John McCain's temperament has been a side-bar issue for some time now, as people wonder if he would take us to war unnecessarily ("bomb bomb Iran"). Speaking of his own temperament, McCain claims he is they guy who works across party lines. He promises to end the gridlock in Washington and get things done.
Well, if he really wants to work with the Democrats in Congress, he might start by showing some respect for the Democrats' nominee for president, Senator Barack Obama. He might start by actually looking at Barack Obama while he is debating him.
I don't know if it's that John McCain's team has told him "Don't get angry" but forgot to say "Remember to treat Senator Obama with respect." or that - as reported in today's NY Times...
Theirs was a generational collision, and at times it looked almost like a dramatic rendition of Freudian family tension: an older patriarch frustrated and even cranky when challenged by a would-be successor to the family business who thinks he can run it better.
Whatever the reason, John McCain's refusal to even look at Barack Obama during the debate calls into question the entire concept of a President John McCain governing a country of new people with new ideas.
John McCain's behavior... his lack of emotional maturity... his unwillingness (inability?) to respect Barack Obama, who - in addition to being the Democratic nominee and full of new ideas - is also an historic figure for being the first African American with a serious chance of being elected president... says to me that John McCain will work with other people only if they already belong to that part of our culture that he feels deserves his respect.
John McCain's lack of emotional maturity says to me that a President McCain will surround himself with people he is comfortable with, not the younger generation with the fresh thinking our country needs. It says to me that the subtext of a McCain presidency will be holding back the future.... the future that is struggling to be born... the future I have written here is the macro cultural issue of our time: the need to leave the era of cultural wars behind... the need to give up our addiction to fighting all the time for a new era of collaboration and cooperation.
Can you really see John McCain welcoming all the young, innovative energy of our country into the White House? Can you see John McCain - who cannot even look Barack Obama in the eye - welcoming Barack as a true, post-election partner in building a truly great 21st Century America?
I'm sad to say that I cannot. Not after last night's performance.
Last night crystallized for me that this election truly is about the future replacing the past. The only change a McCain presidency represents is a name change. The product, I'm sorry to say, will in all likelyhood be the same. The culture wars will continue. The left side of American will continue to be pitted against the right. We will continue to move away from the vision of a truly United States of America that I know Barack Obama has in his heart.
This is the most critical lesson I took away from last night's debate.
Mr. Obama was not particularly warm or amusing; at times he was stiff and almost pedantic. But all he had to do was look presidential, and that was not such a stretch. Mr. McCain had the harder task of persuading leery voters that he can lead the future because he is so much part of the past.
He tried to remind viewers of his greater experience and heroic combat career, while also casting himself as a maverick outsider ready to storm the barricades. Mr. McCain wanted to be the true revolutionary in the room, but his is the Reagan revolution, and for a lot of people right now, it doesn't look like morning in America.
The "Reagan revolution" indeed. American doesn't need to go back to the 1980's. American needs to go forward into the 21st Century. And John McCain does not have what it will take to lead us there.