Surly, Rude, Condescending, and Hostile: Just What We Want in a President

Last night, after the debate, Kyle asked what was up with McCain’s blatant refusal to make eye contact with Obama. This morning, a whole bunch of bloggers were asking the same question.

Ian Leslie at marbury has this extremely telling photograph of the two candidates’ greeting at the start of the debate.

Obama and McCain at Ole Miss

As Ian points out, this is a single moment frozen in time — and if it had been the only such moment, no one would be commenting on it now. But it wasn’t. McCain continued to do this — or not do it, depending on how you look at it — for the entire 90-minute debate. Why?

Chris Matthews asks Eugene Robinson that question in this video (via Talking Points Memo):


One of Josh Marshall’s readers, a psychotherapist, suggests that what appears to be anger may be hiding other emotions:

As a psychotherapist and someone who treats people with anger management problems, we typically try to educate people that anger is often an emotion that masks other emotions. I think it’s significant that McCain didn’t make much, if any, eye contact because it suggests one of two things to me; he doesn’t want to make eye contact because he is prone to losing control of his emotions if he deals directly with the other person, or, his anger masks fear and the eye contact may increase or substantiate the fear.

I noticed him doing the same thing in the Republican primary debates. The perception observers are likely to have is that he is unwilling to acknowledge the opponent’s legitimacy and/or is contemptuous of the opponent.

It’s been said before, and Tom Shales at the Washington Post says it again:

John McCain wore the more presidential tie — that much can be said for him — but Barack Obama displayed the more presidential temperament, or the kind of demeanor people presumably would want in a president[.] …
[McCain] came across as condescending and even rude to his opponent, a bit of bad behavior especially evident because Obama may have overdone the fair-minded bit in many of his remarks and answers.

Imperiously enough, McCain — who had threatened not to show up for the debate because of America’s financial crisis — seemed determined to avoid even looking at Obama as the debate went on, although they did shake hands at the beginning and end. Many of McCain’s answers were preceded with belittling references to Obama as if he were talking to a college freshman way out of his depth: “I’m afraid Senator Obama doesn’t understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy,” was one typical remark.

3 Responses to “Surly, Rude, Condescending, and Hostile: Just What We Want in a President”

  1. radical_Moderate says:

    As for that handshake at the end, I saw it as Obama chasing down McCain to shake his hand, and not as McCain offering his hand freely…I confess, although I saw the debate as a draw, I wanted to bitch slap McCain more than a few times just for his sheer contankerousness…

  2. Kathy says:

    Oh, I totally agree with the handshake at the end being initiated by Obama. He was doing what courteous, mature adults do, even when they don’t like each other. McCain, obviously is neither courteous nor mature, and that’s putting it nicely.

  3. Andrea says:

    I interpret it as a sign of guilt.

    Did you ever talk smack about someone/ do something mean to someone, only to have them find out? Ever had the unfortunate fun of seeing them again, with both of you knowing what you said/ did?
    I think the most marked characteristic of the guilty party is always the INABILITY to look them in the face. I think McCain knows full well how far over the line his campaign has gone….and he feels stupid.
    Not stupid enough to stop, however, based on the ads I’ve seen over the past 2 days…

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