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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

McCain: Smug, Angry, Inept, and Gauche

Throughout the debate, two questions kept going through my mind:

(1) Why does McCain keep making that smug smiley face? You know the one. That superior, disdainful smirk that says I’m right and you’re wrong and everyone is going to laugh at my joke.


(2) Who is making that peculiar wheezing-sigh-snort noise?

These are just my initial thoughts and reactions after the debate.

I was a little worried when McCain seemed composed and sharp at the beginning of the debate. Tonight’s debate was his last chance to get out in front (barring some major unforeseen external event)… I was really crossing my fingers and hoping for at least a draw for Obama.

Wow, did McCain do us one better. He spent the entire hour and a half making that smug smirk, jutting his jaw, and getting angrier and angrier. I heard one of the pundits say it was an exercise in anger management for McCain, and I think that just about summed it up. This was a man who showed no social graces. When he was angry, he jutted his jaw and whispered loudly, and he was almost always angry. He was ill-mannered and impertinent and unfocused.

What in the world was he thinking when he showed his anger and resentment of the statement made by John Lewis this week?

John McCain, really? You want to go there? McCain, the man who actively opposed the creation of Martin Luther King Day — wants to go there? As if the minorities in this country were not already solidified behind Obama. Was McCain trying to buoy up even more support of minorities for Obama?

That line about being hurt about things yelled at Obama rallies — that may just be the single most insensitive statement I’ve ever heard. McCain wanted to compare the pain of a history of slavery, segregation, and other horrendous violence against a group of people based on nothing more than skin color… versus anger against McCain and Bush policies….really??? I felt like I must have missed something. Maybe my DVR had a glitch and skipped, and I just didn’t notice?

Obama handled the issue deftly by trying to move the discussion to real issues, but McCain, who should have wanted to move on (since this is a serious negative for him) actually interrupted Obama’s effort to move to a more positive topic to go negative yet again.

I was actually shocked at the stupidity of that moment. Let me just reiterate it here because that moment really stood out for me…

The question was asked about the negativity of McCain’s rallies, and Obama was magnanimously trying to move the subject back to real issues. Instead of accepting this gift of moving on, McCain interrupted Obama with a negative attack about ACORN and Ayers. It was as if he thought Obama was attacking him (well, you might think my rallies are bad, but you associate with terrorists and a vote fraud organization! Neener! Neener!) — it was a little stunning.

After that, it was ineffectual attack after ineffectual attack after ineffectual attack. There was the Ayers thing. And the tax thing. And the health care thing. And all of the other major lies that McCain has been telling day after day on the campaign trail. Obama knocked them all down one by one, and McCain made it easy because he kept saying, “What Obama wants to do is…” and then all Obama had to say was, “No, what I want to do is…”

I don’t know how many people noticed that sentence construction. I noticed it in the last couple of debates too.

Think about this for a second. If McCain had said, “What your plan does is….” rather than talking about Obama’s intentions, then Obama would have had a much more difficult time refuting the claims — after all, you can find an “expert” to say anything (right or wrong). Regardless of whether whose experts are right and whose experts are wrong, the debate would have boiled down to believability.

If McCain had talked about Obama’s specific plans rather than Obama’s intentions, then Obama could have talk about his intentions, but what the plan does, now that’s a different story. Even low info voters know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions… But McCain did not talk about Obama’s plans. McCain spoke about Obama’s intentions, which allowed Obama to easily refute every single one of McCain’s claims — after all, who is the expert on Obama’s intentions? Well, that would be Obama!

Some of the other lies were refuted easily as well. ACORN. Ayers. Tax policy. Obama made it clear that he cannot be tied to the ACORN scandal no matter how hard the Republicans wish it were so. Obama made it clear that he has no mandate or fine for small businesses on health care. Obama made it clear that the board on which he and Ayers sat was a bipartisan board filled with Republicans of very high stature.

Then there was the already infamous jaw-jutting line, “I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago,” which some of the pundits are already touting as the defining moment of the debate. I study social influence, and scientific studies have found that when people say, “I am not this…” or “I do not do this…” that people are likely to believe the opposite. In other words, making that statement may sound good, but it is likely to lead to people to believe that McCain is like Bush. Obviously, if McCain had to refute it, then there is something to it…

In other words, McCain’s most ‘defining’ moment (according to the pundits) is likely to make him seem more like Bush, not less so! And that was considered his best moment…

When Obama was asked about Palin, he hesitated and gave a very careful, thoughtful, and positive answer. McCain, on the other hand, went on the attack against Biden. But I don’t think this was successful either. First of all, why attack the vice presidential candidate at all, especially when the majority of Americans already see McCain as too negative, as attacking too much.

The attack itself, though, was ineffectual. Most Americans do not believe that the Iraq War has been handled well. In fact, most Americans think it’s the biggest clusterfuck of our generation. I’m not even getting into whether or not we should have gone to war in Iraq — I’m only talking about public opinion regarding the way the war itself was carried out in Iraq after we got there. Most people see it as a disaster. So why criticize one of the few people who had some different ideas? That just seemed like another random, desperate stab in the dark.

As someone who is against abortion, let me also say that Obama won points on the abortion issue as well. First of all, by now everyone knows Palin’s extreme views on abortion. No exceptions for anyone at any time. I will probably get a flogging for posting this on DailyKos, but I do believe that abortion is murder. I think it is wrong and heinous. But I also realize that the alternative is often even more heinous and wrong, and so do many others who are like me. Obama made it extremely clear that the extreme positions that the Republicans have tried to assign to him on abortion are simply lies. Lies. Obama is a moderate on this issue, and it is this middle position where most swing voters live. Many people want certain types of abortions outlawed, but very few people want all abortions outlawed. And certainly the American people by and large want — first and foremost — to start having policies that reduce the need for abortions.

McCain was also very rude throughout the debate. Not only did he interrupt Obama time after time after time, but he even interrupted the moderator. At one point, he interrupted the moderator while he was in the middle of asking Obama and McCain a question. Like a little kid who wants the teacher to know how smart he is by knowing the answer before the question is asked, McCain interrupted the moderator by shouting out what he believed the topic of the question would be, “climate change! climate change!” — or maybe he thought he thought it was a game show.

Did I mention the smug faces and the odd noises McCain kept making?

Another resounding loss for McCain.

I wonder if McCain still has that smug smirk on his face after hearing that the RNC is pulling out of Wisconsin and Maine…  


  1. spacemanspiff

    I’d love to put a face to your diary.


    This next pic will reach legendary status for years to come.

    McCain is fucking crazy

    It’s going viral…


  2. GrassrootsOrganizer

    who the voters want to keep hearing and seeing for the next four years.  Last night, McCain sharpened his image as your obnoxious Uncle Prick who thinks he’s right about everything, mocks anyone who disagrees with him and never quits with his war stories. Oh, Christ, Mom called and she wants us to invite Uncle Prick and Aunt Cindy for Thanksgiving again this year.    sigh.  There goes the holiday.  Let’s just hope he doesn’t get drunk and kick the dog in front of the kids again.

    I believe his worst moment was putting “health” in finger quotes when referencing “health of the mother”.  Three exceptions have stood sacrosanct throughout forty years of abortion debate — rape, incest and health of the mother.  the McCain/Palin ticket has not just established themselves as pro-life, they’ve gone one further to pro-life extremist.

    McCain should have been talking to independents and moderates last night.  Instead he gave what amounted to a series of short stump speeches to the hard right.  In doing so, he blew his last chance at his own salvation.

  3. NavyBlueWife

    Thoughtfully put.  I really appreciate your comments on abortion.  Without getting into any long debate, you have touched on what I hope will continue to turn this topic for long term because I nearly pulled my hair out when the question was asked…

    And certainly the American people by and large want — first and foremost — to start having policies that reduce the need for abortions.

    The debate has entrenched a lot of people and not many are willing to move sides at this point, so let’s talk about real solutions to something that all of us are NOT, pro abortion.

    McCain looked vile.  Just think about him in negotiations with other countries.  I suppose we should be thankful that he has no use for diplomacy because he would suck ass at it anyway.

  4. fogiv

    You’ve summed it up nicely here.  This really struck me:

    I study social influence, and scientific studies have found that when people say, “I am not this…” or “I do not do this…” that people are likely to believe the opposite.

    Ask most people what they remember about Nixon.

    I am not a crook.


    Was that McCain making those noises?  I was watching it on MSNBC where they did tight shots of each candidate (for the most part) when they were talking.  I kept hearing those hideous noises but couldn’t see who was making them.  I thought maybe it was someone in the MSNBC studio who didn’t realize they had an open mike.  Was it McCain doing it?  I was getting a little nauseous from them.

    The other thing was during the first 20 or 30 minutes, I watched McCain building up pressure like a volcano about to erupt.  My thoughts were if one of Obama’s goals was to show McCain’s temper, he has succeeded.  I cheered a little.

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