It seems that one of the most interesting parts of the debate last night, for many people, was McCain’s use of the the term “that one” to refer to his opponent. People have indicated that it was rude, dismissive, or even racist. First, I should note that I am willing to give McCain the benefit of the doubt. Some of suggested that he had memorized a “this senator… that one…” speech, and just forgot the first part of it. In any case, it seems that for those who watched the debate (I listened to it on the radio), the body language made what might otherwise be seen as a simple misstatement worse.
I don’t think people–and particularly those in the McCain campaign–realize what McCain’s disdain for his opponent communicates to the American people. I can fully understand why there might be antipathy between the two. McCain probably feels more deserving of the office because of his record in politics. (Though I have to admit, I don’t get the “my turn” idea–any more with McCain than I did with Clinton.) And the two have been throwing some jabs at one another in their advertising. But when McCain chooses to disrespect his fellow senator, by extension he is disrespecting the more than half of Americans who are supporting Obama right now, as well as quite a few of those who are “leaning” toward Obama. You can say you can cross the aisle, but when you give a cold shoulder to the person you are competing against, it belies this position.
Perhaps this boils down to the question of whether you are willing to meet with your enemy. I don’t know that these men see each other in those stark roles, but I do know that I trust Obama to get things done with those who do not agree with him, and I don’t see much evidence of that in McCain.