John McCain’s only chance last night was to get Barack to lose his temper. But as Patrick Healy points out, it was McCain who lost his cool.
Maybe it was one tsk-tsk too much, but at Wednesday night’s debate, something seemed to snap inside Senator McCain after listening to Senator Obama’s cool, high-minded lecture about inappropriate conduct at Republican rallies.
“What is important is making sure that we disagree without being disagreeable,” the 47-year-old freshman Democrat told the 72-year-old four-term Republican. “What we can’t do, I think, is try to characterize each other as bad people.”
Mr. McCain, who had appeared composed and confident up to that point, responded by veering into heated denouncements of Mr. Obama’s loose ties to Bill Ayers, the former Weather Underground leader, and the community organizing group Acorn, which has been accused of voter fraud. Mr. McCain did not explain what Acorn was, probably confusing many viewers, and he never regained control of the debate.
The fact that McCain can’t rile up Obama is driving the Conservatives batty. Kathryn Lopez of the National Review writes a post entitled “Bizzarro Election World” which quotes a frustrated reader, “Obama is calm and collected and that seems to be all that matters.” My friend, the great writer Peter Kaminsky
, wrote me today his notion of why Barack is connecting.
Do you know Hegel’s concept of The World Historical Person? It’s someone who by nature or temperment naturally captures the spirit of the times. Bob Dylan was able to write the songs that he did when he did (I’m talking 62ish-66) because all he had to do was put pen to paper and it flowed out of him. The words were, to borrow a phrase, “blowin in the wind.” In that regard it has struck me for some time that one of the reasons Barack looks so calm and assured–kind of the political version of Joe Dimaggio’s powerful easy swing– is that he has the wind blowing through him. In some way–fortunate for us all–he seems to be able to feel what the spirit of our time is. He never looks like he is holding a focus group with History before he speaks. Although he has deep intelligence and broad knowledge I think his great asset at this moment is that he intuitively understands where we are all at and it leaps off the screen.