Saturday, October 18, 2008


Watching John McCain's persistent invocations of Joe the Plumber, I find myself thinking about what Frans de Waal, the primatologist, wrote at the Huffington Post after the first debate, in response to David Broder's claim that McCain's debate performance seemed like that of an "alpha male":

...I read the body language between McCain and Obama as that between a senior male being challenged by a remarkably confident junior one....

If McCain was an alpha male, it was an incredibly insecure one....

De Waal went on to say that McCain's choice of a female of reproductive age as a running mate might have alienated other women, while also reducing McCain's chances of displaying the alpha-male behavior of bonding with other men.

I don't know how far I want to go in believing that the thoughts of humans can be reduced to schemas of this kind -- but doesn't it seem as if McCain is trying to suggest that his alliance with Joe makes him, by association, a young, virile, callus-fingered alpha male? He tried to use Palin as his anti-Obama and that didn't work, and now Joe is his anti-Obama -- a guy roughly the same age, but with dirt under his fingernails and an attitude.

More de Waal:

A self-confident alpha male just approaches his challenger and sets him straight, either by attacking him or performing a spectacular display of his own. No avoidance of eye contact: he takes the bull by the horns.

McCain can't seem to do that successfully. But he seems to think a surrogate can.

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