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 Monday, September 29, 2008

Dissing Barack Obama made old John McCain look mean


Peter Gelzinis

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If John McCain couldn’t bring himself to look at Barack Obama once during their 90-minute debate Friday night, how do you suppose he’d act as president when a foreign leader got under his skin?

It’s a scary thought.

To say his demeanor at the podium was brittle is an understatement. Like that embittered old captain in “The Caine Mutiny,” John McCain’s stilted effort to look everywhere but at Obama bordered on Queeg-like.

I couldn’t help but wonder if McCain’s mean mien had something to do with the fact that he probably didn’t want to be in Mississippi at all.

Was he pissed at Obama for not immediately rolling over when he pulled the grandstand move of announcing “I will suspend my campaign” to go and solve the fiscal meltdown?

Turns out his fellow Republicans in Washington weren’t holding their breath waiting for the old soldier to come in off the campaign trail.

In the end, McCain had no choice but to do yet another about-face (about the third in the last 10 days) and go to Ole Miss.

Friday night’s encounter did not contain any “Gotcha” moments or clever rejoinders that would last beyond the weekend. More important, it didn’t leave us with the glaring impression that one man was somehow less “presidential” than the other.

Debating foreign policy was supposed to showcase John McCain’s years of experience as a senator and statesman, to say nothing of blowing Obama off the stage. That didn’t happen.

If anything, Barack Obama seemed a lot more comfortable in his own skin and with his own views about our role in the world than his more seasoned colleague.

Like an old man snuggling into his favorite rocking chair, McCain returned time and time again to “The Surge” along with those pork-barrel spending projects better known as “earmarks.”

John McCain leaned on “The Surge” as if it were some miracle detergent that has managed lift all the bloodshed and IEDs out of Iraq.

Obama called it for it was: a fourth-down pass designed to offset the strategic blunders and thousands of lives lost during the first three years of that misguided effort.

He went on to add that the $10 billion per month we are pouring into Iraq has only managed to suck the oxygen out of our primary quest to hunt down the 9/11 terrorists in Afghanistan.

It is both sad and comical to hear John McCain rail against those “Washington fat cats and good ol’ boys with their earmarks,” when all those pork-barrel projects taken together add up to less than .2 percent of the potential $11 trillion debt that now engulfs us.

Interestingly enough, it was the younger, more callow U.S. senator, the challenger of mixed race with the funny name, who dared to look his more experienced opponent straight in the eye with a respectful smile on his face.

Had he chosen to, Obama could have played it cute and reminded McCain that his running mate with the $400 designer eyeglasses could certainly enlighten him on the subject of grabbing more than her share of pork-barrel projects for Alaska. But he did not do that. After all, it was all Sarah could do to keep from folding under questioning from Katie Couric.

It might be useful for one of those lobbyists running John McCain’s campaign to remind him that Barack Obama is his opponent, not his jailer.

Refusing to extend the simple courtesy of eye contact only makes this 72-year-old man look than much older . . . and angrier.

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