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McCain losing on likability, Obama gaining; and some added thoughts on the psychology of John McCain

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October 1, 2008

Updated, twice: I’ve rethought my opinion on who won the debate. I think Obama won because John McCain came across as obnoxious to many viewers. Obama remained calm and collected while McCain at the podium presented a version of road rage. Who would you want to inadvertently cut off on the interstate?

During the debate McCain wouldn’t look at Obama, and when questioned about it explained it away with an excuse which was a verbal shrug that few could believe.

Good sense would dictate that even if you feel disdain for a debate opponent you endeavor not to show it. McCain must feel so angry at Obama that this has to be counted as a major non-verbal gaff showing a decidedly unpleasant side of his personality.

McCain even spoke for his running mate even though she was sitting right next to him. This was his attempt to explain away the remark she made about Pakistan. Even Katie Couric couldn’t get him to let the woman he choose as his ticket partner speak for herself until he was good and ready. Call it macho, unchivalrous or overbearing, he certainly didn’t come across as a pleasant person. (Here’s the transcript.)

I’ve even revised my opinion that a hidden from the polling racist vote could swing things for McCain.

I think there are some prejudiced people who would rather have Oprah or Bill Cosby as a house guest than Don Rickles. And let’s face it, whoever becomes president will be in our homes on television for the next four years.

The emerging persona of McCain as the nasty and insulting house guest isn’t merely a function of his television appearances. It is also the result of his calling for bipartisanship while blaming Obama for the financial crisis, and running ever more negative advertisements.

There, a short column prior to the debate of the century, and I wrote it without mentioning the actual name of the Josephine six pack of the tundra.

Update

I was a POW too and you better not forget it… Various segments of McCain’s interview the the editorial board of the Des Moines Register editorial board is getting a lot of play. It shows how he defends his lies and his bristly personality. Two parts struck me. One is how he again managed to bring up his POW experience:

He also sarcastically referred to his five years as a prisoner of war when answering a question about his having government-financed health care throughout his military and congressional career. "The answer is that most of my life, in serving my country, I have had health care," he said. "I did go for a period of time when the health care wasn’t very good." AP article

The other his is rather foolish jab at Joe Biden for the mistake about FDR being president during the Great Depression and his addressing the nation on television. * This garbling of 20th century history might make a decent way to ridicule a political opponent if you didn’t have your own much more significant misstatements about 21st century history. Maybe he thinks he can make up for well publicized mistakes like his conflating Shiite Iran and Sunni Al Qaeda, and needed a whispered correction by Joe Lieberman; and just a few days ago his saying Pakistan was a failed state. By mocking Biden this way he gives the Obama/Biden campaign an excuse to remind the public about his own more significant historical and current events gaffes. Watch the entire hour long interview here. * I don’t know what Biden was thinking. FDR’s Fireside Chats are famous and I have no doubt Biden knows they were given over the radio and the Depression began under Hoover. FDR gave 30 of them starting in 1933 when he reassured the country that it would bounce back from the Depression, and ending when Biden was two years old (1944). Biden must remember learning about them in history class and he probably saw movies of him delivering them on television.

Update 2: Some thoughts on the psychology of John McCain
Why did he do it? Republican consultant Mike Murphy questions why McCain even gave the interview in the first place. (See Time essay.) He writes:

What the Hell was McCain even doing there in the first place? 1.) Obama is going to win Iowa. 2.) Editorial board meetings are usually pure trouble to begin with and result only in newspaper endorsements that persuade very few voters beyond the immediate family members of the editorial board. 3.) Within the rarified category of newspaper editorial boards, the Des Moines Register is one of the most liberal in the country. I’m rather surprised that halfway through the McCain interview they failed to switch over to Esperanto, the peace-loving language of all nations.

I think McCain was simply itching for a fight. He doesn’t like the constraints of keeping is impulse to attack in check in other venues like the debate with Obama and major network interviews. The definitive psychological profile of John McCain hasn’t been written. However we know,if only from movies like "Top Gun", that fighter and fighter-bomber pilots fit a certain profile. After all they aren’t called "fighter jocks" for nothing. McCain had some tragic experiences even before he was shot down, and then of course we all know how his combat flying came to an end.

McCain the fighter used to flying a machine with two deadly machine guns and killer bombs he could unleash with a touch of his finger spent five years unable to do anything but survive.

Now, after years of public service, he feels poised to achieve the ultimate goal.

However, sensing defeat in the election, as he did when shot down by a faceless enemy firing a rocket, to mix metaphors, he behaves like a hard punching bully defeated by the swift unseen smooth move of a judo black belt.

He wants a taste of victory. So he goes – okay I’ll say flies – into another enemy’s territory and, frustrated warrior that he is, he lets loose with a fusillade from his 20 mm Colt Mk 12 cannons. (Image of Skyhawk fighter bombers like McCain flew, over the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964. Public domain.) Unfortunately for him, he still doesn’t get the Internet tubes. Instead of a therapeutic catharsis, his demeanor ends up on display and commented on everywhere from Capitol Hill Blue to all the major newspapers and the network News.


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13 Responses to McCain losing on likability, Obama gaining; and some added thoughts on the psychology of John McCain

  1. Lillibet

    October 2, 2008 at 9:44 am

    “This would be a whole lot easier if this were a dictatorship–so long as I’m the Dictator”. George Bush, first term.

    When Mr. Bush uttered those words, he appeared to be kidding, or at least that he might be kidding.

    I watched the McCain interview. There were no “tells” that could assure me that Mr. McCain was kidding. Not kidding at all. No sign of the “joke” in there whatsoever.

    This of course caused me, without any kidding thoughts im my mind, to think, “The Constitution is well and truly dead if these thoughts can be said by those seeking the Presidency.”

    On the other hand, we are only being forced to ask whether life under Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, or any of the other dictators the world has known and hated, all that bad.

    Think about it.

    The alternative of Jeffersonian democracy, with Jeffersonian control of the monetary system totally under Congressional authority, without a private central bank, looks much better now, doesn’t it?

    And I’m not kidding on that last part. Also, if asked to speak to you, or anyone, I can and will make real eye contact. It is only courteous. And a reflection of my innate honesty, and that is true only because I cannot possibly remember all that I must in order to lie convincingly.

    Lillibet

  2. pollchecker

    October 2, 2008 at 10:08 am

    There were no “tells” that could assure me that Mr. McCain was kidding. Not kidding at all. No sign of the “joke” in there whatsoever.

    I agree. He didn’t look like or act like he was kidding to me.

    At least with a Sitcom like SNL or Dick Van Dyke we KNOW it’s comedy. McCain didn’t look like he was kidding or making a joke. I’ve seen him on the Daily show as well as others and know how he acts when he is attempting to be funny. There was nothing in those comments that would indicate humor.

    And what’s with the eye? He looks and acts like someone who had a stroke to me…even though it may have been a little one. Yesterday, he fumbled around after a speech and couldn’t even find his way off the stage. Perhaps this is why he won’t release his medical records. They contain too much information on both his physical and psychological state.

    Which is just another reason why having Sarah Palin for VP is dangerous. She actually said that someone who was raped by her father and ended up pregnant should have the baby. Add that to charging women for their rape kits….she is disgraceful to women everywhere. And yet McCain keeps on defending her.

    He is so much like Bush in that he is always right even when caught in a lie.

  3. old_curmudgeon

    October 2, 2008 at 11:05 am

    The really scary aspect is that there are reportedly 45% of the voting public who will vote for him. Which when you look at the current flock of congresscritters should not surprise anyone. I guess that is the advantage of creating and keeping an generally ignorant voting public.

    But, that’s just his old curmudgeon’s opinion.

  4. sherry

    October 3, 2008 at 12:28 am

    Hal, I liked your first article better. :)

  5. Ladywolf55

    October 1, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    LOL, Hal. Good mea culpa. Nice to know you’re finally seeing what a fair amount of us saw that night. McCain isn’t fit to shine your shoes, if the truth be known. No more than the President is.

  6. mad01

    October 1, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Inner peace is a wonderful thing.

    Y’all remember that McCain grew up on a plantation in Mississippi. His southern accent is beginning to show with other southern traits.

  7. erika morgan

    October 1, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    What I saw in McCain’s lack of eye contact, was a posture of untruthfulness that I recognize from my children. His comments seemed to be heavily peppered with GOP partisan rhetoric which he seems to resort to when thinking is too difficult.

    It is somewhat difficult to understand the halting language of Obama; but I think that it is his way of keeping the “Black Jargon” from his polite talk, and a talent that he learned at Princeton or before. Obama comes across to me as a thinker who knows how to hold back. I just hope he will know when to wear the mantel of power and speak up, maybe he could learn from Joe Biden.

  8. pollchecker

    October 1, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Hal — it’s hard to like someone who perpetually lies and lies and lies.

  9. Hal Brown

    October 1, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    BTW – I was a POW too and you better not forget it…

    Various segments of McCain’s interview the the editorial board of the Des Moines Register editorial board is getting a lot of play. It shows how he defends his lies and his bristly personality.

    Two parts struck me. One is how he again managed to bring up his POW experience:

    He also sarcastically referred to his five years as a prisoner of war when answering a question about his having government-financed health care throughout his military and congressional career.

    “The answer is that most of my life, in serving my country, I have had health care,” he said. “I did go for a period of time when the health care wasn’t very good.” AP article

    The other his is rather foolish jab at Joe Biden for the mistake about FDR being president during the Great Depression and his addressing the nation on television. *

    This garbling of 20th century history might make a decent way to ridicule a political opponent if you didn’t have your own much more significant misstatements about 21st century history. Maybe he thinks he can make up for well publicized mistakes like his conflating Shiite Iran and Sunni Al Qaeda, and needed a whispered correction by Joe Lieberman; and just a few days ago his saying Pakistan was a failed state.

    By mocking Biden this way he gives the Obama/Biden campaign an excuse to remind the public about his own more significant historical and current events gaffes.

    Watch the entire hour long interview here.

    * I don’t know what Biden was thinking. FDR’s Fireside Chats are famous and I have no doubt Biden knows they were given over the radio and the Depression began under Hoover. FDR gave 30 of them starting in 1933 when he reassured the country that it would bounce back from the Depression, and ending when Biden was two years old (1944). Biden must remember learning about them in history class and he probably saw movies of him delivering them on television.

  10. Hal Brown

    October 1, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Why did he do it?

    Republican consultant Mike Murphy questions why McCain even gave the interview in the first place. (See Time essay.)

    He writes:

    What the Hell was McCain even doing there in the first place?

    1.) Obama is going to win Iowa.

    2.) Editorial board meetings are usually pure trouble to begin with and result only in newspaper endorsements that persuade very few voters beyond the immediate family members of the editorial board.

    3.) Within the rarified category of newspaper editorial boards, the Des Moines Register is one of the most liberal in the country. I’m rather surprised that halfway through the McCain interview they failed to switch over to Esperanto, the peace-loving language of all nations.

    I think McCain was simply itching for a fight. He doesn’t like the constraints of keeping is impulse to attack in check in other venues like the debate with Obama and major network interviews.

    So instead he goes – I’m tempted to say flies – into enemy territory and, frustrated warrior that he is, lets loose.

    He still doesn’t get the Internet tubes. Instead of a therapeutic catharsis, his demeanor ends up on display and commented on everywhere from Capitol Hill Blue to all the major newspapers and the network News.

  11. pollchecker

    October 1, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Hal, The Nation had an excellent article today on McCain losing his temper.

    McCain Loses His Temper

    John McCain is notorious in the Senate for his prolific displays of anger. “The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine,” Mississippi Republican Senator Thad Cochran said in January. “He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.”

    Two things to note:

    1)This was a REPUBLICAN SENATOR from a Southern Conservative Red State. (personally I could never figure out why Mississippi kept electing people like Lott until I did a audit of how my state has voted in every major election since 1992 and then it became clear).
    2)This conservative is worried about hot-headed John McCain’s temper. That truly is a scary thought.

    So here’s something to think about. Russia is actively involved with countries like Iran and Venezuela. Russia has been engaged in a conflict with Georgia. Putin is obviously not impressed with US politics right now….at least with either the current lame duck administration and/or those that support and/or enable them like John McCain.

    Russia also recently conducted Military exercises with Venezuela in the Caribbean Ocean. They haven’t done something like that since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    So what if Russia decides to help Chavez enrich Uranium? Do we really want hot headed John McCain as Commander in Chief under these circumstances? Can you imagine what would have happened if we had someone like McCain in contol of our military and our Nukes during the Cuban Missile Crisis? This Venezuela thing is tantamount to the same situation.

    And what about Iran? If President McCain decides to bomb Iran, what do you think is going to be Russia’s response? Russia is an ally of Iran.

    This is scary stuff as I pointed out in yesterday’s blog and something EVERYONE should be seriously concerned about BEFORE they run off and vote for McCain.

    I think the debate showed how each man would deal with someone like Putin. It showed how they would deal with a leader who differed from their own personal thinking. THIS IS IMPORTANT!

    Also, how could any world leader EVER believe anything that came out of John McCain’s mouth after the lie after lie after lie that he has made during this election? There is absolutely no reason to believe that he would not do the same thing to other leaders just to further his own ambitions and beliefs.

    Even the staunch conservatives like the Senator quoted above and Senator Hagel as well as other people like George Will are concerned enough to speak out. You gotta give them credit for putting their concerns for the country first before their politics.

    John McCain has proven that his only concern is his selfish, self-centered lust for power. If we let this happen, I really believe we will see World War 3 in our lifetime.

  12. pollchecker

    October 2, 2008 at 12:26 am

    Fruedian slip?

    Hal, you are the psychotherapist. When he called himself a dictator was it true or false?

    The Des Moines clips are priceless….especially the ones about health care.

    What is the psychiatric term for someone who lies and yet affirms that they are being truthful? Isn’t that psychotic behavior?

    Wathcing these clips on Olbermann tonight he certainly appears delusional to me. It is getting scarier and scarier.

  13. Hal Brown

    October 2, 2008 at 8:51 am

    What someone finds funny, thinks is a “joke” tell a great deal about their personality. Some people laugh at pratfall humor – classics like Dick Van Dyke’s tripping over the furniture all the time. I never even smiled but it became a repeated trademark of his show.

    What if a domineering person jokes about wanting to be a dictator and finds that amusing, and thinks you will too?

    So what… unless that person may end up president.

    McCain has no signs of psychosis. He may have lingering PTSD, which is an anxiety disorder, or unresolved psychological conflicts from his POW experiences.

    He also may have characteristics of one or more personality disorder. You may recall I suggested George W. Bush had many symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder (Bush’s hero complex , and Loving or hating Bush, the binary man.

    People with the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder must have a certain number of various characteristics. However one may have some of them without having the diagnosis.

    You be the judge of whether McCain has some of these.