The Election Day that would never arrive is finally here, so now's the time to clear a couple lingering thoughts out of the old mental queue.
Josh Marshall and Andrew Sullivan both devoted a fair amount of thought to John McCain's palpable anger in the closing months of the campaign and its relation to the way in which Obama, in their view, established himself as the alpha male in their appearances together.
I have some thoughts of my own on McCain's emotional volcano and how it relates to that embarrassing moment at the end of the third debate when McCain was captured in the above facial contortion after heading the wrong way off the dais.
It's hard to tell for sure, given that we base our opinions on politicians based on just a few, mostly scripted moments of their lives, but the evidence seems to indicate McCain does possess a fair measure of contempt for Obama. (The Robert Draper article in the New York Times Magazine was the latest piece to touch on the issue.)
But when they were on the stage together, it was Obama who was in control, who smoothly parried most of McCain's attacks, who didn't act at all like the unprepared naif McCain made him out to be. He was taller, younger, healthier, more attractive. He was poised and eloquent. He possessed a better command of the issues.
And so McCain couldn't help but frequently vent his frustration. And tied up in this frustration is the issue of mortality. John Hodgman, interestingly enough, is the only person I can recall, while reading online, who brought up the idea that McCain knows at some level that his long-harbored dream of becoming president is on the verge of dying forever, that he's gone as high as he'll go in life.
Moreover (shifting now into amateur anthropology mode), the struggle in the wild for alpha male status is the very essence of survival. If you lose, you don't mate and reproduce. Your genetic line dies. So any talk of two political combatants vying to be the alpha male is really about a figurative fight to the death.
And even if McCain envisioned, as political enemies surely sometimes do, an actual physical confrontation with Obama, he certainly knew deep down that Obama would easily subdue and humiliate him. Add it up, and you have the very picture of impotent rage.
So following the third debate, McCain's final face-to-face confrontation with his opponent, he stands up and heads to one side of the desk, only to realize he'd be better off going around the other way. The resulting facial expression, tongue out and arms thrust forward, demonstrates how thoroughly emasculated he was at that moment. He was so rattled, so lacking in self-control, that he made an exaggerated show of obeisance, rolling over and exposing his belly, to moderator Bob Schieffer.
Most of us have been in McCain's shoes at some point or another. You make a mistake in a social setting and, because you're feeling uncomfortable or insecure, for whatever reason, you overreact, rather than brush it off, and as a result call far more attention to yourself than you would have otherwise.
To be fair, there are also occasions when people who are fully self-possessed and confident make fun of themselves, but this wasn't one of them. This was more of the Steve Carrell in "The Office" variety.
Palin on SNL
I wrote a couple weeks ago that SNL shouldn't have Palin on the show and give her the opportunity to humanize herself. This is a subject ripe for philosophical discussion, but in my view satire isn't about being fair.
Nonetheless, Lorne Michaels saw the dollar signs and had her on. Tina Fey agreed to participate. But she and head writer Seth Meyers and who knows who else, maybe Michaels himself, apparently laid down some ground rules regarding Palin's appearance, the effect being that she basically sat there while they made fun of her, without having the opportunity to really fire back at her tormenters.
The net effect for Palin probably ranged from zero to marginally positive, since the public always gives people credit for being able to take a joke, but I think the McCain campaign should have pulled her out once they learned what the skits were going to be. Team McCain hasn't shied away from whining and playing the victim this campaign, but perhaps they were worried they would be perceived as wimps if they did cancel the appearance.