Presidential Debate 10/07/08
The best part of last night's debate came when John McCain sought to assure Americans about atomic energy, saying, "Look, I was on navy ships that had nuclear power plants. Nuclear power is safe," and immediately started glowing a violent green and yelling "Rarrrrrrgh!" before grabbing Tom Brokaw with one mangled paw and eating him whole. Kidding! But, man, that would have been great, right? Because, otherwise? Total snoozer. Still, one of the most discussed moments was the bit above, where McCain referred to Barack Obama as "that one."
What he actually meant by those words is a subject that will no doubt burn up the blogosphere all day, with the left suggesting that it exposed McCain's subtle racism while the right complains about the P.C. police and how sensitive the Obama campaign is, etc. Either way, one doubts McCain wants the focus of the post-debate conversation to be about whether or not he's a racist, although given the state of the economy it might be one of the few topics which actually does less damage to the Republican's dwindling chances. Still, there are a number of reasons, either psychological or tactical, for McCain to have used that specific elocution. In the interests of better understanding what happened, here's some informed speculation as to why McCain called Obama "that one":
• He forgot Obama's name.
• He didn't want to say Obama's name out of fear that he might make the "Osama" slip-up.
• He did want to say Obama's name so that he could explicitly make the "Osama" slip-up, but forgot Obama's name.
• He didn't want to say Obama's name because he has no respect for Obama and doesn't believe they belong on the same stage.
• He didn't want to say Obama's name because he's infuriated with Obama for not bending over and taking it like previous Democratic nominees.
• He was so busy channeling Ross Perot that he decided he might as well do an homage to the diminutive Texan's "you people" moment.
• "That one" focus tested better than "the colored boy over there."
• Old people have a harder time identifying discrete shapes and forms; McCain wanted to make clear that he was talking about Obama and not the bunting in the background.
• McCain has come to realize that his incredibly dishonest campaign, with its desperate use of fear mongering and racial animus, will go down in history as one of the ugliest attempts to win the presidency at the expense of honesty, comity, and basic human decency, and, worst of all, it won't even be successful. This man, who spent five years under the most brutal conditions imaginable, has forever tarnished his legacy and when people one hundred years from now look back at the election of 2008 all they'll remember him for is failed gimmicks, coded bigotry, and the disturbing way in which he doddered about the stage. His guilt—not only at destroying his own reputation, but at the low and poisonous way in which he's tried to destroy Obama's—is so overwhelming that McCain can barely shake Obama's hand, meet his eye, or say his name.
• They all look alike.
Obama That One