Debate Notes

I’ll leave calling the horse race to other writers, but I had two small, specific reactions to the chunk of the debate that I watched.

1. When McCain brought up John Lewis’ remarks, here’s what I would have said back if this was a conversation and not a political performance. “Senator, if you respect and admire John Lewis, shouldn’t you care a bit more about what he said about you? What does ‘respect and admire’ mean to you if the first time someone says something you’re bothered by, you want to repudiate that person? If I respect someone, then I take his disagreements with me more seriously rather than less so.”

2. McCain’s emotional demeanor for most of the debate looked like a really bad combination of rage and a desperate need to go take a piss.

Debates of this kind are always performances: they’re really not a good source of information about substantive policy positions that candidates are likely to pursue. Like almost everyone, I pay more attention to affect and mood. McCain comes off like the quintessential cranky old bastard senior professor who comes to talks and says something disproportionately mean and angry to the speaker, who is choleric and petty to grad students, who has that feeling of entitlement to being unpleasant that crops up in academia at times.

Basically, he came off like an asshole whenever he wasn’t speaking, and sometimes when he was speaking. Assholes can be useful in organizations, but not at the top of the org chart: then they’re one-person wrecking crews.

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5 Responses to Debate Notes

  1. David Chudzicki says:

    On (2), I thought he mostly looked sad. I guess it’s the thing where he shows us he empathizes with all the hurt and fear we feel about whatever. But seriously, he looked like he was about to cry over the economy. This is “not presidential.”

    But I want to give him some credit for reiterating the ethanol position. (Extra credit if he loses Indiana.)

  2. Timothy Burke says:

    Substantively, he made some good points about his own record and even about some of Obama’s policy positions, but they were either accented very strangely by his emotional demeanor, which seemed all out of proportion to the discussion, or they drowned every time he felt obligated to go on a string-of-consciousness run of nasty talking points. There were some Jekyll and Hyde moments.

  3. hestal says:

    Are the negative characteristics you describe applicable only to “old” professors?

    If it is, are there very many of them? Are they commonplace in academia? If they are, then why?

    Perhaps a certain percentage of old men are like McCain no matter their profession. But still, if that is true, then why?

    If “old” is the key, then I suppose there is nothing more to say, except, “watch out.”

  4. Timothy Burke says:

    It’s mostly about being a jerk, yeah–but it seems to me that a newly minted Ph.D who is a jerk in the same way comes off slightly differently than a long-serving Ph.D who has been doing this kind of schtick for years and years.

  5. Bitterb4 says:

    Still worried about the Bradley Effect, but starting to ponder the real possibility of an Obama administration after last night’s debate. McCain has improved though…he didn’t call himself a “maverick” once (i think) His campaign has felt like a barroom brawl and that he would win just by being the last person standing. Problem is if you take everybody out who is going to help you govern. Lewis should be repudiated…fire Cox.. I don’t need any lectures, 527 attack ads during Special House elections trying to remind voters of Rev Wright flap.. references to Michelle Obama’s comment “for the first time i’m proud of my country.” McCain is out of touch in the sense that the pendulum has swung the other way on the Reagan era mandates. I don’t know if Obama’s plans will work, but its time for a change. McCain has never given me the impression that he can bring people together, but he throws some pretty wild haymakers!

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