The subtext of McCain’s anger

The talk today in the blogosphere is all about last night’s debate — who won, who lost, who discreetly scratched his ass, whatever. There’s a good bit of discussion going about already on the issue of McCain’s factual gaffes and his infuriating appropriation of the Jewish Holocaust. I didn’t notice anything pounce-worthy in Obama’s comments, though he did make some headscratchy connections and rambled in some of his answers. But hey, I’m sure FOX will find something to nitpick about him.

What I did keep noticing was McCain’s body language. He wouldn’t look at Obama. He wouldn’t address Obama directly, even when the debate moderator explicitly urged him to do so. He didn’t even turn in Obama’s direction, as far as I saw. He seemed doggedly determined to act as if his opponent didn’t exist, and the debate was strictly a one-on-one conversation between him and Jim Lehrer.

Others have noted this body language, and chalked it up to McCain’s general frustration with his opponent. I saw something else.

Not so long ago in this country — within McCain’s adult lifetime, though not Obama’s — white men did not look at black men, except to order them around or warn them off white women. They did not address black men directly if they could help it — and if they had to, it was never done in a way that might suggest respect. Black men did not look at white men either, because that was the shortest path to death; a black man who dared to look a white man in the eye was “uppity”. Didn’t know his place. Needed to have a lesson taught him, usually with a bullet or a length of rope. Even today there’s a certain kind of white man — usually older ones from the South or from wealthy backgrounds — who still won’t accord a man of color the simple courtesy of looking him in the eye. They’ll look everywhere else, address “the air” rather than the person, and get progressively more irritated if that person doesn’t back off and go away.

This irritation is what I saw in McCain’s body language: affront that a black man dared to challenge him or speak to him as an equal.

I don’t think I would’ve seen that if McCain hadn’t shown this kind of contempt in other contexts: his behavior towards his wives, for example. That certain kind of white man isn’t all that fond of uppity women either. And yeah, some of it might simply be McCain’s infamous temper; he’s had equal-opportunity hissyfits, pretty much at anyone who disagrees with him. The man simply needs anger-management training. But at least the white men who piss him off merit his direct address and his vocalized contempt. This “I-dismiss-you-from-my-attention” treatment? That’s something else.

Now, McCain isn’t stupid, and I don’t think his campaign managers are either. I don’t think McCain’s body language was accidental or unplanned. They knew full well how this would look, and I think they’re counting on it. The silent language of McCain’s posture and eye contact is practically a shout-out to white Middle America, sending a very clear message: “Can you believe this boy? Can you believe he’s actually talking to me?” And in the unspoken fury telegraphed by McCain’s surgically-constructed cheeks, and the constant flexing of his jaw muscles as he ground his teeth tried to smile graciously, I heard, “Y’know, back in the day, we would’ve known just what to do with a fella like you.”

McCain’s post-GOP-convention surge has faltered. Sarah Palin, who initially seemed to be energizing the evangelicals, is starting to look more and more like a mistake. Poor and middle-class Americans, which includes a whole lot of Republicans who are suddenly beginning to realize that the current economic crisis is their own damn fault for voting in a bunch of rich thieves, are up in arms. McCain’s only hope at this stage is a blatant appeal to something that will unite Republicans regardless of class, faith, and issues. Well, the Southern Strategy hasn’t failed yet.

Hmm… given that, I’m not sure I should call this subtext. Is it still subtext when it’s right there in your face?

71 Responses

  1. The most pathetic post on the debate ever written. To suggest that McCain is racist or would anyway condone anything remotely racist is beyond the pale.

    The man is proposing to legalize millions of illegal brown people and even adopted a South Asian girl. What more do you want? When have you ever seen a black person adopt a South Asian child?

    Why not change the tone of your blog to proving how blacks do more good around the world in terms of charity and out and out expressions of love and devotion to “out groups.” I am sure you will find such an exercise to be eye-opening.

  2. White yankees are going to splutter at this post and deny, deny, deny.

    But it’s brilliant and true and insightful.

    His body language was a direct appeal to Southern whites of a certain age — at the VERY least. I’d say plenty of Yanks picked up on it, too.

    Especially combined with his ads showing Obama looking angry with his jaw jutting out. Might has well have had “UPPITY” stamped across it in big letters.

    And, of course, one of his advisors suggested to him and others in a memo that they point out when Obama got “uppity.” Used the word and everything.

  3. He never stopped blinking. He blinked constantly. What was that about?

    To me, maybe, the most telling body language was after the lukewarm event was finished and the wives came out on stage. Obama and Michelle were immedidately in physical contact. The only time they weren’t was when she expected da mav’rik to shake hands with her as everyone else was shaking hands — and he didn’t. But the body language between Michelle and Obama was filled with authentic mutual warmth and respect.

    Whereas, da mav’rik never even acknowledged his own wife. She tentatively touched him across the shoulders in a distant semi-embrace and just hunkered and scowled and seemed not to even notice she was there. He never looked at her or touched her once. When they left the platform she trailed a signficant distance behind him.

    Michelle and Obama exited the platform side by side, arms around each other. They’d been holding hands previously.

    What an ugly piece of work is da mav’rik. Whatever whyfore does the independently wealthy Cindy put up with the old troll? He NEEDS HER money. She doesn’t need him. But then, he already drove her into drug addiction, so she’s probably been broken. Surely he knows all the effective techniques for doing so — since he’s a POW!

    Love, C.

  4. However, here’s a whole other explanation for da mav’rik’s refusal to look at or acknowledge Obama:

    I think people really are missing the point about McCain’s failure to look at Obama. McCain was afraid of Obama. It was really clear–look at how much McCain blinked in the first half hour. I study monkey behavior–low ranking monkeys don’t look at high ranking monkeys. In a physical, instinctive sense, Obama owned McCain tonight and I think the instant polling reflects that.

    Love, C.

  5. Foxessa,

    Thanks for pointing out that link; that’s an interesting interpretation. I was wondering whether there was some fear in the avoidance behavior myself — maybe fear of his ability to control his temper and stay civil, if nothing else.

    This observation makes me wonder, though; how much of that old Jim Crow etiquettte, the complicated dance of body language and address, was rooted in fear? Jim Crow was rooted in the idea that “coloreds” had to be kept in line or they’d take over the country — again, fear. Black men, who were the most humiliated by Jim Crow etiquette, were also quietly feared for their supposed sexual prowess, “primitive” strength, and animalistic behavior. A lot of the submissive body language imposed on them was intended to lessen these unspoken threats.

    So maybe it’s both — an appeal to whites with latent (or blatant) fears of what will happen to them when a black man takes over. By hinting at that fear himself, McCain models how the should feel and react.

  6. How can you not fear those you so terribly mistreat, both now and in the past?

    The same way so many men hate and fear — while mistreating — women.

    So this seems to be the narrative that’s settling in of what last night’s event was about, here at John Cole’s Balloon Juice blog. There’s video, text and comments.

    “Angry, grouchy, rude, mean, non-presidential” are some of the characterizations. Then there are those that simply roll them all together into one, these just call him a d*ck.

    Love, C.

  7. I found the comments here interesting, and I’m fascinated by the different interpretations of body language going around the web. You folks might be interested in the blog I linked to below, which focuses on “Senator Obama” vs “John,” pointing out that this is a deep violation of etiquette for older Southerners. I’m a White Obama supporter who was not raised in the South, so I did not have the reaction noted in the post, but I am aware of a lot of people (some of them Black) who think politeness to elders is really important. One suspects that few older white Southerners are going to vote for Obama anyway, and those that will are not going to be swayed by this kind of thing, so I’m guessing Obama was intentionally playing to a different demographic where first names are a sign of friendliness and equality. But, as I said, I thought you might find this different reaction worth a look. By the way, I agree with your interpretation of McCain’s body language as expressing anger, although I’m less sure about how to interpret “Sen. Obama.” As I said, I know quite a few Black people who absolutely insist upon using titles in public situations, while I’m a first name gal, so I’m not so sure the thing is racial so much as regional or subcultural.

    http://montclairsoci.blogspot.com/2008/09/senator-obama-and-john.html

  8. I think there might be more than just the race element in this. After all, Obama is known for his soaring oratory and stirring presentation, with a statesman-esque wisdom that we can all understand (which could be handy in say, I dunno, a big televised debate?), while McCain, well, isn’t. (Hence, “Hey look! Sarah Palin! Pay attention to me now!)

    However, he was going to be okay as so much of the debate was to be about foreign policy! Yeah, POW McCain knows foreign policy! Make those assholes pay! U-S-A!! U-S-A!! And then the economy all went wrong, and the debate was all about that instead. And he was representing the party that created the whole situation in the first place, and he’s not really got any new answers (“Hey, maybe if we do the same as we did before, this time it’ll work?”). So, a debate that he’s bad at, about a topic he doesn’t want to talk about, against someone who’s fantastic at public debate and doesn’t represent the evil Gordon Gekko Enron movement.

    To be fair, you can understand why he’d be intimidated…

  9. Zylonet,

    The most pathetic post on the debate ever written. To suggest that McCain is racist or would anyway condone anything remotely racist is beyond the pale.

    You forgot “sexist”. I suggested he was sexist, too. And classist.

    The man is proposing to legalize millions of illegal brown people and even adopted a South Asian girl. What more do you want? When have you ever seen a black person adopt a South Asian child?

    A relative of mine and her husband did exactly that, actually. And surprise — they’re not rich or running for office, so they didn’t need any sort of token evidence of their openmindedness.

    Not that adopting a brown child has diddlysquat to do with being anti-racist. But that’s a rant for a different day.

    Why not change the tone of your blog to proving how blacks do more good around the world in terms of charity and out and out expressions of love and devotion to “out groups.” I am sure you will find such an exercise to be eye-opening.

    Wow. What this has to do with the debate, I have no idea. Maybe somebody else here can translate this into English for me, from the native nutjob?

  10. [...] morning edition chalked it up to mccain’s general frustration. the writers over at abw think it’s something more insiduous. some people thinks mccain is afraid of obama. no matter [...]

  11. Pam,

    By the way, I agree with your interpretation of McCain’s body language as expressing anger, although I’m less sure about how to interpret “Sen. Obama.”

    The “Jim Crow etiquette” link I listed in the OP touches on this, actually:

    Whites much preferred to give blacks honorary titles, such as Doctor, or Professor, or Reverend, in order to avoid calling them Mister.

    I’m guessing that’s what McCain was reaching for — along with the overly-solicitous use of a title as mockery of that title/sarcasm. Or maybe he just couldn’t pronounce “Barack”.

  12. You seem to be saying that McCain’s temperament and his past suggest that he would have shown similar contempt to any young upstart that got in his way. Heck, he’s shown his ass to lots of people. He’s been accused of blowing up at and cursing out at least a dozen people since he’s been in the Senate. All of them white, as far as I know. Now here he is with his back against the wall with some young guy about to eat his lunch.

    I can’t see why he wouldn’t have acted the same towards white Senator Edwards.

    So why add on the layer of race?

    I mean, I could see your point if a Romney or Huckabee had done it. But this is a guy that told an old white Republican senator “F— you” in a meeting on Capitol Hill.

    And I personally don’t think such “vocalized contempt” is more respectful than refusing to acknowledge a person.

    WHICH reminds me of a joke from Chappelle. Starts about 1 minute in. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VU28Pv26nNQ

  13. Zylonet: What the fuck are you smoking? That comment was just wrong from beginning to end.

    Nojojo, great post- I’m adding this to my list of blogs-to-read-daily. I’m not sure his posture wasn’t accidental- he might not know how racist he’s looking. Although if his self-control is that bad… wait, what’m I saying? It pretty much is.

  14. I certainly saw the body language as a power move. and I admit that until now, despite knowing how many racist dogwhistles McCain’s thrown, the idea that this was also a specifically -racist- power move didn’t occur to me. But I think now -headsmack- of course.

    and no, it doesn’t matter if McCain’s advisers or he himself deliberately and consciously were appealing to the Jim Crow Old Guard there; yeah, obviously, the most blatant level of the power message was “this guy’s a rookie, I don’t have to give him the time of day.” (“What Senator Obama doesn’t understand…”) Although again, I don’t think these guys are exactly -unaware- of this shit. but regardless of what’s going on in McCain’s squishy little heart of hearts–yeah, that does really send a message, doesn’t it.

    Chris: where in the Real Racist Code Of Conduct is it written that people who do racist things can’t also be irascible assholes in a general sort of a way?

    –oh okay, and now with the Appeal to Chappelle…

    Zylonet: protetesthing a tad much there?

    anyway: what I saw was pretty clearly a power move in that the person who is looked at tends to be seen as the one who has the powe, more so than the one is is trying (and failing) to get the other’s direct attention; acting teachers will tell you this.

    How in control of his body language McCain actually is is another question. I think it’s both actually true that he’s a curmudgeonly oldschool cuss who’s not good with the whole “relating” thing and is deliberately playing that up, in an attempt to make Obama look more like an eager Chester to his Spike (if you’ve ever seen those Bugs & pals cartoon).

    it didn’t take too well, I don’t think, even though admittedly I’m not objective. but I mean, at least Reagan (who he kept appealing to a number of times) knew enough to look at the camera.

  15. anyway what I was starting to say was, wrt the anger, I’m not sure that’s how McCain -wanted- to come across, exactly. I think he was going for lofty pitying condescension, a la his hero Reagan (“there you go again,” pat pat), with a touch of righteous outrage; but unfortunately he’s a squat little troglodyte with all the restraint and cool of Yosemite Sam, so it didn’t really work.

  16. –Chris, apologies, I totally misread what you were saying and who you were addressing, I still haven’t had my caffeine this morning. :redface:

  17. -still embarrassed- anyway, I agree with this:

    “And I personally don’t think such “vocalized contempt” is more respectful than refusing to acknowledge a person.”

  18. …or…maybe I’m still misreading…you know what, I’m just going to stop, now, yeah, before I…yeah.

    generalized apologies, wanders off for food and coffee

  19. Agreed, but I also think that he was afraid to look at Obama because he would not be able to control his temper. A temper that people like me have long predicted he will lose before this race is over.

    I do the same thing.

    And I have no doubt that at this point he truly doesn’t like (okay, hates) Obama.

    And why not? That brother has made him look like a fool for weeks now. Everything McCain does backfires. I’m sure he lies awake at night thinking, “I sold my soul to the right-wing for this?”

    I also believe that McCain has a sense of entitlement. When you’re a mult-millionaire ex-POW son and grandson of an admiral senior senator, by God, you expect things to happen!

    And now, having put up a big old post arguing (without more) AGAINST a presumption something racist is going on, allow me to indulge myself with my favorite scene in one of my favorite movies where something racist IS going on (and is properly addressed): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSEo_k3XPg4

  20. chris,

    Race isn’t a layer that has to be “added on”. Obama’s not an a la carte menu; his race is an inextricable part of his identity, and how others react to his race is an inextricable part of this campaign. How people react to McCain’s race is a factor, too; we’re just predisposed as a society to dismiss the effect of his whiteness as something else. But I see no point in not calling a spade a spade.

    And as you’ve pointed out, yes, McCain loses his temper with all sorts of people. But when I see a fundamental difference in the way he treats white people when he’s losing his shit, and the way he treated Obama (and Obama’s wife, as Foxessa pointed out) last night, naturally I’m going to wonder. That difference may very well indicate some sense of entitlement, or some fear of blowing his top at a time when he needed to keep his cool. But he didn’t act like this in the Republican primary debate last fall, when he had even more competition and it was even more important that he stand out (at that point he wasn’t doing so hot). You don’t think he felt any entitled anger at that point? He, a career political player, was getting trounced in the polls by a sleazy mayor who happened to be in the right place at the right time, a preacher who was even crazier than Dubya, and some wishy-washy stick-in-the-mud from Massachusetts. Yet in that debate he managed to look at his opponents, address them directly (by first name, no less), even joke with them.

    His behavior with Obama was dramatically different last night. And in the context of the racism we’ve already seen in this election (was going to cite some articles, but hell, just Google “McCain racism”), the historical ways in which the Republicans have deliberately used racism as a campaign tactic, and the history of racism itself in this country… I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suspect racism as a reason for McCain’s behavior this time.

    Frankly, I’m surprised by your resistance to the idea that racism might be involved. That smacks of the classic racism-denier’s refusal to see racism in anything short of a burning cross. (And, well, y’know, maybe those people in the white sheets are just cold…)

  21. This is how James Fallows at The Atlantic online site viewed last night:

    Obama would have pleased his base better if he had fought back more harshly in those 90 minutes — cutting McCain off, delivering a similarly harsh closing judgment, using comparably hostile body language, and in general acting more like a combative House of Commons debater. Those would have been effective tactics minute by minute.

    But Obama either figured out, or instinctively understood, that the real battle was to make himself seem comfortable, reasonable, responsible, well-versed, and in all ways “safe” and non-outsiderish to the audience just making up its mind about him. (And yes, of course, his being a young black man challenging an older white man complicated everything he did and said, which is why his most wittily aggressive debate performance was against another black man, Alan Keyes, in his 2004 Senate race.) The evidence of the polls suggests that he achieved exactly this strategic goal. He was the more “likeable,” the more knowledgeable, the more temperate, etc. (Update: though from here on out he doesn’t have to say “John is right…” anywhere near as often as he did last night.) .

    For years and years, Democrats have wondered how their candidates could “win” the debates on logical points — that is, tactics — but lose the larger struggle because these seemed too aggressive, supercilious, cold-blooded, or whatever. To put it in tactical/strategic terms, Democrats have gotten used to winning battles and losing wars. Last night, the Democratic candidate showed a far keener grasp of this distinction than did the Republican who accused him of not understanding it.

    Love, C.

  22. Huh. Just saw this, which visually captures the effect of McCain’s avoidance.

  23. “Race isn’t a layer that has to be “added on”. Obama’s not an a la carte menu.”

    heh.

    and yeah, I was wondering how his performance compared to how he was when he debated his primary opponents. I’d managed to avoid watching much of anything election related up till last night, so didn’t have a clear idea of McCain’s style in such formats.

    It does seem like a stupid move, all things considered. I don’t think he would’ve lost much by acting more cordial, McCain. I guess he’s not really good enough a performer to communicate the disdain his base wants through subtler means. Instead it looks like most people who aren’t from that side of the base, i.e. the people he needs to win over to win, came off thinking he was just sort of rude and grumpy. At least, judging by f’r instance this (comments as well as OP):

    http://groups.google.com/group/salon-rose/browse_thread/thread/a3a0e4bd524b0b07?hl=en

    and the quick-flash poll that has Obama’s performance preferred by “a clear edge”

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080927/ap_on_el_pr/presidential_debate_polls;_ylt=Ams16OLtJ6umWwnD9n6itMBsnwcF

    Fifty-one percent said Obama, the Democrat, did a better job in Friday night’s faceoff while 38 percent preferred the Republican McCain, according to a CNN-Opinion Research Corp. survey of adults.

    Obama was widely considered more intelligent, likable and in touch with peoples’ problems, and by modest margins was seen as the stronger leader and more sincere. Most said it was McCain who spent more time attacking his opponent…

  24. “A relative of mine and her husband did exactly that, actually. And surprise — they’re not rich or running for office, so they didn’t need any sort of token evidence of their openmindedness.”

    So Cindy McCain was looking for a token when she chose to adopt? Your opinion is vile and baseless.

    <>

    The post is easy to understand. Instead of ranting that McCain is somehow racist, why don’t you try an alternative. Why don’t you investigate how African Americans treat out groups (out groups are people not from your tribe, race or ethnicity). If you undertake this study (and the datum is available), you may find that your rants are a bit off the mark.

  25. Your opinion is vile and baseless.

    Vile? Maybe so. Baseless? No, not really.

    The post is easy to understand. Instead of ranting that McCain is somehow racist, why don’t you try an alternative. Why don’t you investigate how African Americans treat out groups (out groups are people not from your tribe, race or ethnicity). If you undertake this study (and the datum is available), you may find that your rants are a bit off the mark.

    Your point being that black people are just like any other people, and can be prejudiced assholes towards other ethnic groups? Mazel tov, you just acknowledged us as human. And you know how to use scholarly sociological terms. Good for you! But this has what, exactly, to do with McCain’s racism in this specific instance?

    (That really has to be the silliest defense of a person’s racism I’ve ever heard. “He’s racist? What?! Well… well… everybody who looks like you smells funny!! Nyah!”)

  26. oh my- you pwn. this is amazing. this is exactly what i saw- combined with fear.

    i am reading this while people in my house watch and laugh at sarah silverman’s blatant racism. she gets away with it claiming minority status and the things she says are so fucking offfensive. i can’t believe she gets away with this shit. she gets away with it mostly by claiming jewish woman minority status- while those who have a clue realize she is totally privileged and passes at white. I am so pissed. She is in black face right now and my relatives are watching it and I am totally on the offensive and the are saying, “It’s ok! She’s Jewish!” WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!

  27. I also noticed how rude McCain was to Obama, even after Lehrer repeatedly asked him to address him, and stop pretending he wasn’t there. I was really shocked at how blatant he was.

    McCain was condescending and rude the entire time, and you’d have to be willfully in denial not to have the thought cross your mind that racism played a part in that behavior.

  28. god, is Sarah Silverman still around? she was over before she started. so tired of the entire dreary genre, that. trolling dressed up as quasi-rebellion.

    “Irony: the all-purpose ass-cover.”

  29. I only saw about 60% of the debate, and I guess I missed a lot of what was actually said because it was in a large group and people kept laughing and talking over it. Lehrer actually told him to look at/address Obama and he still didn’t? damn.

  30. Pam, at about the seventh comment in this thread, kindly linked to my blog post about Obama’s calling McCain “John” during the debate. Pam sees this as a “deep violation of etiquette for older Southerners.” My post referred to a commenter elsewhere saying that his 76-year old mother had been offended. But my guess is that this 76 woman was a Northern Jew now retired to Florida, not a native Southerner. I think the first-name issue is more generational than regional.

    Readers of ABW might be interested in two other posts I have on race and the election:

    http://montclairsoci.blogspot.com/2008/09/bounce-or-bradley.html

    http://montclairsoci.blogspot.com/2008/09/alas-poor-york.html

  31. Their brief exchange after the debate was also interesting. Obama seemed to initiate contact and went up to McCain first and wished him well and McCain looked uncomfortable and clearly did not want to engage with him. I also noticed how Obama went up to his wife and they greeted each other and actually looked like a team whereas McCain and his wife looked strained. Again the Obamas went up to the McCains to greet them first. It was like a bad rendition of “Guess Whos Coming to Dinner”. And what is with Cindy McCain anyway? She is completely unmemorable despite her loud red outfits.

  32. Jay,

    But my guess is that this 76 woman was a Northern Jew now retired to Florida, not a native Southerner.

    How do you figure that?

  33. nojojojo,
    Thanks for this post. I didn’t watch the debate because I’m voting for Obama regardless, but as a middle aged white transwoman, I really value your perspective. I’ll put a link to your blog on mine.
    zylonet – a. get a clue. b. There is a vast difference between racism from a position of power-over and racism from a position of powerless. c. the original point was that McCain was intentionally using subtle racist tactics to appeal to a certain kind of voter, not that he, himself, was racist – though the implication was certainly there, in the fact that he embraced those tactics.
    Foxessa – good point. I kinda like believing that one! :-)

  34. Both men are senators, and have had a great deal of interaction in D.C. Senators that serve together know each other and they call each other by their first names.

    You see this all the time, or, um hear this all the time, when more than one senators is being interviewed on some political television or radio program, are present at the same event. They call each other by their first names, and they refer to each other by their first names.

    da mav’rik addressed Jim Lehr as ‘Jim,’ which is also customary usage of elected officials with their media interviewers — which also points up to all of outside the beltway and the media that feeds from it, how cozy all these relationships really are.

    da mav’rik really wasn’t feeling any cozy fuzzies for Senator Obama Friday night. I’d bet any amount of the money that I don’t have on that!

    Love, C.

  35. Here we find, perhaps, the true source of da mav’rik’s seething anger with Obama Friday night.

    The anger was ignited by what happened in D.C. earlier that day. He perceives Obama as bolloxing up his mav’rik game plan to make political hay with the national economic catastrophe. Now, you all can make up your own minds about this, by reading a blow-by-blow, witnessed account of what happened.

    Here’s a pull:

    Boehner was blunt. The plan Paulson laid out would not win the support of the vast majority of House Republicans. It had been improved on the edges, with an oversight board and caps on the compensation of participating executives. But it had to be changed at the core. He did not mention the insurance alternative, but Democrats did. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, pressed Boehner hard, asking him if he really intended to scrap the deal and start again.

    No, Boehner replied, he just wanted his members to have a voice. Obama then jumped in to turn the question on his rival: “What do you think of the [insurance] plan, John?” he asked repeatedly. McCain did not answer.

    One Republican in the room said it was clear that the Democrats came into the meeting with a “game plan” aimed at forcing McCain to choose between the administration and House Republicans. “They had taken McCain’s request for a meeting and trumped it,” said this source.

    Congressional aides from both parties were standing in the lobby of the West Wing, unaware of the discord inside the Cabinet room, when McCain emerged alone, shook the hands of the Marines at the door and left. The aides were baffled. The plan had been for a bipartisan appearance before the media, featuring McCain, Obama and at least a firm statement in favor of intervention. Now, one of the leading men was gone.

    The rest of the actors poured out of the room still highly agitated. Democrats clustered in the hall between the lobby and the Oval Office, pressing Bachus to explain what had happened to the deal. The Democrats discussed whether to go before the cameras waiting in front of the White House, but Obama refused. Without McCain next to him, he said, he would be skewered for using the White House as a backdrop. As the talk grew louder, Obama asked if they could duck into a room, and back they went to the ornate, windowless Roosevelt Room.

    Love, C.

  36. nojojo, It was just a guess, but I found the comment on John Podhoretz’s blog at the Commentary Magazine website. (See the Wikepedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commentary_(magazine) or just go to their website and click on About Us.)

  37. I just watched the end of the debate on the DVR and McCain did shake Michelle Obama’s hand.

    But everything else here is spot on. Creepy Angry Rude Man vs. Polished, Impassioned, Congenial Man? I choose the latter.

  38. I’m new here, but I had to comment with a story about my mom (I grew up in the deep south). One time I questioned her when she commented that she was a social worker “back before racism.” When I asked her what she meant (since she was a social worker in the early sixties) she said that it was back before all the black people hated us, “you know, back when they knew their place.” She went on further to explain that back then “they” would always look down when they passed you on the street, would sometimes even take off their hat, and would always let you walk through the door first. Back then “they” respected “us.”

  39. also here’s something I wrote a while back about my observations of racism growing up….

    http://justajane.blogspot.com/2007/01/mlk.html

  40. It may be worth noting that while McCain isn’t really “from” anywhere but the Navy, and his father likewise, his grandfather John Sidney McCain Sr. was born in Mississippi as the son of “a Carroll County sheriff and plantation owner,” according to the campaign website. Said great-grandpa McCain was born in 1851 into a family that owned 52 slaves, and his father died in 1863 while serving with the Confederate army.

    There’s no necessary contradiction between wanting to legitimize the employment of Mexican farm hands by American agribusiness, marrying a rich white woman of the sort who’d impulse-adopt a Bengali orphan, and nonetheless coming from a culture that has very definite ideas about the proper roles, specifically, of African-Americans and white folks. If the current McCain paterfamilias has said or done anything to indicate making an effort to rise above those origins, I’d be happy to hear about it.

  41. Every time I start to give John McCain the benefit of the doubt regarding race issues, I remember that he voted against making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday, and supported the Arizona governor who tried to rescind it in that state.

    In my mind the question is not IF McCain has racial baggage, but to what extent.

    And I agree with the initial comments regarding primate dominance. One columnist wrote that McCain had established himself as the “alpha male” by disregarding Obama, and was promptly smacked down by people all across the Internets, who pointed out that it is the WEAKER males who refuse to make eye contact. IMO that is how McCain came across – harried and scuttled, not in command of himself or the room.

    And that’s pretty unfortunate for McCain, because I actually thought he played a stronger offensive game than Obama. For example, Obama seemed unable to counter the accusation that he had requested so many earmarks, and IMHO did not defuse the emotive language with which McCain talked about Iran. If McCain had coupled those attacks with even the faintest bit of graciousness, I think he might have won.

    Additionally, the CNN opinion meter showed that whenever McCain accused Obama of being “naive” or “not getting it,” his favorability among independent voters plummeted. I think someone over on Feministing made a comment that really opened my eyes – “I don’t understand the difference between a strategy and a tactic either. Am I a naive moron too?”

    Despite the dogwhistle racism employed by the GOP, on the flipside I think it’s heartening that many people related to Obama strongly enough that when McCain talked down or sneered at him, they felt as if they TOO were the object of his contempt.

  42. This is a powerful post and adds more context to his behavior and attitude. I will repost at Sojourner’s Place

  43. This is a wonderful post that summed up most of my own thoughts. I felt that McCain chose to fight using his white privilege to dismiss Obama’s very existence on the stage with him. I think your post did a great job of reminding many of us younger folks who may not have witnessed the past that once upon a time men like McCain did not acknowledge Black folks.

    While I have never been a McCain supporter up until election season I didn’t find him terribly offensive but that is changed. Make no mistake his body language coupled with choosing Palin as his running mate, he is very much injecting race into this but in a much more subtle manner.

  44. One other thing I want to say is that John McCain is only six years older than Joe Biden, but if you step back and contrast their demeanors with Obama it is like night and day.

    I know Biden isn’t all that popular here, and with good reason given some of his assy remarks; and of course the dude wants to be vice-president, so it goes without saying that he’s got self-interest in promoting Obama. Having said that, Biden still comes across as genuinely respectful of Obama, and not only that but downright *affectionate*. I might even go as far as to say protective. Biden convincingly conveys the impression that he would roll up his sleeves and knock your teeth out if you said the wrong thing about his buddy; or that he’s a teacher who is thrilled to find his student has excelled beyond even the wildest expectations (please forgive me if there are paternalistic overtones in that comparison – Biden’s also been great about never letting you forget who’s at the top of his ticket). If it’s all an act on Biden’s part, it’s a GOOD act.

    And in contrast with McCain’s subtextually evoking the days when a black man “knew his place,” I have to wonder if the Obama campaign is deliberately fighting subtext with subtext. I wonder if it will really make a difference for some white people, who might be on the fence about this Obama guy, to see a white guy their dad or grandpa’s age so wholeheartedly on fire about how awesome he is. Or who might find it reassuring that Obama would seek out the wisdom of someone like their dad or grandpa.

    Don’t get me wrong. As I type this, I feel a little gross suggesting that a black candidate needs the white man’s stamp of approval. I don’t like admitting to the reality that some white voters probably need that. But, there it is.

  45. [...] The whole post is excellent; read it all. [...]

  46. Nojojojo,

    Thanks for responding to me. I wish I had seen your post a couple of days ago–this post would be longer.

    But let me just make a couple of points.

    Are you actually arguing that this white man showed his contempt for a black man by referring to him by his title? And By NOT calling him by his first name?

    Seriously? I don’t know what to say to that.–except what I’ll say later.

    As for refusing to look at him, I can see how that would be relegating him to non-person status, (and I believe he was communicating that Obama isn’t, at least politically), his equal. And that probably played well in certain racist sectors. But I still say the real issue is that McCain has a temper and Obama gets under his skin (so to speak).

    There is also the argument, made by some, that McCain is just damned intimidated. Possible. But I think Obama just pisses him off, for a lot of reasons, up to, and including race.

    But there is no need to run to race first. I know that Obama is not “ala carte”. But who is? Obama, for example, is at all times a man–why aren’t you willing to first look at the effect on ANY short, 72-yr old man that can’t raise his arms above his head when a young six-foot tall man is looking at him and spoiling for an argument?

    Why not look at class? Background? Experience? Race will still be there when you get to it.

    “Frankly, I’m surprised by your resistance to the idea that racism might be involved. That smacks of the classic racism-denier’s refusal to see racism in anything short of a burning cross. (And, well, y’know, maybe those people in the white sheets are just cold…)”

    Oh, yeah?! Well, your comments smack of the classic race-fantasizer’s desire to see any conflict between blacks and whites in America as nothing BUT some kind of racial confrontation with all of the import of a March to Selma!

    It’s a can’t lose game. Clerk rushes over when you walk into the store—racism. Clerk ignores you when you walk into the store–racism. Waitress hovers asking if you need anything else–racism. Waitress disappears and don’t come back–racism. And now, incredibly, old white man calls you by your first name and looks at you–racism. Old white man calls you by your title and doesn’t look at you–racism.

    I don’t have to go looking for racism.

    It finds me.

    Chris

    P.S. Love the white sheets line. Would sting if true. I’ma use it on somebody else!

  47. Mary, you make some good points, but Obama is just on another level than what the conservatives expected. His background and education, combined with the disastrous policies of the Republicans in the last two terms, is just a perfect storm for the GOP.

    Remember early on when some black people said Obama wasn’t black enough? I was on a damned rampage, cursing out crab-ass black people by the score. I really got the impression that some black people didn’t trust a black man that hadn’t been to prison. What the hell?! But really, it was the classic and outdated black position–we judge things, including other black folks, by what white folks think of them. If whites are for it, it must be bad for us.

    And in retrospect, it was the best thing that could have happened for Obama. It let white people see him as not JUST black (hey, if the blacks DON’T like him, maybe he’s okay!). And they liked what they saw. And THEN black people took a new look and decided they liked him, too. And then it was on.

    I think this is what caused the Clinton meltdown. They could not believe that black people would support a neophyte black candidate over them. Especially, in the face of a lot of elder black statesman support for the Clintons. “After all we did for you!”, they thought. And they did do a lot that was helpful to black people. Bill is STILL mad.

    As for McCain, usually a black man gets “put” in his place. He doesn’t get ignored. McCain just looked weak.

  48. Orange — Thank you for the correction!

    I don’t have a television, so watched this online — and my vision is lousy. So I probably got more than this wrong too. Sigh. One tries not to, but dang! I do get things wrong anyway.

    Love, C.

  49. If you want to follow dog whistle racism, visit http://www.stopdogwhistleracism.com for the good, bad and ugly from the right, center and left, about race in the race.

  50. chrislrob,

    Wow. You’re putting so many words in my mouth I should probably start moonlighting as a puppet. Or a straw man.

    Are you actually arguing that this white man showed his contempt for a black man by referring to him by his title? And By NOT calling him by his first name?

    Actually, I didn’t suggest the use of a title as a possible racist gesture; that was noted in the article I referenced on the “etiquette” of Jim Crow. It’s not something I noticed initially, since this kind of behavior is before my time too (I’m not even half McCain’s age). But seeing that it was a common way of showing disrespect Back in the Day, then it doesn’t seem beyond the pale to me that it would still be used today by someone whose formative years were then.

    I also didn’t mention his refusal to call Barack “Barack” as a mark of racism. My primary focus has been his body language, not what was said (or not said). However, others in this thread have focused on the verbal component, pointing out — correctly — that it’s the common practice among senators to refer to each other on a first-name basis. I see merit in their arguments. I did also point out that McCain referred to his (white) opponents by first name, and looked at them, in the transcript/video of one of the biggest Republican primary debates last year. I’ve since looked up several of the other primary debate transcripts, and in all of them he uses first names, even with opponents he hasn’t worked with before. Friday’s debate with Obama was the first time (as far as I can tell) that he didn’t use his debate opponent’s first name. (I can’t find a transcript of the single debate he shared with Alan Keyes; I’m curious to see how he addressed that pompous windbag.)

    Why not look at class? Background? Experience? Race will still be there when you get to it.

    Well, let’s see. In previous debates against people from different classes, backgrounds, and experience — a mayor, a televangelist, an actor, a New Englander, etc., some of whom were 20 or 30 years his junior — McCain was jovial, relaxed, and used first names. He looked his opponents in the eye. You’re right in that there could be a number of reasons for the discrepancy in his behavior in this case, and I did note some of those reasons in the OP, though you seem to have not noticed that. But I also see racism as a possible reason.

    Oh, yeah?! Well, your comments smack of the classic race-fantasizer’s desire to see any conflict between blacks and whites in America as nothing BUT some kind of racial confrontation with all of the import of a March to Selma!

    My comments might smack of a “race-fantasizer’s”, if a) there was such a thing (who the hell fantasizes about racism? Good grief), b) if the Republicans had no history of using racist tactics, if c) John McCain had no history of questionable decisions, comments, and behavior, some of which have been pointed out in this comment thread, and d) if Obama’s race had played no part in this campaign thus far.

    Obviously you believe in a, though the notion of anti-racists sitting around all day gleefully hoping to find racism under every rock strikes me as kind of silly. Question, though: do you acknowledge b, c, and d?

    And now, incredibly, old white man calls you by your first name and looks at you–racism. Old white man calls you by your title and doesn’t look at you–racism.

    Er… has anyone here said that McCain’s calling Obama by his first name would’ve been bad (if he’d done it)? ::complete puzzlement:: I didn’t say it. Browsing back through this comment thread, no one else seems to have said it. What gives?

    Oh, wait, are you playing puppetmaster again? Come on, now. You should let the rest of us know when you decide to start playing games! It’s only fair.

  51. Like many white people, on first pass, I find it difficult to imagine that McCain was being overtly racist toward Obama by not looking at him. But, as I think about this, I realize this inability to “see” McCain’s body language as an overt affront to Obama is a problem in and of itself.
    As I’ve thought about it, I feel like McCain was actually exposing that form of racism popular amongst white people, which involves drawing a distinction between deserving and undeserving cases. White people seem to act as though they can pick and choose which forms of injustice are correct, while dismissing cases of injustice we find less appealing. For the most part, we prefer acute moments of severe unfairness or violence over structural forms of inequality. Hence, why a white person can feel compelled to adopt a foreign orphan or denounce the holocaust, while demonstrating a visible amount of anger toward a well educated black person as if that’s not a loaded act. Rather than a charity case, Obama has constructed himself as a chosen son who could very well become president thanks to his solid upbringing and hard work. Obama doesn’t want or need McCain’s sympathies. I read the look on McCain’s face to be, “How dare you?”

  52. i thought Obama came across weak. Not attacking John McCain will work against him some ways. Obama is still leading the polls as result of this debate ,but it has nothing to do with what you pointed out. He is leading because people believe him on how this country should be ran, period. Your racist coments about McCain, are off , he is not a racist. Nope! I want Obama to win, but I wouldn’t have gone there. Noooo way ,your off big time!

    McCain had to show Obama, I am the older the more experience person here tonight. Your still wet behing the ears so to speak. He wanted the people to see that instead they got angry older gentleman.

    You guys are acting like Obama is a saint. He was acting, too. Don’t tell me he did not want to tell McCain off. Yes he did, I saw it in his face! and you know what he should had done it, he would have came across more like a leader taking charge!

  53. Oh, and another thing the body languages between the couples. Obama and Michelle want to set good examples they are representing black america and they want there children to look back and see this. The McCains, tension is in the area not because they do not like them, but because they want to win this!!! It’s not racial. It’s uncomfortable.

    You know I love your blog! when your right your right when your wrong like now, your wrong.

  54. Your racist coments about McCain, are off , he is not a racist.

    Pointing out racism is racist now?

  55. Nojojojo,

    The article on Jim Crow etiquette refers to the practice of referring to black people by a title that they don’t have. You call the barber and the shoeshine man “doctor” or “professor” as a way of highlighting their lower position. You do NOT call a real black doctor or professor those names. You call him a nigger.

    That’s why I was thrown off. McCain called Senator Obama “Senator Obama”. Jim Crow etiquette doesn’t apply here. Now McCain is surely trying to say something. We are just tossing around what it might be. And how he is trying to say it.

    And without checking, I am going to give my opinion that it may be normal for senators to refer to each other by first name in many cases, I don’t *think* it’s all that normal in debates. I’ll check later, but I think there is a difference between primary debates and general election debates. Between debates with someone that you think you can be informal and relaxed and jokey with because you can handle them, and someone that is kicking your ass at every turn. On several occasions, McClain clowned those Republicans he called by their first names.

    I acknowledge a, b, c, and d. There are most definitely race-fantasizers. I’m as mystified as you are, but there is a group of people out there that insist on seeing racism at every turn. Usually, they do this by jumping to race first and then just glossing over any other possible factors. I’m not quite sure what they get out of it, but they seem to get great pleasure out of it. As a result, they’re usually pretty spent by the time real racism shows up.

    I don’t think of such people as “anti-racists”.

    “Er… has anyone here said that McCain’s calling Obama by his first name would’ve been bad (if he’d done it)? ::complete puzzlement:: I didn’t say it. Browsing back through this comment thread, no one else seems to have said it. What gives?”

    Er, you do understand that calling black men of status, and/or age and/or position by their first name is THE generally accepted manner in which they are disrespected, don’t you?–” All black men, on the other hand, were called by their first names or were referred to as “Boy,” “Uncle,” and “Old Man”–regardless of their age.”, History of Jim Crow.

    That was listed as the opposite of what I saw as your position that calling him by his title of senator is wrong, too.

  56. Well, judging by his treatment of both his wives and other women, in private and in public, I think he despise Cindy, because he despises women. Period.

    It’s well documented how he behaves with women. Google “McCain and Woman Wheelchair” and see how he behaves. This is just one of many famous incidents, that the press, who he used to characterize as ‘my base’ have given him a pass on for decades now. Lately, not so much. Especially with cell phone cameras and the internet to challenge the official accounts.

    In AZ there is a great deal of talk in the medical community of how post the Keating 5 scandal, for which he blamed his wife Cindy, since she was a friend of Keating’s, Cindy was admitted into hospital care at least 3 times with the injuries that are consistent of domestic abuse.

    Love, C.

  57. When it comes to racism — remember Lee Atwater? The King of Dirty Political Tricks and Campaigning for Reagan and the RNC? How he just lurved the blues and blues guitar and played the blues his very own self on his very own guitar?

    Just because Atwater loved the blues didn’t mean he either liked or respected the people who created the blues, except, unless it could be in very strictly understood situation as to who is really important around here, and who can be paternally condescended to — in a friendly way, of course!

    Love, C.

  58. chrislrob,

    I acknowledge a, b, c, and d. There are most definitely race-fantasizers. I’m as mystified as you are, but there is a group of people out there that insist on seeing racism at every turn. Usually, they do this by jumping to race first and then just glossing over any other possible factors. I’m not quite sure what they get out of it, but they seem to get great pleasure out of it. As a result, they’re usually pretty spent by the time real racism shows up.

    You do realize that the “race fantasizer” is the great myth of racists everywhere, don’t you? A myth designed for a singular purpose: allowing the (willfully or ignorantly) clueless to ridicule and dismiss any criticism of racist behavior short of cross-burning. It’s not all that different from the myth of the woman who “asks for it” in the case of rape, or the gay man who “provokes” a violent homophobic assault. Such myths attempt to obfuscate the real culprit in an attack — the person whose behavior we should be discussing — by instead pointing a finger at the attack’s target. In this case, conjuring up “race fantasists” or griping about “the race card” or any variation on this theme is an attempt to derail conversation about the real issues and real perpetrators. You might as well point past my shoulder and shout, “Lookit the monkey!”

    I don’t know anyone who gets pleasure out of tossing out accusations of racism and enduring the blowback from people who refuse to see it (or worse, see it but rationalize it). I’ve been guest-blogging here at ABW for a little over a year now; it’s never fun. It never gets easy. But it has to be done, because racism will never end if we just sit back and stay silent when we see things that don’t look right. Or if we stop saying it, at the first sign of ridicule or dismissal.

    So fine. Clearly you see no value in speaking out on things like this; that’s your business. You just go on waiting for the “real racism” to show up, and leave the rest of us little people to battle the everyday stuff that facilitates the “real racism”. When the big day comes and the real stuff appears, we’ll all be waiting with bated breath for you to show your support. See you then!

    Er, you do understand that calling black men of status, and/or age and/or position by their first name is THE generally accepted manner in which they are disrespected, don’t you?–” All black men, on the other hand, were called by their first names or were referred to as “Boy,” “Uncle,” and “Old Man”–regardless of their age.”, History of Jim Crow.

    OK, once more, let me quote myself:

    They did not address black men directly if they could help it — and if they had to, it was never done in a way that might suggest respect.

    Added emphasis mine. I think McCain had to address Obama in this context. He couldn’t have gotten away with calling the man “my esteemed opponent” or something like that for an hour and a half; that would’ve been too blatantly sarcastic. But he could mock the respect he had to show his opponent, which I believe he did by showing the appearance/letter and not the spirit of respect. He called Obama by his title, but didn’t look him in the eye. Didn’t acknowledge his presence on the stage, except when forced to by handshakes. Didn’t speak to him directly even when the debate moderator urged him to, and even when Obama spoke to him directly. And in this case, in this context, I believe McCain’s choice to avoid using Obama’s first name was meant to emphasize the mockery, by drawing an even greater contrast between his nonverbal and verbal behavior.

    Body language is my focus. Body language is just as much a part of human communication as verbal language. It is entirely possible to convey a repectful message verbally and an entirely different message non-verbally; this too was part of Jim Crow. I can remember as a little girl (1970s) going with my grandmother to an old department store in our hometown (in Alabama). She would hand the money to the white clerk; the clerk would put the change on the counter rather than handing it back. As I’m sure you’ll point out, there could be any number of reasons why a clerk might not want to touch a customer — germophobia, distaste for touching strangers, an unwillingness to appear overly familiar, whatever. But context makes a huge difference. In the Deep South just post-Civil Rights, in an interaction between a black woman and a white woman, given a long history in which white people described black people as filthy and treated us like Untouchables… well, it’s certainly possible to interpret that behavior in a vacuum, sans context. But I think it’s pretty silly to do so. No, not just silly — I think it’s a form of denial.

  59. “The post is easy to understand. Instead of ranting that McCain is somehow racist, why don’t you try an alternative. Why don’t you investigate how African Americans treat out groups (out groups are people not from your tribe, race or ethnicity). If you undertake this study (and the datum is available), you may find that your rants are a bit off the mark.”

    Because strawmans work so well. We’re talking about McCain here. This blog is not a “What’s wrong with black people” blog. This is not a “What’s wrong with people of color” blog. Go do the required reading before you step foot into these comments.

    “The man is proposing to legalize millions of illegal brown people…”
    Proof please.

    “and even adopted a South Asian girl. What more do you want?”

    While Simultaneously referring to Asians as “Gooks”, regardless of their ethnicity.

  60. I did think this was interesting, from Foxessa’s link on the blow-by-blow backstory:

    “No, Boehner replied, he just wanted his members to have a voice. Obama then jumped in to turn the question on his rival: “What do you think of the [insurance] plan, John?” he asked repeatedly. McCain did not answer.”

  61. nojojo writes:

    I can remember as a little girl (1970s) going with my grandmother to an old department store in our hometown (in Alabama). She would hand the money to the white clerk; the clerk would put the change on the counter rather than handing it back.

    I’ve seen this happen in reverse in the supermarkets when I’m living in New Orleans. An older white woman pays the cashier, but she puts her money on the counter, not in the hand of the cashier (good grief! our ridiculous nation’s sins has forced me into this locution!) of color. Nor would she accept change from the cashier’s hand. She’d stand there until the mosquitos came out before she’d accept her change directly from the cashier’s hand. She also makes it very clear that it is purely an affront that the cashier is a person of color, done specifically to annoy HER.

    Love, C.

    BTW, there’s an excellent piece in today’s WaPo concerning Michelle Obama’s family’s ancestors, complete with a slide show of photos with audio commentary, so you can hear the voices of those written about in the long article. You can find it here. It includes a splendid photo of Michelle Obama.

  62. Thanks for your response. Sorry I didn’t see it earlier. To begin though, I’m pretty sure that the “great myth of racists everywhere” is that they are better than other races.

    And I don’t get the comparison to saying someone “asked for it”. I suggested that some people are doggedly looking to find racism in any interaction between blacks and whites. What has that got to do with someone suggesting that a woman somehow provoked her own attack? I’m arguing that there are times when there is no attack at all. And that the proper way to figure out if there was isn’t to move from the presumption that there probably was.

    I am well aware that addressing racism isn’t fun or easy. Despite this, some people like to root around until they find it anyway. Go figure. I find it hard to believe that you are not aware of this.

    I think where we differ is that you feel we must address racism “…at the first sign of ridicule or dismissal.” I believe we should pick our battles. Largely because we have so many clear-cut cases of racism that focusing on a lot of debatable (lol!) racism is a waste of time. Let me put it another way–are things so grand that we’ve got to go begging for racist incidents by arguing that calling a black senator “Senator” is racist? To me, THAT seems to be playing into the racist’s hands.

    I just am not buying this argument that calling Obama “Senator Obama” was disrespectful. I think it’s ridiculous. You seem to realize there are other ways to address Obama in a disrespectful fashion, but then insist he had to call him “Senator”. How about if he had just called him “Barack”? He wouldn’t have been using his title, he would have been calling him by his first name in accordance with Jim Crow etiquette, and no one could say anything about it because Obama called him by HIS first name.

    This whole title idea is just contrary to any racist putdown that I’ve ever seen.

    (And now, an aside: I was in the Army for a couple of years and I am well aware of the idea of addressing unpopular officers by their titles or by sir in a voice dripping with condescension. I do not think that is waht is happening here.)

    Absolutely McCain is trying to put a wall of distance and formality b/t he and Obama. But I think it is because HE is on the defensive. Because HE doesn’t want to be forced to be engaged with Obama on that stage. Because he can’t afford to be familiar.

    Because he can’t win that game.

    He wasn’t mocking Obama’s title. He was using it to keep Obama at bay.

    As for the body language, I hear you. But I’m telling you, McCain is a time bomb. He has a very bad temper. Did you see him mix it up with the white folks of the Des Moines Register editorial board, yesterday? Like those white folks, Obama pisses McCain off and he doesn’t know what to do about it.

    But he knows he’d better not do that with Obama. Because that’s not a battle he can win verbally, physically, or politically.

    Again, we only disagree on WHY he acts like an ass, not IF he acts like an ass.

    And I’ve got a story, too! Back in the 50’s my grandmother lived in the deep south. She had an insurance policy that a white agent would stop by the house and pick up every week, month, whatever, as was the custom at the time.

    One day he comes to my grandmother’s home and asks my uncle, a teenager at the time, “Is Evelyn home?” To which my uncle says, “You mean Ms. Robinson.” The agent frowns and says, “Is she home?” My uncle says, “She calls you Mr. Smith. You call her Ms. Robinson.” The agent turned and left and sent my grandmother a letter saying that in the future she would have to mail in her payments.

  63. [...] at Angry Black Woman has little doubt as to the root cause of McCain’s anger. Not so long ago in this country — within McCain’s adult lifetime, though not Obama’s — [...]

  64. Fantastic post, sorry I am only reading it and commenting this late.

    I was FLABBERGASTED by his behavior…

  65. I thought it was an anger issue as well-trying to keep his temper under control. I really think that if he would have looked at him, it would be hard for him not to fly off the handle. Same with not shaking hands. I don’t think he would have been able to disguise his ill will, so chose not to have contact.
    I don’t think he’s one to be bothered with civility when pissed off.

  66. After the second debate: McCain waves Obama’s hand away and points to Cindy McCain… in other words, “I won’t shake your hand, you’ll have to settle for hers.”

    Can you imagine McCain to doing something so blatantly dismissive to Biden? Or to any other member of the Senate, for that matter?

  67. Would anybody “white” with such a dysfunctional family background and one racist or at least strongly seperatist father figure/mentor after the other have the slightest chance to run for any higher office in Washington?

    Obama will win and why not, but he is where he is, in part because he is not completely “white”.

    McCain may be racist, he may simply try to get votes, but who cares?
    You don·t have to like him or vote for him, have you?

  68. Zylonet,

    You’re an idiot, plain and simple. If a white woman like me was already thinking along the same lines as the ones so brilliantly and eloquently spelled out by Nojojojo, then I’m certain there are other whites out there who picked up on his coded behavior as well. Think it through, Zylonet: if a lot of the language being used by the McCain/Palin camp is coded for religious fundamentalists, why could some of the behavior and language not also be coded for those Americans who may be pretty uncomfortable with the idea of a black President? And, as we’ve been seeing in the past week, what was coded is now becoming more and more explicit in the horrifying cries of “Terrorist,” “Traitor,” and “Kill him!” heard at Republican rallies. It’s a pretty short journey from there to declaring that Obama needs to be lynched.

  69. I’m glad I came across this post – it’s accurate, succinct and truthful. You’re probably already aware of this Nojojo, but it looks like Chris has launched a ‘Wite-Magik Attack’ at you…(namely, ‘The Insatiable Martyr’)

    http://www.theunapologeticmexican.org/glosario.html#insanemartyr

    Anyway I think that context and underlying intent is everything. While on the surface there’s nothing inherently disrespectful in addressing Obama by the term ‘Senator’, the fact that McCain only addresses Obama in this way, yet addresses every other Senator he debates with in a natural, yet courteous fashion (he addresses them by their first name with direct eye contact, is willing to shake their hand and in short treats them as human equals) speaks volumes.

    I could speculate that he won’t use Obama’s first name because he has problems pronouncing the word ‘Barack’…but yeah.

    Even if you want to argue that there is *no* underlying racism, (and I’m not prepared to entirely rule it out) he CLEARLY differentiates Obama from all of these other politicians that he’s dealt with. And I don’t think that it is too stupid to wager a guess that this chilly differentiation isn’t coming from a place of respect.

    I completely agree with Nojojo about the body language and the racist historical context. I really don’t see how you can take factors like age, gender and race out of the equation. Obama has handled McCain with kid gloves because he is an old, WHITE, guy and walked on eggshells with Plain because she is an out-of-her-depth woman. Does anyone think that either McCain or Palin in turn, is somehow miraculously blind to his race, age or gender?

    radh:
    I’m assuming you’re being serious. If so, you should check out Bush’s seedy background (complete with ties to the Nazis no less) and the hi-jinks of HIS relatives (coke addiction, alcoholism, political corruption etc.) And he didn’t just run for president – he ‘won’ it twice.

    And if you haven’t heard about Palin’s less than ‘ideally upright-and-Christian’ family circumstances and her secessionist husband by now, well…But then again since you are asking the question…

    (I know she’s not running for president, but the fact that she’s even viable as a VP should answer your question.)

    And uh – do you think that Obama could cheat on his disabled wife and then go on to marry an heiress significantly younger than himself or his first wife, draw up the marriage papers before he’d divorced his first wife – and refer to his wife as a ‘cunt’ and STILL be viable for a presidency?

    D’ye think?

  70. An interesting video about McCain’s anger issues that is a must see…

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