SHORTER DAVID BRODER AND MAUREEN DOWD ON THE DEBATES:
(Sorry, there doesn't seem to be a clip of the original Julie Brown version.)
Given the past week, the debate should have been a cinch for Obama. But, just as in the primaries, he willfully refuses to accept what debates are about. It's not a lecture hall; it's a joust. It's not how cerebral you are. It's how visceral you are. You need memorable, sharp, forceful and witty lines.
When Obama took quiet umbrage at McCain's attack about troop-funding, he could have pounded the lectern and said with real anger....
Obama did a poor job of getting under McCain's skin.... Obama ran out of gas.
And here's Broder, taking the argument explicitly into the realm of the sexual and the sociobiological:
...It was a small thing, but I counted six times that Obama said that McCain was "absolutely right" about a point he had made. No McCain sentences began with a similar acknowledgment of his opponent's wisdom....
That suggests an imbalance in the deference quotient between the younger man and the veteran senator -- an impression reinforced by Obama's frequent glances in McCain's direction and McCain's studied indifference to his rival.
Whether viewers caught the verbal and body-language signs that Obama seemed to accept McCain as the alpha male on the stage in Mississippi, I do not know....
Well, of course Broder and Dowd see it this way -- for thirty years, Republicans have played this game of dominance (in every sense of the word) the way McCain did on Friday night, and by doing so they've persuaded the entire Beltway community, and the press corps more than most, that their posturing and chest-thumping is a sign that they've earned top-dog status.
The press still wholeheartedly believes this nonsense. The public, however, is losing patience with it -- the guy who's leading in the polls is Barack Obama, who's tough enough to be angry about the status quo (Bush, McCain) but steady enough to seem like the clearheaded guy who could get us out of the bar brawl the Republicans started and back out to safety, rather than getting us into more bar brawls, which is what McCain wants, and what would clearly give Dowd and Broder a thrill.
UPDATE: In comments, Aimai points out this critique of Broder's article by the primatologist Frans de Waal. Short version: McCain is a scared older alpha, and Obama's "a remarkably confident junior one." In chimp world, the former doesn't win.