverick", first cited in 1867, which means independent minded. Maverick was considered independent minded by his fellow ranchers because he refused to brand his cattle. In fact, Maverick's failure to brand his cattle had little to do with independent mindedness, but reflected his lack of interest in ranching. He is the grandfather of U.S. Congressman Maury Maverick, who coined the term gobbledygook (1944).

Hmmm...the connection to Texas and gobbledygook seems very apropos.

I enjoyed clicking into Daughter Number Three's play-by-play of the debate, and especially liked this laugh-out-loud observation at 9:25, quoting McCain: "The same opportunity you and I and Cindy and your wife have had." Guess McCain is for same-sex marriage after all.'

And I thought Hillary was outstanding in her after-debate comments on CNN. Interesting how she insisted that she wants to remain in the Senate: she'll be the lioness of the Senate now.

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