Thursday, October 16, 2008


David Brooks, appearing last night as one of Charlie Rose's post-debate panelists, seemed mystified:

I say, as someone who's watched him [John McCain] lo these many years, when I think of him at his happy times, he's leaning back, he's joking around -- and a lot of the other panelists have seen him in this -- and the guy you see in this debate, sort of hyper-wound-up, leaning forward, with that serious expression, that's not the guy. And maybe he just could never translate the personal McCain into that, that guy, the hyper-wound-up guy we saw tonight. I think that guy's the good -- guy is still leading-- in there....

David, may I clear the mystery up for you?

When you saw John McCain joking around and leaning back and relaxed, he was in a room where everyone liked him. It was just you, or you and some other friendly reporters (until recently, in reference to McCain, "friendly reporters" was a redundancy), or friendly reporters plus some staffers and sycophants. Maybe you saw him at a town hall meeting where, at most, a handful of the attendees were skeptics. But I bet you never saw him in the presence of a large number of people he hadn't thoroughly won over -- until the past few months.

Of course, you have a problem understanding this kind of personality. In 2000 you told us George W. Bush was a nice guy, because he seemed agreeable in a state where most of the people he had to work with were either Republicans or conservative Democrats. When he actually had to deal with a significant number of people who didn't share his ideological leanings, you learned something about his character that you could have figured out a lot sooner -- namely that he's angry, mean-spirited, and infantile.

And that's what you should be grasping about McCain right now.

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