Saturday, September 27, 2008

First McCain-Obama Debate

I had intended to say nothing about the debate, figuring whoever read this blog had seen it and made up their minds, but then I became intrrigued by the disconnect between the pundits and the people, as represented in the instamatic polls--not enough to write anything, mind you, just intrigued. The polls lined up pretty decisively for the Obama, for instance, while with the exception of the ever sane and insightful Gail Collins at The New York Times, most of the pundits were droning on about advantage McCain, although as the day wears on that might be changing. The worst of that lot proves to be the putative 'dean' of Washington political columnists, who calls McCain the "alpha male" on the stage, proclaiming that the Obama's deference was manifest in his several statements of agreement with McCain and his looking at McCain. Meanwhile, McCain's "alpha" status was manifest in his refusal to look the Obama in the eye and barely to call him by name, in his disdainful dismissive tone, and in his diatribe on the 'surge.'

I suppose that it is good that Broder is no wolf, because he doesn't know the lingo--and I'm talking here the mythic "alpha." Subservient wolves refuse to look the "alpha" male or female in the eye; rather, they avert their gaze, for fear that if they lock eyes, the "alpha" will slap them down. That sounds like people, does it not--avert you eyes before the great man! The Obama used a rhetorical device known to all good teachers of praising what is good in a statement or paper before commenting more fully. That sort of "deference" is known to wolves too and it is the opposite of subservience. Broder does not note that the Obama repeatedly called McCain, John, hardly a sign of deference. Moreover, the moderator Jim Lerher was begging them to engage and the Obama was attempting to do so. McCain was afraid to face the Obama or debate real substance becausee he has none.

I suppose Broder was basing his "alpha" argument on the myth that as ruler of the house, you need to exercise alphahood over your dog by rolling it on its back staring at it so that it averts its eyes, as all subservient creatures do. Or the shibboleth that you should never let your dog stare you in the eyes because that will embolden it to challenge your alphahood. In any event the notion is that McCain put Obama in his place.

Bunk, as I said, the "slpha"male on the stage, if you must, was the Obama. He was gracious in the face of rudeness. He stood his ground. He commanded himself and exuded calm, as he always does, and power---I always get the impression of remarkable power lurking just under the surface of the Obama. He keeps it controlled, the way he keeps the crowds he draws from becoming too exuberant. He exercised it when he summoned McCain to Oxford. He was tall, fit, commanding. McCain was small and shrinking, a shrill whiner, a fear biter. Or see what James Fallows has to say in the

As to the "surge"--if it worked so well, why the pause in the draw down? If we are victorious, why are we still there,. The answer is that the surge is a pr success for Petraeus and its backers in the U.S. Baghdad had been ethnically cleansed before the troop buildup of the surge began, meaning violence there was already reduced. The same goes for provinces where the Sunni Awakening was present. Maqtada al-Sadr's decision to keep his Mehdi Army out of combat despite considerable provocation was crucial to the surge's "success"; indeed, a good argument can be made that Maqtada made the "surge" a "success".

Far from the re-emergence of John McCail, we are seeing thee dissolution of John McCain, the myth.

More significantly, I hope, we are seeing the Obama near that final bar in his improbable quest, gaining power and confidence as he goes.

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