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The Final Debate: Where Obama Came Up Short

Democratic nominee Barack Obama did more than hold his own on the issues in tonight's debate; he even excelled in some exchanges on the economy, taxes, energy, education and the selection of a vice presidential running mate.

But that is not what this post is about.

Obama came up short in one crucial area: He needed to stand out by standing up to his Republican challenger, John McCain... and he didn't. He allowed John McCain to disrespect him, and though that passivity may not lose Obama the election, it likely won't go down well with the younger set.

Chalk Obama's performance up to his stoicism, his coolness, his refusal -- or is it an inability? -- to show anger and disgust, both of which, by the way, came easily to McCain, who snorted his way through the debate when he wasn't speaking.

Obama allowed McCain to attack, attack, attack -- without firing back with his own arsenal. McCain threw up almost every accusation against Obama flying around the Internet. There were some responses from Obama, but for the most part the Illinois senator seemed to be turning the other cheek -- or trying to remember his next talking point.

Moreover, McCain got through the debate by continuing to use a weapon that some of us a few years older than Obama have encountered as we've made our way through this vale of tears. McCain tried derail Obama using the nice-nasty tactic of condescension.

It wasn't enough for McCain to engage Obama on the issues, pointing out where the two of them differed and why. In his answers and interventions, McCain took the added step of assuming an air of superiority -- as if Obama were an inferior, out of his depth, trying to go where he doesn't belong.

McCain was no doubt trying to portray Obama as an upstart. But in doing so, he adopted an attitude familiar to people of color who find themselves in the company of folks who don't want them there.

You hear yourself described as nice but naïve, well-intentioned but lacking an informed opinion, energetic but without sound judgement -- the kind of subjective but devastating characterizations that are career-enders.

McCain knew what he was doing. In the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton knew what she was doing, too. And there's hardly a person of color who doesn't recognize the tactic. It's one that emerges when all other blocking attempts fail.

There's more at stake than the election. Respect must count for something. A younger generation was also watching tonight.

For the sake of those coming behind him, Obama should have called McCain on the condescension, lies and distortions and let him know that they will no longer be ignored or tolerated.

They are part and parcel of a tactic that has worked well for McCain's generation. Obama should have told him that those days are over.

He didn't.

By Colbert King  | October 15, 2008; 11:15 PM ET
Categories:  King  | Tags:  Colbert King  
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[This post from an affluent, educated Caucasian male]
I think you mistake Obama's strategy. He knows how people of color feel about the condescension strategy. That audience's favorable response is in the bag, stand up or no--even reinforced, by letting it slide. So much better to let McCain fall into that trap, nailing himself to that negativity pole, while never scaring the elusive independent white voter with the angry black man response.
Every time Obama evades the noose, stays out of the trap, maintains his cool, I come to admire him more. And I actually think that's deliberate on his part. Which makes me admire him even more...after 8 years, I am so pining for a really, really, smart, savvy president

Posted by: emcquarrie | October 16, 2008 12:56 AM | Report abuse

I agree with you. Obama should have fought back. He is too cautious and did not want to take any chance or commit any mistake. I don’t think McCain’s superiority complex is because of race. I think, it is because McCain feels that he has a lot more experience than Obama.

This was McCain's best performance. He kept Obama on defensive. Obama was cool and calm and his answer to McCain offense was a goofy smile. He needs to watch out as there are still 20 days for the election and if does not reply to McCain's offense he may be stuck with McCain's portrayal.

Posted by: krishna5002 | October 16, 2008 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Obama's persistense on, as you say, "turning the other cheek" to a ruthless lying McCain is bad strategy.

It doesn't show Obama's stoicism or refusal to adopt McCain's nasty below the belt attacks. Rather it might lead the average Joe (plumber, or Six-Packer, or both) that he lacks some desire to roll up his sleeves and face a bully.

And return the blows and hit hard where it hurts.

Again, a lost opportunity. Too much PC can appear as a weakness.

Posted by: bekabo | October 16, 2008 1:25 AM | Report abuse

Colbert King: I'm afraid you're wrong on this one. While some in the younger set might want an angry response from Obama to perceived "dissing" by McCain, the last thing most Americans want to see on their screens is an angry black man. Personally I think anger is highly overrated. I'll take a cool head any day.

Posted by: RasKente | October 16, 2008 1:29 AM | Report abuse

I want to say that I agree with you. Your points are definitely valid and I appreciate your courage in expressing them.
Still, Senator Obama won the debate tonight. (And, God help us, will win the election.) His dignity in the face of condescension, his calm in the face of crisis and his deep intelligence in contrast with tired rhetoric is what won him this debate, and his current standing in the polls.
The younger generation will not be permanently damaged by Obama's 'turning the other cheek'. The lasting impression of his becoming President of the United States will more than compensate for tonight's lack of 'sticking up for himself' against an obvious less capable and less dignified opponent.
Obama did what he had to do tonight for the greater goal.

Posted by: KMfromVT | October 16, 2008 1:33 AM | Report abuse

I am not a person "of color," though my family and I did narrowly survive being killed by the Klan for civil rights efforts back in the 1960s.

Saying this, I can see your point. Yet the more I think about it, perhaps Obama should have called him on it. BUT, perhaps more importantly WE should call McCain on it! In sum... why blame the victim (Obama)? To me, that's where this column may have missed something.

Posted by: tarheeler | October 16, 2008 1:35 AM | Report abuse

A man who thinks only of himself will quickly retaliate. But Obama sees things from a greater perspective.

Obama is looking past the election, where he will need to bring us all together and heal a nation.

Posted by: T-Prop | October 16, 2008 1:35 AM | Report abuse

No, "turning the other cheek" IS the right strategy. EVERYONE knows what McCain was tiring to do by baiting Obama.

But, what happened is McCain acted the bully and in response Obama turned the other cheek. The result being Obama proves he proves he is the better man.

McCain came across in this debate as a angry irrational bully. Obama came across as being presidential.

Posted by: Bobgrady | October 16, 2008 1:40 AM | Report abuse

Why is race an issue here? Why isn't integrity nad honesty? Obama had a chance to put away doubts on national television and didn't. Why not? Could facts be a reason? How can race division go away when articles like this are written?

Posted by: mayamaya123 | October 16, 2008 1:41 AM | Report abuse

I understand where you're coming from emotionally, Mr. King, but The polls are showing consistently that McCain's negativity hurts him and Obama's insistence on sticking to the issues helps. Both CBS and CNN's post-debate polls show Obama as the clear winner, including on the question "Who would make a better leader?" Obama will deliver the perfect response to McCain's condescension on November 4th.

Posted by: gerardjones | October 16, 2008 1:44 AM | Report abuse

The coolness that King describes from Obama is at once a great strength and a terrible weakness. Obama needs to be able to turn on the emotion when it is warranted. Either he decided as a strategy that staying cool was simply the best thing he could do, or (as King suggests) he just can't quite do it. I suspect the truth is somewhere in between. I don't think he should have gotten angry, but a little more emotion would have been good.

McCain respects Obama, that much is clear. I think the air of superiority comes from his 30+ years in Congress and his perception that Obama, in only his first term in the Senate, is a rookie. He's the rookie of year, to be sure, but he's still a rookie.

Posted by: cfmunster | October 16, 2008 1:44 AM | Report abuse

Disturbing article. Why is it that when Obama's past is questioned the race card gets played. I'm out of here. Don't worry - Obama will get elected and then we'll see what that will bring.

Posted by: mayamaya123 | October 16, 2008 1:44 AM | Report abuse

Obama reminds me of Formula One's Kimi Räikkönen. They call him the "Ice Man" and Obama is just as cool. Focused, determined, organized and straight ahead.

Obama also reminds me of Miles Davis. I remember an interview with Miles Davis, he just sat there smiling and listening as the interviewer went on and on and on. At the end of the long winded question and comment, Davis just gave a little laughed, and said only:
"Thats not cool... but I'm cool."

That is what Obama essentially said to McCain tonight, and in the other debates as well.

Obama is cool.

Posted by: plaza04433 | October 16, 2008 1:45 AM | Report abuse

Acts 13 V. 25:

And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.

McCain or Obama in the current context?

We don't even need a fact checker here. The expression that appeared again and again on McCain's face during this final debate said only one thing. And we choose to quote from Obama's mother here, namely, 'look buster, this is no picnic for me either!'



Posted by: | October 16, 2008 1:45 AM | Report abuse

While I understand and share your frustration with McCain's base behavior, I think Obama did the right thing. He showed Americans that he can and will remain calm in the face of enormous stress and conflict. Also his actions tonight shows that Obama trusts that the American people ARE SMART ENOUGH to see through McCain's erratic and flip flopping behavior. He is a great man and will be a great President.
Obama/Biden '08

Posted by: dreynolds1 | October 16, 2008 1:47 AM | Report abuse

Keep your eyes on the prize. Obama is looking past the presidency. He is looking at a new world. He sees around corners, and understands where we will be in a few years. He did well by containing his personal feelings.

John - white male

Posted by: johnwomack1 | October 16, 2008 1:47 AM | Report abuse

I have to disagree, Mr. King. I also like the cool headed style of Obama. Especially in these rocky times, I respect a man who can take angry criticism and come back with a smart response instead of more anger. To me, it seemed as though Obama's calm was making McCain even angrier. Perhaps part of the strategy was to get in Obama's head and make him angry, to bring him "down to earth". McCain perhaps sensed that it wasn't working and became visibly upset. Just a theory. Either way, Obama did a nice job and McCain looked grumpy once again.

Posted by: Independant_Voter | October 16, 2008 1:48 AM | Report abuse

I disagree as well Mr. King. It was an odd dynamic, because Obama technically was "on the defensive" in that he was being attacked for ten straight minutes by McCain. But this played beautifully into Obama's hands on several levels.

First of all, he did not *look* defensive as he was being attacked. He sat coolly until it was his time to speak. And that gave him a nice opening to explain the Ayers thing to anyone who really cares - which really is very few people outside of the Republican base. For any stray independents who are taking this talking point seriously, Obama helped diffuse it with the facts.

Much more importantly, to the vast majority of average voters out there, to whom McCain's bizarre obsession with these marginal "association" issues is really going over sour, it drove home just how out of touch McCain is. We're potentially entering the worst economy since the 1930s, and John McCain is laser-focussed on some washed up radical from the 1960s???

I'm not a boxing fan, but I think the tactic here is called "rope a dope" (an Ali invention, if I recall?). Obama was resting on the ropes while McCain exhausted himself, and the last of his campaign hopes, on an issue that 98% of voters could not care in the slightest about.

Interestingly, Obama may have sealed the election last night while laying back "on the defensive". And he capped it off quite succinctly when he said, "I think this says more about your campaign than it does about me." That line embodied a sobriety and centeredness that I think everyone can relate to.

Oh, and one of the other levels: It's distasteful that Obama has to deal with this (and I am speaking as a white male), but there are still white voters in places like WV and NC who are wary of the slightest possibility that Obama might be "one of those angry black males" like the big bad scary Jeremiah Wright. I think Obama and his handlers have tread that line quite deftly all along - being forceful on the issues and defending himself, without "lashing out" exactly. Sad that they still have to worry about this, yes, but I think they are wise to keep mindful of it.

Obama played it masterfully IMO. I turned the TV off when the debate was over, exhaled, turned to my girlfriend and said, "President Obama".

Posted by: B2O2 | October 16, 2008 1:50 AM | Report abuse

Speaking as a former fighter pilot in the United States Air Force, and as a contemporary of Senator John McCain, I can tell you that Senator Obama absolutely did the right thing by not stooping to John McCain's level.

In the military, I learned that you cannot demand respect. You earn it by being calm, rational, intelligent, and self confident. Senator Obama was all of that tonight.

Senator McCain came off as agitated, irritable, angry, and often confused. He is the last person that I would have wanted as either a flight leader or a wing man- and I surely don't want him as President.

We do not need a President who tries to "win" by attacking their opponents. We want a President who leads by example, respects others who differ from themselves, is calm, deliberate, and rational. Senator McCain is none of those things, and never has been.

Senator Obama showed all the Presidential qualities our country so desperately needs. He shows respect for others and respect for himself. He will make a great President.

Vietnam Veteran
Khe Sanh 1968

Posted by: Luke2 | October 16, 2008 1:54 AM | Report abuse

Change is what Obama will bring, but beware what you ask for. This election will become a serious turning point in US history. As the most leftist of the left, Sen. Obama will end up hurting more people with his proposed stategies than any 3 presidents of any party before him. This $250,000 tax bracket he wants will shut down a serious core of small businesses in America. I am not much of a fan of McCain either, personally I like Rep. Duncan Hunter of Ca. a lot better. I sure hope the middle Americans stand up and say enough is enough. It's time Washington was cleaned out, fire all the current office holders, and start fresh. Also, it would help to dismantle the lobbiest quarter as well. Pork stinks when left out too long, and about now, after that massive boondoggle of a bailout was passed, that pork sure does stink up the country. Just remember change works both ways, and we've seen the effect change has made since the Democrats took over the House & Senate 2 years ago. I pray we get back our country, because whoever wins, we all lose.

Posted by: goomorgy | October 16, 2008 1:55 AM | Report abuse

That's a tough one, and I'm sure Obama and his debate team put a lot of consideration into what to do about it.
It's not as if McCain's strategy came as a surprise, after all.

I agree with the poster who said he was smart to not fall into those traps; but I also agree with the those who said he should have shown that he could "roll up his sleeves."
If not to fight back, but try, somehow, to nip McCain's attacks in the bud--a subtle reminder to viewers/voters of McCain's ceaseless attempts to debase.

In Latin languages (French, Italian, Spanish) we have the formal and informal form of "you." It's much easier to see how someone feels about someone else when they say, for example, "tu" or "vous."

I wonder which form they would've used on each showing his contempt, McCain was obviously "tu-ing" Obama, but Obama's mannerisms were harder to translate.

Posted by: franglais | October 16, 2008 1:57 AM | Report abuse

Obama was the winner of the third debate in that he presented his plan for the next four and eight years while answering all charges McCain threw at him. Meanwhile McCain spent time attacking Obama rather than presenting his plans as President. Negative attacks may satisfy the McCain followers but probably did not gain him any votes from the undecided who will be the 'deciders' November 4.

When the question was asked: "Why would the country be better off if your running mate became president rather than his running mate?" Obama was quite comfortable in saying Biden would be able to lead the country if he (Obama) was unable to do so. McCain never said Palin was qualified let alone why the country would be better off with his pick for the vice presidency! He response was a vapid: "she's a role model to women." It seems McCain has not understood the importance of the selection of a running mate!

Posted by: mikeu1 | October 16, 2008 1:57 AM | Report abuse

Colbert- I think you missed the mark on this one. Obama led McCain into exhausting himself with his frustration and anger. There's a big difference between "strength" and "energy" - McCain energetically punched away at Obama, who just sidestepped every thrust. Finally, McCain blew it with his sarcasm about women and "health" - and that was it. McCain landed a punch - right onto his own mouth.

Posted by: bek-CA | October 16, 2008 1:59 AM | Report abuse

I could not disagree more with Mr. King.

First off, John McCain, like his base, gets condescending and belittling with anyone who has a toehold on facts. It's part of the Angry Right Wing schtick. To respond to this tactic would've been wrong, because it's a waste of energy asking for respect from someone who is going to snort and huff and eyeroll and sneer no matter what anyone says to them. The sooner the younger generation learn to conserve their energy, the better.

Secondly, Obama responded in the best way possible: he heard out the ridiculous attacks like an adult listening to a child yell his way out of a tantrum, presented the facts, looked and spoke directly into the camera, and reiterated over and over and over again one single message: "The American people and I have bigger fish to fry than this." It was brilliant, masterful, presidential, call it anything you want it was a winning tactic.

And a couple of times, when it was really getting crazy, he laughed out loud. I liked that too, because I was laughing in the same places.

Posted by: mamar2 | October 16, 2008 2:00 AM | Report abuse

I actually felt this was Obama's strongest performance. By remaing unfazed by McCain's accusations and rebutting them factually, he made McCain look small, angry and ridiculous.

Instead of lowering himself to McCain's level, Obama asked that Mccain rise up to his. McCain failed to do that.

Posted by: awau | October 16, 2008 2:11 AM | Report abuse

I had moments when like Mr. King I thought Obama should stand up to McCains bullying, but then I looked at the split screen, at Mr. McCain's bizarre facial tics and expressions and I realized that Obama was being smart. He was letting McCain hoist himself firmly by his own petard. He gave Senator McCain so much rope that he cheerfully hanged himself. Obama is a master of psychological warfare and I'd hate to play chess with him.

As a teacher I also appreciate discovery learning where you allow the students to come to the right conclusions through discovery. Senator Obama was the professor tonight.

Posted by: Logans1 | October 16, 2008 2:20 AM | Report abuse

“I THINK WHEN YOU SPREAD THE WEALTH AROUND, IT’S GOOD FOR EVERYBODY.” What Barack means is for government taking from one group of people (the people who worked hard and earned it) and giving it to those who did not earned it (welfare cheats).

WELCOME TO BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA’S NEW AMERICA, IT’S CALLED REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH and his tax cuts for 95% of America is nothing more than Government welfare for people that don’t pay taxes at all. Haven’t we already been down this path ? This was done in the 70’s and the Democrats are bent on bringing it back.

One of Barack Obama’s most potent campaign claims is that he’ll cut taxes for no less than 95% of “working families.” He’s even promising to cut taxes enough that the government’s tax share of GDP will be no more than 18.2% — which is lower than it is today.
It’s a clever pitch, because it lets him pose as a middle-class tax cutter while disguising that he’s also proposing one of the largest tax increases ever on the other 5%. But how does he conjure this miracle, especially since more than a third of all Americans already pay no income taxes at all? There are several sleights of hand, but the most creative is to redefine the meaning of “tax cut.”

Will hard working Americans support to cater to the ”parasite class” and bury the American worker further? Mission almost accomplished.

Posted by: Manolete | October 16, 2008 2:20 AM | Report abuse

"This $250,000 tax bracket he wants will shut down a serious core of small businesses in America."

Balony. First...incorporate. Next, expense out what you would have had to pay in Federal income tax. Bleed it off as payroll if you can't prepay on COG, etc.

Any business, large or small, paying very much tax, or any at all -needs a new accountant.

Posted by: plaza04433 | October 16, 2008 2:22 AM | Report abuse

Senator Obama was a wonderful role model. Respect is earned and respect is valued by considering the source. There seem to be a great number of Americans who respect a man who commands his emotions, especially when he's running for the highest office in the land. I want a President that scores low on the reactive and vengeful scale.

Does Senator Obama need prove that he can be as petty and nasty? I think not.

Posted by: bonnietoo | October 16, 2008 2:23 AM | Report abuse

I bet you that the Obama team has done extensive focus group research on this issue. Swing voters will simply not respond well if Obama shows anger. That simple.

Posted by: davids-k | October 16, 2008 2:25 AM | Report abuse

Obama stayed on message, as he needed to do. He addressed 3 things that needed to be addressed: Ayers (debunked), ACORN (debunked), and Lewis' remarks comparing McPalin's tactics to hate-mongering politics of the 60's - (truth - Lewis did NOT say McCain = George Wallace. He said the tactics used today could have the same catastrophic results - which is true, and about which Obama politely but strongly made his point.) Everybody who has looked at this election rationally and dispassionately knows McCain has repeatedly lied, and in that respect his attacks against Obama are falling on deaf ears. The only people that needed to be reached thru this debate are those still sitting on the fence, and what those people wanted and needed to hear was "How will the next president help me get out of the hole I'm in." Obama stayed on message and told them what they need to know. That will count more than a dottering old man spewing a few hackneyed catch phrases and proposing economic strategies that are responsible for putting people in the whole in the first place. Yes, the racial divide obviously still exists and needs to be not only bridged but totally filled in, and yes, young people are certainly our best hope for that happening, but don't sell them short - young people also know that the image of an angry Barack Obama lashing out at a white man is NOT what this country needs right now.

Posted by: HedgeBaby | October 16, 2008 2:32 AM | Report abuse

"Will hard working Americans support to cater to the ”parasite class” and bury the American worker further?"

By ”parasite class” I assume you mean the 1 percent of the population that controls 90 percent of the money in this country.? The same group that has had massive tax cuts the last 8 years?? The same group that pays 1.2 trillion in taxes, while EVERYONE else pays 900 billion and yet has only 10 percent of the wealth? Get a clue.

Posted by: plaza04433 | October 16, 2008 2:34 AM | Report abuse

"Senator McCain came off as agitated, irritable, angry, and often confused. He is the last person that I would have wanted as either a flight leader or a wing man- and I surely don't want him as President."

Wow, you nailed that. McCain is a tumbleweed.

Posted by: plaza04433 | October 16, 2008 2:37 AM | Report abuse

I disagree. Don't confuse anger for strength. Obama is the new generation and the new way = change. McCain is all about fighting and "scoring" with snarky jabs, mockery and put downs. Sadly, when he lands his jabs, his testosterone rises and he feels he's won - he doesn't even realize that it's not about him. It's not about him, his dad before him, his POW stuff, all the things he's done that he thinks is brilliant and should be's about NOW, and it's about the everyday lives and concerns of VOTERS.

Obama is not a giggle a minute, but he is an intelligent, authoritative, professional and wise type who's obviously put a lot of effort thinking about VOTERS issues and how to solve them with his programs & policies. The facts are all in his head, he's comfortable talking about detail. He explains with clarity and logic, inspires confidence. McCain no way inspires confidence - his policies seem random, even he has a tough time explaining them. I get the feeling he wants to be President more for ambition than to really serve US voters in what will be gruelling and challenging years ahead.

McCain may be more outwardly aggressive, but is actually the less stable weaker personality. Obama has quieter, steely inner strength. Preferable in a leader, and definitely in a crisis. Can't have #1 in the country having a hissy fit every time things don't go his way.

Posted by: TruthFairy | October 16, 2008 2:38 AM | Report abuse

a basic tenet of Marketing 101 is: differentiation.

When there are competitive products out there you must make yours stand out in ways meaningful to sales prospects. Obama clearly has opted to be (what he likely is in fact) calm, cool and collected. A leader with those qualities, along with smarts and the more appealing philosophy, is cast right for the times we're experiencing.

McCain comes across as feeling an *entitlement* to the presidency, and he is angry that this young upstart ("that one") is likely going to take the prize away from his outstretched hand. He is angry and anguished about it, so much so that he sold his soul (gave up his "straight talk" reputation) for the prize that's eluding him still despite his outdoing what Bush's operatives did to him in SC in 2000.

People respect examples of good judgment for the most part. McCain's choice for VP has come to be an albatross around his neck even though the base (not his base, mind you, because they mistrusted him before Palin showed up) clearly is enchanted with her legend and looks.

So Obama was steady and reliable, even without flashes of brilliant oratory which have characterized other performances. Smart, steady, reliable but able to respond effectively to negative attacks when it suited his purposes to do so. That's the essence of Barack Obama, that and his extremely effective strategies and use of very smart advisors.

The latter will surround him in the WH and the country will move forward again. And he will make converts so that 2008's gains will be replicated in 2010 and 2012.

Posted by: can8tiv | October 16, 2008 2:40 AM | Report abuse

I too wish Senator Obama had shown a little more "fight". I think he was essentially playing a "prevent defense".

It may cost him some yards, but I don't think McCain took it to the end zone.

On the other hand, McCain certainly continued to reduce my opinion of him. What a dodgey old Scrooge!

There will be ample time in the next 3 weeks to turn McCain's words against him: "I don't really care about a washed up old terrorist" and continue to leverage McCain's negativity against him.

Posted by: daddy00 | October 16, 2008 2:42 AM | Report abuse

Not tolerating disrespect has always been important in the Community- but generational attitudes drift. A Black Man is now poised to be the next President of the United States. Perhaps not all black folks still feel the need to take that old-school bait so quickly- if at all. Who came off the better man here?

Posted by: DrMarkus | October 16, 2008 2:45 AM | Report abuse

Ummm, John McCain said of Barack Obama: "We've got him where we want him!"

Sooo, as Rachel Maddow would say, does that mean you want him to increase his lead over you?

Posted by: can8tiv | October 16, 2008 2:46 AM | Report abuse

As a minority, I too have experienced condescending treatment by white people. But, the power of Barack Obama is that he is able to rise above it. He recognizes the need to put someone else down is a weakness in that person's character. He is the adult to McCain's childishness.
I recognized the greatness of this man after reading his book. He has confronted his own devil and is at peace with it. Do not mistake his calmness as weakness, rather as the grace and internal strength of a Gandhi.
His eye is on winning the election and the results of the debate polls show he was right.

Posted by: voter6 | October 16, 2008 2:56 AM | Report abuse

Well, I'm 26, not sure if that qualifies me for a younger voter or not, but I personally am very dissappointed anytime the Political Leaders of this country act like hormonal highschool teenage kids fighting over nothing.

McCain's attacks have completely driven me away from any respect I had for his campaign. Obama's response of "Well when I was 8.... I had nothing to do with those attacks" was excelent, as he was calmly saying how ridiculous the attacks about Ayers were.

I want to see a politican that can control himself, not an angry old man who tries to win elections by lying and smearing his opponent.

John Kerry tried the same thing against George Bush, and I honestly didn't want to vote for him because I saw him as such a scumbag by his performance. Obama refused (for the most part) to talk about anything other than the issues "I don't think the American public cares about our hurt feelings" Indeed 0.o I did not, I want to hear about how you are going to run the country, not about some other smear b/s.

Posted by: dark_bridger | October 16, 2008 3:10 AM | Report abuse

I certainly understand the desire to want Obama to put McCain in his place. I wanted to put my fist in his mouth. However, Obama's mature, dignified composure compared to McCain's old, (white) political games showed a stark contrast between the two men. Obama threw a knockout punch by just being his classy self. He's as smart as they come and he knew exactly what he should or should not do. This is a sign of wisdom and strength, not weakness. His composure only served to magnify McCain's lack thereof.

Posted by: donadell | October 16, 2008 3:56 AM | Report abuse

Obama was Bugs Bunny to McCain's Yosemite Sam.
Power struggles are not always won by force.

Posted by: dccamp68 | October 16, 2008 4:19 AM | Report abuse

I believe that the washington post is run by some overly enthusiastic republican. He hires homeless people and makes them look half presentable, i mean just look at King's photo (case and point). He looks happy just to be getting a salary and allows the looney tunes print to run premature articles with his face all over it.
Colbert King is just happy someone is paying for his meals.

Posted by: johnandginalyn | October 16, 2008 4:31 AM | Report abuse

Do you think John McCain has any interaction with blacks at the country clubs he and Cindy frequent? A Republican such as Mike Huckabe is natural around blacks unlike McCain. During McCain military career, the only minorites on those ships were Philipino stewards.

He and most of his colleagues in the Senate probably think they are superior in intellect, class and status which most blacks folks experience every day in the work place. McCain's faher and grandfather were both Admirals in the Navy and I'm sure he got into trouble due to his hot shot ways, but got away with it due to his family connections. He lived and continues to live a life of priviledge.

McCain does best when he is down and due to luck sometimes lives to fight another day.

Posted by: culpeperson | October 16, 2008 4:43 AM | Report abuse

What Americans want now is a cool hand at the tiller.

Posted by: error27 | October 16, 2008 4:57 AM | Report abuse

Just because you would handle McCain's condescension differently, Mr King, does not mean that Barak Obama 'turns the other cheek' in the face of McCain's evident disrespect. Time and again, Obama clobbered McCain on the issues, tying him to Bush's failed econonic policies. Obama is dignified, poised, unflappable, clear, substantive and intellectually superior. People with an open mind can see that; Obama has the confidence to permit people to draw their own conclusions. It's why he won all 3 debates in the polls taken of those who watched them.

McCain's barely suppressed anger discredits him; Obama's refusal to respond in kind enhances his dignity.

Posted by: wsToronto | October 16, 2008 5:28 AM | Report abuse

If there is anything that the 3 debates taught me. Since John McCain panders to the base Republicansm Is the hypocrisy of the Christian Right Wing Conservatives. While they question Obama's religion, Christian (which should be a non-issue) They are the ones that tend to attack him in very unChristian way. While he acts in ways that is more in the ways of Christ, he turns the other cheek while McCain bashes him. They cast the first stone (AYERS and ACORN) without looking at themselves first (AIP, AK TROOPERGATE, KEATING FIVE, LINDNER, SINGLAUB).
While my friends and I at the bar are cheering him to just push harder on that old man, (Don't worry I have no moral hang ups and I know I am already going to hell a long time ago) To our chagrin he didn't.
A cool, calm, collected and intelligent man is what this country needs at this time of crisis not some old bitter emotional angry man. That person that is ready to lead is Senator Barack Obama.

P.S. There is a place in hell for all these Right Wing Christian conservatives. I will make sure to stop by and say hi to you guys when that time comes.

Posted by: TKDuff | October 16, 2008 5:36 AM | Report abuse

Obama gave thought-out structural responses to the questions, while McCain lurched and grimaced all over the landscape, spewing bits. It would have been worse than out-of-place for Obama to get riled up and dote on the insults.

The overall impression: McCain just can't play in the big leagues; Obama is totally comfortable there. End of story.

Posted by: hquain | October 16, 2008 5:45 AM | Report abuse

Obama doesn't need to tell McCain the days of dissing Blacks are over to appeal to young voters. We know they are over. If McCain doesn't know it, its his problems, not ours or Obama's.

Posted by: FKoretz | October 16, 2008 6:19 AM | Report abuse

If, as seems inevitable, Barack Obama wins this election, I can't wait for the debates four years from now, when he can no longer run on "Change" and when, as the incumbent, as the man with experience, he faces a Republican challenger, whom he will no doubt do his best to characterize as "nice but naïve, well-intentioned but lacking an informed opinion, energetic but without sound judgement". And I can't wait to see whether you characterize it as a racist smear, Mr. King. Though I needn't hold my breath, as you won't, of course. There is a great extent to which racism is in the eyes of the beholder, especially the beholder who just can't wait to make it an accusation.
Somehow the word "paranoia" comes to mind....

Posted by: scriobhaim | October 16, 2008 6:43 AM | Report abuse

I confess I longed to see McCain get put in his place as a liar, but Obama didn't have to do it because McCain was like a gremlin in the movie of the same name: weird, snarling, unhousebroken. The more he spoke, the more he oozed contempt and rage, the more he sunk his chances. McCain did Obama's job there for him. Do you intervene when your opponent is destroying his own chances? Not so much.

Posted by: LevRaphael | October 16, 2008 7:08 AM | Report abuse

that's an interesting set of observations. For me, I took great notice of the fact that Obama was able to clearly rebut and explain himself time and again in a way that made McCain look foolish... McCain was unsuccessful in doing so one single time.

I don't know what the younger voters will think of Obama's approach to the debate and desire not to show indignation. My vote is secured.

Posted by: Rickster623 | October 16, 2008 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Barack Obama conducted himself in highly professional manner. His overall demeanor was reflective of his intellect and ability to demonstrate grace under fire. I do not have a medical background, however, one response from John McCain regarding Sarah Palin's ability to fully understand the special needs necessary to care for an Autistic child has me somewhat confused. I was under the impression that Sarah Palin's youngest child was born with Downes Syndrome. Are these two medical conditions one and the same? Since McCain never mentioned Downe's Syndrome in his response when referencing Sarah Palin, perhaps he is somewhat confused as to the actual terrible medical condition his VP running mate's child is actually inflicted with. Overall I believe Obama demonstrated leadership and represented the American people who support him exceptionally well.

Posted by: bk8251 | October 16, 2008 7:30 AM | Report abuse

re McCain's condescending attitude toward Barrack Obama, keep in mind that unlike the Army and the Air Force, the U.S. Navy dragged its feet for years with respect to full and complete integration of men of color.

From his early childhood as a dependent of a ranking Navy officer and living in homes in exclusive "Officers Country", and then on from his entry into the Naval Academy and up until the day that he was shot down, captured and interned as a prisoner of war by the Vietnamese, McCain's only contact with men of color -- Filipinos and blacks primarily -- were as his family's military household servants and his shipboard Officers Mess and living quarters attendents.

During virtually all of John McCain's early life and subsequent Navy career, the status of being a servant was as high as men of color were allowed to advance in the U.S. Navy.

The attitude in the U.S. Navy towards men of color during McCain's early life and his Navy career is certainly an element that helps explain his condescending attitude toward Senator Obama -- a man of color.

Posted by: Punahou52 | October 16, 2008 7:40 AM | Report abuse


Mr. King, you seem to believe that hot temper, impulsiveness and aggressiveness are good qualities for a president. You are dead wrong.

Such behavior indicates a high stress level, which destroys judgment, intelligence and creativity and calls forth mental imbalance and aggressiveness. Even worse, it activates defense mechanisms - "psychological blinders", that distort the perception of reality.

Obama, on the other hand, has repeatedly shown a superior stress tolerance in demanding stressful situations, like the presidential debate and in unprepared TV-interviews.

In him, we will have a president capable of making intelligent, wise, realistic and balanced judgments, keeping his mind cool under the very stressful conditions of presidency that will be worse than ever due to the severe economic crisis.

For more, see my blog at:

J.Grandville, M.D.
Expert on stress and developmental psychology

Posted by: drgrandville | October 16, 2008 7:55 AM | Report abuse

I think that Obama did his job. He stuck to the issue and avoided tit for tat and let McCain look silly by himself. McCain is regressing into Sarah Palin. By the way, here is a website I found that shares all the Sarah Palin Alaska dirt to support Barack Obama!

Posted by: beingajoe | October 16, 2008 8:11 AM | Report abuse

King, I think you miss the whole point. Judging from the way people reacted after the debate, it appears the it was a masterstroke by Obama to let Mccain implode in front of millions of voters. It clearly demonstrated who's cool under fire. No one saw a disrespected Obama, just a grumpy, angry, behind-in-the-polls McCain. McCain was sucked in, and Obama played him like a fiddle.

Posted by: rgnuyda | October 16, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

I find it odd that an African-American author would say that Obama needed to be more aggressive. I will admit that I would have liked to see him put McCain in his place BUT for him to be more aggressive and less unflappable would have opened the floodgates to the perception of here goes another angry black man. As much as people want to say that race is not an issue nowadays, it IS and for a black man to successfully win the election he has to go the extra step of not doing anything that will touch on negative race stereotypes. There are already right wing McCain supporters out there saying they're scared of him, how much worse would it be if he actually showed some anger one day?

Posted by: kanned67 | October 16, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

(2 cranky middle-aged white folks in the Missouri Ozarks)

She: The youth and the African American vote are in the bag. Barack Obama should have been aiming to convince white males. As a woman: Barack Obama showed himself to be the strong, silent type "we women" admire. Black on white: Doesn't figure into the calculus at this point because Obama's ahead in the polls.
He's the proven belonger, therefore. McCain looks out of his depth. Condescension coming from him
looks just plain silly.

He: Obama rode in the catbird seat. He stayed above the fray. He looked presidential. McCain's attacks on Obama didn't hurt Obama and did hurt McCain. Obama won.

On John Lewis:
She wondered whether Obama should have put McCain in his place a little more there.

He: Didn't hear the original Lewis comment. However, Obama's running for president.
I'm assuming Lewis spoke on his own behalf, not on behalf of the campaign. If McCain has problems with Lewis's comments, he should address them to Lewis himself.

The net: Obama looked presidential to white America. He has nothing to prove to young people, African Americans, middle-aged white people. He doesn't have to stand up to "The Man." He IS The Man.

Posted by: martymar123 | October 16, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

I respectfully disagree with you sir. Everytime McCain tried to start a fire, Obama poured a glass of water on it. It made McCain look desperate and Obama look bored.

I suspect Obama would liked to have responded, but the whole purpose of baiting a bear is to get it to charge so you can kill it. McCain tried to bait him and it didn't work. I couldn't have done it. My face would have turned red and I would have started yelling. Then again, I am not running for president of 300 million people.

Posted by: corridorg4 | October 16, 2008 9:27 AM | Report abuse

I thought Barack Obama struck the perfect tone in the face of an angry old man! My generation is tired of the lack of mindfulness and self control that has been the calling card of the older generations from the Vietnam War era....from the protesters to the poor souls who came back traumatized.

We want to go back to the time when people looked up to America and her leaders..Even though I do not agree with Reagan's policies now, when I was a child I thought that Reagan was a great representative of the American people...Attractive, cool under pressure, great sense of humor and properly passionate when required...If anything, McCain showed last night that he was no Reagan...

Posted by: Beka13 | October 16, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

"I am not a person "of color," though my family and I did narrowly survive being killed by the Klan for civil rights efforts back in the 1960s.

Saying this, I can see your point. Yet the more I think about it, perhaps Obama should have called him on it. BUT, perhaps more importantly WE should call McCain on it! In sum... why blame the victim (Obama)? To me, that's where this column may have missed something."

Thank you for this post tarheeler. I have been reading public responses re. this campaign since the beginning of the primaries and this is the best response and most thoughtful reaction to commentary that I have come across. And thank you for risking your self for such an important cause in the '60's.

Posted by: Angoose | October 16, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Obama in the role of a Leader demonstrated the basic rule of combat,let the fighter fight, but as leader, direct the battle and the ground that it is fought on. This is exactly what he did to the frustration and exasperation of Mccain.No wonder the polls overwhelmingly show that Obama won the debate.I cannot see how he came up short when he also captured most of the undecided voters that were in the focus groups that even Fox news polled.he is a new kind of leader and one that is needed in these times, and it is the pundits who are accustomed to the old mudslinging in politics who are really comming up short, not being able to apprehend the change that is taking place.

Posted by: samiaelsberesford | October 16, 2008 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I disagree with your assertion that Sen. Obama lost or may loose some credibility with the younger set. If anything he showed and led by example how to face with confidencea person who is exemplifying anger, wrath, aggression, and even belligerence all of the many emotions displayed by Sen. McCain during their last debate. You see it would have been easy for Sen. Obama to start raising his voice and making Keating accusations about Sen. McCain but instead he chose to correct the inaccurate statements by Sen McCain and stay on topic. The "younger set" that are not mature enough to see that need to know that you don't just get up and start fighting because someone else acts like he wants to fight especially when you have already sized up your opponent as a loser. We Americans consider ourselves to be a Christian Godly nation well the Bible says we should pray to heal our land not create and stir up disorder and confusion every opportunity we get. And finally in Proverbs 16 verses 18. Pride [goeth] before destruction, and an haughty (disdainfully proud; snobbish; scornfully arrogant) spirit before a fall. and 32. [He that is] slow to anger [is] better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city. We have instructions from our God on how to conduct ourselves so that we are victorious in all endeavors. I think Sen. Obama did a great job in trying to unite this country and reassure hope for its future.

Posted by: JBParker1 | October 16, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I think that Obama responded correctly. I think that his behavior was exemplary in that it speaks to young people who would respond to being "dissed" with anger. It said, "Don't allow other people to push your buttons. Don't react without taking a deep breath first. Pick your battles."

The greatest get-back diss of all is calm. Barack demonstrated that he could survive the Dozens without punching. Why? Because he knows, he knows, that he is smarter than that.

Intelligence is more powerful than "violence" - a lesson this country has yet to learn.

Posted by: eclecticelder | October 16, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Mr. King,

I think you miss the point of Obama's strategy. It is paramount that he not come off like an angry looking and angry sounding (like you yourself sound in this article) Black man! That puts White folks on the defensive, and unlike the more repentent response White's had 40 years ago when overt racism was central in our culture, White Americans today are more likely to become angry and accusatory and point out how much society has changed and how Blacks have had time to improve their circumstances, and that Obama's candidacy is proof of this. This desire for combat is a function of endemic American bloodlust evidenced from Hip-Hop music and reality video games to UFC fighting to the potentially interminable "War on Terror" and the Iraq invasion. America is starving now for a different attitude, one which reflects intellect and reserve over bravado and excess: The reckless, heavy handed leadership of the last eight years demands a counter-balance. Under current political, social, and economic circumstances, Obama served himself well enough passive/aggressively by calmly addressing each one of McCain's direct and indirect smears with facts, incredulity, straight-faced-look-you-in-the-eye denials, and a dismissive attitude. Ironically, it made Obama appear more mature -- more adult -- than his septuagenarian opponent. Kudos to "cool" Barak Obama!

Posted by: iphoenix | October 16, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

As a White Southener who grew up in the Fifites and early Sixties in Miami and Jacksonville, Florida, I understood where you are coming from (Hillary never did that, she was fighting the fight when Obama was 8 years old), but the current polls show Obama did the right thing and his election will show White, Black, Young and Old Folks that those days are indeed over that on the national political level at least, scream from the mountain tops, "Free at last, free at last, Thank God Allmighty, [We're] free at last" from the pernicious disabling effects of racism.

Posted by: adhardwick | October 16, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I'm white and I'm republican and I'm voting for Obama.

Posted by: elismith | October 16, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

As the recent Washington Post article demonstrated, Obama has used the same strategy even when he was subject to attack from other African Americans within his own party in his early days in Illinois. That is his style, and it isn't necessarily an ineffective or self-effacing one when dealing with bullies -- if you get down in the mud with the other guy, you get covered with mud even if he started it. And you could say that refusing to sink to their level elevates him above them in a classy, subtle way. I think black or white, he has picked the right strategy given the real issues the American people are grappling with.

Posted by: fmjk | October 16, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Totally disagree with this editorial. In my eyes (and formerly an undecided) Obama held himself above the fray. Why lower himself to McCain's and Palin's level? Last night Obama showed me integrity, class, leadership and intellect. All the things I want in my President. And all the things that sadly McCain is missing.

Posted by: CHICO13 | October 16, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

You were making a fair argument until you got here:

"McCain was no doubt trying to portray Obama as an upstart. But in doing so, he adopted an attitude familiar to people of color who find themselves in the company of folks who don't want them there."

why inject race into it? McCain thinks of him as a young pup and is jealous but it has nothing to do with race. And this is not a street talk with the need to stop someone from "dissing" you. This is a debate on issues and the one that sticks to them calmly is the winner.

Obama handled it perfectly and worded his rebuttals exactly right. Your course of action would have lowered his image and made him seem less-presidential.

You and Eugene keep looking for race problems where they do not exist. It would be nice if you and Eugene forget race for at least two articles. Try it sometime.

Bottom line - John knows BO is smart as sh-t and it intimidates him and he is jealous. Just like Jesse Jackson is jealous. Barrack drives them and Hilary nuts. B.O, even if you think he is vacuous (I do not), has his sh-t together, and he is not going to be outsmarted.

Posted by: dalvaprado | October 16, 2008 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Obama didn't need to spit in McCain's face; everyone who watched McCain's three debate performances, feels like you, and brings him his meals have got that covered. Since McCain looks like he is just months from the nursing home, he might have shown a bit more respect and common sense. Maybe he thinks Palin will cook for him...

Posted by: stech | October 16, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Turning the other cheek showed amazing restraint, confidence, serenity and character on Obama's part. Talk about a class act. Please voters, let's all go to the polls and elect this amazing person, Barack Obama, the President of the United States of America. The whole world will look at the US with renewed respect.

Posted by: lccc1 | October 16, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I agree that had I been in Obama's place, I would've responded in kind. However, THAT is why I was not in Obama's place and neither were you.

I congratulate Barack Obama for having the restraint, intellect and judgement to handle the situation. In the end, it proves he's the right person to be President of the United States.

Posted by: Ollie4 | October 16, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Why would you want someone to lose thier composure? In boxing, the one that can remain focused, cool, and calm can see his opponents mistakes, thus counterpunches accuratley. The fighter who is aggresive and angry has "brain function misfire". He cannot see clearly thru the fog of anger and flailing aggresion! His judgement is compromised. Not only can't he see his opponents mistakes, but he creates openings that can leave him vulnerable! Which one would you want running this country?

Posted by: not-me | October 16, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm an Obama supporter and I think McCain won the debate from an attack standpoint. He had no other choice and he looked as desperate as a fighter who had to knockout his opponent in the last round while Obama knew that he just had to stick and move to win on points. McCain landed blows but didn't land the knockout blow and Obama still racked up points with his jab. Can you tell I like sports analogies? Anyway, these last few weeks will be dominated by the economy -- an Obama strongsuit, not the nonsense Smokin' John McCain was throwing out last night.

Posted by: bkhoward | October 16, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Me thinks that our community is taking the blows that Obama won't. I feel your pain; its hard to stay quiet. But Obama is doing what he must do, what we must all do to keep his election on track. There is a greater good and a bigger fight, and a better way to fight. Remember that and let go of the hurt you feel when he does not deflect the blows directed at our community. We all want to scream out but the truth is, this assault is minor when compared to the assault reflected in our history. Suck it up and VOTE OBAMA.

Posted by: CharacterCounts | October 16, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Well said awau:

"I actually felt this was Obama's strongest performance. By remaing unfazed by McCain's accusations and rebutting them factually, he made McCain look small, angry and ridiculous.

Instead of lowering himself to McCain's level, Obama asked that Mccain rise up to his. McCain failed to do that."

Posted by: awau | October 16, 2008 2:11 AM

Posted by: dalvaprado | October 16, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

King you're not paying attention. To use a football analogy, Obama's ahead and playing "prevent" defense. This was discussed by the pundits for the last couple of weeks. It's almost a game. Everyone knows that McCain had to go on the attack, the paradox being that he probably really didn't want to per his restraint in the early debates. Obama just had to play it cool, be conservative.

Anything else, including your suggestions would have been foolish. You, of course, couldn't resist one little code word yourself "men of his generation" Obama has moved passed that.

Posted by: jhtlag1 | October 16, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

McCain looked like a man with no options and no hope. He looked angry. We've had eight years of anger and it has gotten us a whole lot of nothing.

At this point Obama has his eyes on the prize and he needn't be concerned with McCain's rash and hateful accusations. Obama knows that all he needs to do is show people that he can be "presidential" and he's doing a great job of it.

I think McCain won the debate, but I don't think this win is going to help him. What's the point of winning something if you look unstable in the process?

Posted by: jwt5 | October 16, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

With millions of others I am hopeful that Barack Obama will be our first African-American president. Jackie Robinson endured his own teammates spitting tobacco juice in his face. It's a sad commentary on our society that such obstacles continue to exist - yet if Senator Obama reacted in any other way, with (justifiable and righteous) anger or calling McCain on his disrespectful actions, this would be pointed to as "demonstrating" that Obama somehow doesn't have the temperament to lead.

Posted by: gb12 | October 16, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I am surprised that most of the media seem to have missed on Obama's quite effective counterattack: his laugh. Throughout the debates, whenever McCain would start attacking him, Obama had a natural grin as if to say, "The old guy is off his rocker again. Let's let him have his moment, then get him his pills and put him to bed." The result was more devastating than if Obama had come through with a cute counterpunch because nobody took McCain seriously. Obama's laugh was better than "there he goes again."

Posted by: frozencavemanlawyer | October 16, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

There is an old story in the internal martial arts community about a master of the soft style and a master of the hard style. The hard style master boasted, "Nothing can stop my perfect kick," and proceeded to launch it against the other man, who turned and let the kick go by him. "You're right," the soft style master observed, "Nothing really can stop your kick."

Obama is really good at using nothing to stop a kick.

Posted by: ondelette | October 16, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

You are missing the whole point of Obama's message. You don't have to attack those that 'disrespect' you. That is the path of losers who quickly forget the big picture and get themselves in stupid situations, sometimes ending up in jail or worse. Focus on your goals and let your actions, such as winning the presidency, be the ultimate slap-back.

Posted by: morganja | October 16, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

In other words, Mr. King .. McCain whipped his you know what! Without a scripted message Obama has shown time and again he can only rely on his "talking points" ... more government intervention in our lives sold as lower taxes and universal healthcare!

Posted by: paris1969 | October 16, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

EMCQUARRY = I'm with you. (Almost) 60, white, but I'm from the deep south. I've seen this McCain Cracker too many times to not know exactly what he was up to. And the thing is, like his "that one" slur, it just comes natural.
The best part was watching him get madder and madder as Obama failed to take the bait.
There will come a time to "nut" Mr. McCain and his ilk. I'm looking forward to it. Maybe Mr. Obama is too smart for that, but one can always wish.
What people who aren't white like me have to understand is the McCains of the world do the same to us, just in a different context and a different setting. They never fail to let you know that they find you inferior.

Posted by: TOMHERE | October 16, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Senator Obama was annoyed in the debate.
His facial expression had multiple mannerisms. Specially his wry face in lips, and eyebrows. Senator Obama lied about ACCORN. He betrayed Campaign Finance.
He approved the FISA bill. He supported Bush/Chenney's energy bill. NO Obama.
The biggest social construction.

Posted by: mmarii | October 16, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

EMCQUARRY = I'm with you. (Almost) 60, white, but I'm from the deep south. I've seen this McCain Cracker too many times to not know exactly what he was up to. And the thing is, like his "that one" slur, it just comes natural.
The best part was watching him get madder and madder as Obama failed to take the bait.
There will come a time to "nut" Mr. McCain and his ilk. I'm looking forward to it. Maybe Mr. Obama is too smart for that, but one can always wish.
What people who aren't white like me have to understand is the McCains of the world do the same to us, just in a different context and a different setting. They never fail to let you know that they find you inferior.

Posted by: TOMHERE | October 16, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

I disagree with your conclusion. McCain's demeanor was angry and condescending. That may speak to the right wing of his party. But I doubt it won him any points with thoughtful, reasonable people. Obama on the other hand was professional and demonstrated he had a better grasp of the facts. By declining to personally attack McCain and Palin and by sticking to the issues, he showed he has more class than McCain and considerably more political savvy.

Demonstranting anger or calling McCain on his behavior may have made some people feel better, but it may not have been the wisest approach from a political stand point. It is the way he consistently carries himself (as well as his stand on the issues) that reminds voters again and again why he is clearly the better of the two candidates.

Posted by: pjterry | October 16, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

elismith wrote: "I'm white and I'm republican and I'm voting for Obama."

.... if you vote for Obama you are not a republican .. you are a quasi-socialist ... because that is what his programs are all about ... "spread the wealth" give my hard-earned money to those who don't work and won't work!

Posted by: paris1969 | October 16, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Mr. King, I respectfully disagree with your position. We are a white suburban couple with four children and for the third time last night we sat down and watched the presidential debate as a family. I am not sure that our 12 year old or even our 15 or 16 year old understood everything that was spoken about regarding the economy, health care or taxes, but they sure did understand the ugliness of the politics played out by Senator McCain. Although I am not prepared to nominate Obama for sainthood, he took the position that we have tried to teach our children. When you are attacked for your supposed inferiority, don't attack back words are just words. You must prove that you are capable, knowledgeable and honest. The condescention expressed by Senator McCain towards Obama is not exclusive to black men and women, it happens all of the time to people of all colors and sexes. It has happened to me when I was a blonde, female with my first child and trying to move up in my career or trying to get a car dealer to correct a defect in a new car and I was told that I didn't understand. - I didn't yell or scream or get snarky back, I proved myself to the dumbfounded stare of the service engineer that as a chemist, I certainly knew a little something about car paint. My husband has experienced the same issues when at 25 he was managing men who were 20 years his senior and they tried to tell him that he was too inexperienced or naive to perform his job well.

In the end, my husband and I, who were unsure of how we were going to vote in August, have been "won over" by the absolute intelligence and statesmenship of Barrack Obama. To us, he proved once again last night that he will be a thoughtful, cool head in a crisis if he is elected to the presidency. Our oldest daughter too will be casting her first ever vote in this election and she is yet another female in our family who was ultimately insulted by the selection of Sarah
Palin as a candidate for VP (which by the way, I loved BO's comments on her last night where he indicated that America will determine her qualifications) and will be voting instead for Obama - Biden.

Posted by: clives | October 16, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

obama did not convince the world to trust him...he did not seal the deal...

Posted by: DwightHCollins | October 16, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

I completely and utterly disagree. Obama became more dignified and classy with every accusation. The fact that he can keep his cool gives the impression to me that he isn't worried about these attacks b/c they are false and he is reassuring the viewers of this too. Defensive or offensive behavior indicates guilt.

Posted by: dmt2 | October 16, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, even in this "enlightened time," a black man can not afford to appear angry. Case in point is the recent disapproval of the sculptor's first rendering of a statue of Dr. King for the Capitol Mall. The review committee objected to it as showing him as being too defiant. It is OK for a statue of Dr.l King to be put on the Mall, but he should appear to be Gandhiish. The artist had to render him as being angelic, cool, and with no trace of determination (i.e., non-threatening). Heaven forbid that a statue of a black man living through the rabidly racist times of the 50s would depict him as showing any traces of stress or anxiety. Given this sublimated racism, what would become of Obama if he angrily lashed back at McCain; I can only picture the white towns people's reaction to Cleavon Little when he showed up as their new sheriff in "Blazing Saddles." We have "come a long way, baby," but the journey has only begun.

Posted by: csintala79 | October 16, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

hello - I think you are wrong to suggest that Obama to tell McCain that he was condescending etc. There is no neccessity for Obama to say that because it is obvious to everyone. Obama is a bigger person to withstand all those insults and he is right the voters does not care if his feelings are hurt - the economy is hurting them more. Bringing up the subject of race is going to further divide this country. Obama is so smart and savvy and it is obvious that John McCain is lacking in any form of intellect. Go Obama go.

Posted by: cahayasinar | October 16, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I dunno, Mr. King. I think cool and measured won the evening by a tidal wave. I was proud as all git out of Obama and think he played McCain like the loser that he is. Atta boy, Barack! (I'm as white as McCain, BTW.)

Posted by: LucyLou1 | October 16, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse


"The Art of War"
He who strikes the first blow, loses.


McCain is 'clueless' without conflict. He cannot even participate in a debate regarding the presentation and intelligent discussion of ideas without resorting to conflict and verbal assault. His 'deadly sin' is anger.

Obama's focus is quite different. His plan has always been to make the voter aware of the issues and to empower the voter to make an intelligent and informed choice.

Obama is enlightening; McCain is diabolical.
Obama is about 'substance'; McCain is about 'smokescreen'.

Obama is 'the real deal'!


Posted by: John_Chas_Webb | October 16, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I also disagree with Colbert King. Obama was an aikido master to McCain's street brawler.

His natural politeness came across as grace under pressure.

Posted by: bonnie2 | October 16, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Geezz, Mr. King. Does this mean that the white people that like Senator Obama just the way he is, must want to keep black men in their place? I, for one white person, am tired of the bickering and partisan crap we have endured for the last eight years. Senator Obama is breath of fresh air. Your comment is out of line. If you want a black champion, go get Al Sharpton or Jessie Jackson, Sr. If you want a president that is a very capable politician and speaks to the concerns you have, and who happens to be black, get off Senator Obama's back.

Posted by: kermit5 | October 16, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only person in America who sees Obama v. McCain as the logical extension of the 1947 battle between Jackie Robinson and Phillies manager Ben Chapman? When you're "the first" you have to not only play by all the rules, but you have to exhibit that you're above your opponents. I think Obama does justice to Robinson's memory.

Posted by: slingr | October 16, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig enjoys it.

Posted by: AxelDC | October 16, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

McCain is the rich entitled white guy who lives in a world of privilege. He may say hello to you if he needs you to do something [such as vote for him.]but after that he will never ever acknowledge your existence. He couldn't even tell us how many homes he had.["9"] His pop and grandpop were high mucky - mucky admirals. He was always the playboy. The way he treated Obama is the same way he would treat any of us. He knows it all. Read The Rolling Stone Magazine article. It is very very enlightening.

Posted by: jcinsanmig2008 | October 16, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I think back to the civil rights movement when young people of color sitting at lunch counters made statements heard round the world because they did not overtly fight back. Aggressors acting in anger then and now look like fools by comparison. McCain had a hard time keeping his temper in check. Do people want a person like that at the helm of government? Bluster isn't always the most effective way to make a point.

Posted by: Ceeee | October 16, 2008 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Mr. King I disagree with you. I think Obama knows exactly what he is doing. He defended himself eloquently and appropriately against McCains attacks. He checked McCain when needed.
This is the kind of leader that we need someone who can maintain a cool head because after all they provail especially in crisis. Someone else here said that Obama cannot come across as the angry black man. Nothing will scare non minorities voters away so fast. And it will give McCain and the GOP more ammunition to use against him. Some of McCains supporters already have the anger and the racism brought out of them. Do you want them to go bullistic at rallies when Palin says- Obama is an angry black man.
No Obama maintained his cool and responded appropriately. There were things he could of done better. But I think he still did well.

Posted by: bjlopez1130 | October 16, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Obama is looking past the election when he must do what he can to unite as best as possible a horribly divided Nation.

McCain is a politician fighting for his legacy and political survival. McCain absolutely could not govern this great Nation if elected because he has helped so divide it. He would not even enjoy a single day of Honeymoon with an overwhelming Democrat Congress. The House and Senate would NEVER give McCain ANYTHING they wanted.

So, yes. This election is not about Change vs. Reform, but about Change vs Stagnation.

I believe this is dawning on vast swathes of America as they consider their votes in the weeks ahead.

Posted by: HillRat | October 16, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I disagree. Obama handled himself just fine. He answered questions about Ayers and abortion votes calmly and persuasively, and McCain looked nasty and at times sarcastic. People dont want to see two men get personal and McCain is still losing this election.

Posted by: davidscott1 | October 16, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Colbert, I have given more thought to your article since I first responded, and I think you have stumbled on what is behind the past few weeks of personal attacks on Obama; it has been a calculated attempt to incite Barack to anger. McCain was very disingenuous like night, and his umbrage and anger were feigned; he was bating Barack. Unfortunately, John Lewis fell into the trap, and McCain was trying to draw Obama into it too. What we saw in McCain last night as he continually jabbed at Barack over Lewis and Ayers was not rising anger and self-righteous indignation, but, instead, frustration, that Obama wasn't losing his cool and taking the bait. We haven't evolved to the point in interpersonal relations in this country where a black man can survive in mainstream political life while being consumed by white hot rage as McCain was. Have you ever seen Colin Powell get in a snit? Condi is always cool and collected. Barack has to avoid throwing a fit, and any expression of anger; even a scowl or wrinkling of his eyebrows would be perceived as a fit of anger. No, McCain failed to achieve his surreptitious goal last night, and it rankled him because he knows that is his only chance for victory.

Posted by: csintala79 | October 16, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I disagree, Mr. King. The point of it all was to win the audience, not merely piss off the opponent -- McCain -- and hope for the best.

Frankly, last night Obama made this typically Republican voter pay attention and even donate $50 to his campaign.

I'll probably vote for some Republicans in the future (since Republicans can "change" as well as any Democrats when they want to) . But the Democratic ticket has my support this go around.

Posted by: chris3 | October 16, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I think you got it wrong!, King. Obama didn't have to stand fact by not standing up he was taller...there was no need to stoop! He did not fan the flame of the dissension and condescension that John McCain brought and I'll mimic what he said to McCain, "that speaks more about McCain's campaign than about him (Obama)." Calm in the storm is what Barak exhibited and it was a good thing.

Posted by: sallee54 | October 16, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I too disagree, Mr. King. While watching this debate I thought to myself repeatedly: if I had to have a public argument with someone over almost any issue, I could take some pointers from Sen. Obama on how to handle myself. No politician I can think of does this better. Obama can give great speeches, but personally, I think that it is in these direct interchanges that he shows his greatest strengths.

Posted by: Pragmatix | October 16, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Senator Obama has spent the entire campaign directing the message that
"those days are over" towards many different constituencies. And he has done it without anger in the face of emotionally charged-up constituents and opponents eager to make and take things personally.

In my view, what appears cool (too cool to some) is self-knowledge and confidence in his material and ideas; what appears soft is resiliency and knowing how to take a punch; what appears as a dodge is his trust that voters will appreciate that he chooses his battles wisely.

He is in control. He has been righting the wrongs - the personal and universal disrespectfulness underpinning US history that is carried forth to the present - simply by being present, and his successes during the campaign have reinforced this message better than any of his words.

He may be something many of us have never seen - a statesman - validated not by "spin", "quid pro quo" and "rapid response" but by executing big ideas and providing inspiring and effective leadership across all constituencies.

Wouldn't that be something, Mr. King?

Posted by: mkroll1 | October 16, 2008 1:51 PM | Report abuse

This is on point. The times when McCain called Obama "eloquent", it almost sounded as if he was going for "articulate", probably the most common of these condescending and "devastating characterizations" that King mentions.

Posted by: soooslye | October 16, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

King is wrong, wrong, wrong.

My 86-year-old mother (we're white)--who has never voted Democrat in her life (except once for a neighbor who ran for city council)--is voting for Obama. The tipping point for her was that elusive quality of looking "presidential" that Obama displays by keeping a cool head, by not appearing to take attacks personally, and by giving answers that demonstrate his intelligence and education. Another factor, of course, is how bad the last eight years have been for the U.S. McCain scares her. But if Obama ever gave a hint of not being *dignified*, my mother--along with many of the Republicans and independents who've decided to vote for him--could easily be tipped over to his rival.

Posted by: multiplepov | October 16, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Respect. I am glad that you have pointed this out - that Senator Obama needs to somehow expressly demand respect from Senator McCain. I agree with you. Who among us,readers of this column, have not experienced smug dismissal from a supervisor or a colleague or, even, a family member for that matter? How does one effectively deal with a disrespectful interaction? I would greatly appreciate that practice illustrated through Senator Obama's constant presence in the media. In doing so, he would prove to be a valuable role model in handling inter-personal difficulties. Perhaps he is modeling the best approach - to ignore inappropriate behavior. Yet, I wouldn't mind him responding with a solid and clear rebuke of the dismissive behavior expressed by his opponent. I hope that Senator Obama becomes President Obama. Through that, I guess, there will be offered substantive lessons for all of us regarding respect and acknowlegement of talent, intelligence, incredible grace and persistence. "He who laughs last ...".May the best man prevail!

Posted by: susan30 | October 16, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I wonder when this author is going to come into the 21st century. Most of this drivel is based in the racial politics of the last century and frankly perpetuates rather than heals racism.

Young people (not sure if that is a euphimism for 'black people' on the part of the author?) are smart enought to know that when faced with irrational anger that you should take the high road. By that I mean educated people regardless of race creed or color.

I honestly don't get why the post keeps this writer around, not to be condescending but his writing is poorly thought out, and not insightfull. Obviously all he sees is the color of Obama's skin and not his character otherwise he would understand Obama's MO better and might have something interesting to say accordingly.

Posted by: DCDave11 | October 16, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Colbert, Obama did the only thing a man of color could if he has any hope of succeeding in this country. He remained calm and unflappable in the face of adversity and responded informatively, coherently, and authoritatively in response, and to the issues. If a man of color learns only one thing in his lifetime in America, it is that whites are deathly afraid of a black man displaying anger. Obama is extremely smart, he saw the ramifications of the Wright episode. Wright was an associate, religious leader and mentor. His anger and disgust at a system nearly derailed Obama and is still effecting his ability to connect with a great number of voters. Imagine if Obama himself were to display those things.

Posted by: tydicea | October 16, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

I think Obama did just the right thing by not bothering to really respond in kind to any of McCain's attempts to attack him. It indicated that he didn't feel McCain's comments were really very important and not worth paying much attention to.

Posted by: Luciana1 | October 16, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Obama couldn't attack because what was said about him was true. McCain in my opinion was much to kind to the freshman senator.

Posted by: MarkUSAF | October 16, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I take your point, Mr. King, but believe you fail to see how Obama did indeed "fire back."

Shakespeare used the technique Obama employed in his work Julius Ceasar.

When Ceasar (McCain) asked the asassins (good guys and bad guys roles reversed here) were asked what's going on, Casca (Obama) replied, "Speak, hands for me." Whereupon he plunged the dagger into Ceasar. And that was the end of Ceasar.

Much the same way, Obama responded to McCains frenzied attacks with what amounted to "Speak, facts for me."

And that was the end of McCain!

McCain attacked with a hatchet.

Obama parried with a scalpel, slicing and dicing.

Posted by: apspa1 | October 16, 2008 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I thought Obama handled McCain's attacks very well. It wasn't that he turned the other cheek, he was simply above getting pulled into finger-pointing and complaining, which had absolutely nothing to do with issues. Obama came across confident, steady and presidential. McCain came across whiney and desperate.

Posted by: T2M2 | October 16, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry, Mr. King. We voters will show Sen. McCain what we thought of his condescension. I'm glad Sen. Obama maintained his dignity. He can show what he thinks of being told to keep his place by occupying it behind the desk in the Oval Office.

Posted by: QingyuanMama | October 16, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Mr. King, I am probably close to your age (if not older) and I have to say that many times I too have felt that Senator Obama should give back to Senator McCain and Mrs. Palin what they have been dishing out. And you know what? It has been my sons (members of that younger generation you speak of) who have had the level heads and have agreed fully with Senator Obama's way of dealing with Senator McCain. I have learned a great deal from my sons as we have watched and discussed these debates. They have always been pround young black men (their father instilled that in them) but they are even prouder now that Senator Obama is, as they are prone to say, "representing" not only them, but their friends who are also proud young men and women and of every nationality under the sun!

Posted by: OHREALLYNOW | October 16, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Tut, tut, Mr. King.

He'll have plenty of time to be the angry black man you seem to desire after he's elected, if he chooses.

I think, however, he'll be too busy being President.

Posted by: DrVelocity | October 16, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Obama didn't stand up to JohnMcCain last night because when it comes to character and job performance he comes up very very short. He'd be looking at McCains navel if he is lucky.

It’s not racist to question whether an untested, inexperience Senator with little legislative record and no military record should be our President.

Obama did not stand up to John McCain because he had nothing but his standard pat answers and in most cases the facts were against him. Prime example – Obama stated that health care costs run over $12,000 vs McCain’s stated $5800. According to the liberal NewYorkTimes, the actual costs for employees for a FAMILY runs $5600/year and that includes deductables as well as premiums. So Obama has a problems keeping his fact straight. And when you make it up as you go I guess it gets tough to remember what you’ve previously claimed.

Obama is a slicky one but with a little common sense prevailing in our voters this November, you in the media Mr King will be left to write stories about how did Obama lose it? Of course you will play the race card as usual but the truth is Obama doesn’t know which version of the truth to tell today and that’s why he came up short last night.

Obama has to make this a referendum on the Bush Administration because if he has to really compare himself and his record, skills, and solutions to John McCains, he loses. When John McCain said Obama should have run against Bush 4 years ago, the American voters I hope listened carefully. A McCain Administration is a far different thing from a Bush Adminstration.

Posted by: AmzgGrce | October 16, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I respectfully disagree with your assertions, Mr. King. By refusing to be drawn into a pissing match, Senator Obama conveyed that HIS focus, if not his opponent's, remains on the issues that confront our country. While I realize that many younger folks think one muat loudly and strongly confront every sling and arrow that any foe might send, I think Senator Obama presented a far healther and much more mature role model for young folks to consider. One simply does NOT have to respond to every ill thing his opponents say about him, especially when there are much more important issues at stake. Obama refused to be distracted by such nonsense; and in so doing, he demonstrated a truly mature adult way have handling such a situation. Senator Obama demonstrated that self-respect comes from within, and that if one is truly centered and grounded in knowledge of and respect for oneself, nothing anyone else says can endanger that. By contrast, Senator Obama's demeanor revealed his opponent's childish petulance for exactly what it was.

Posted by: markpkessinger | October 16, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I don't know why people think Obama should respond to McCain. I watched on CNN and those with the buttons every time McCain went negative he really dropped, also on another channel the same thing happened even among Republicans. People want answers and not to see two Presidential candidates acting like spoiled children.

Obama looked Presidential, someone you would want in a crisis or negotiating with another country. McCain would take the ball and go home because he wasn't getting his way - no leadership and scary.

Posted by: rlj1 | October 16, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the situations aren't exactly the same, but I remember when John Dean was being attacked nastily by Republican Senators while testifying about Watergate. I wanted him to snarl back, but Dean had a better strategy. He took every narky question as an opportunity to restate his facts, that there was big big trouble in the Nixon White House. We know how that all ended.

I believe that Obama and his strategists have rightly understood that he must not show anger, just as Branch Rickey knew that Jackie Robinson would have to take an awful lot of garbage, which he did. I hope the toll on Barack is not what it was for Jackie. I have great hope for this country if Barack is elected. My gut feel is that he will be an outstanding President.

Posted by: dicka1 | October 16, 2008 2:33 PM | Report abuse

P.S. .... which is not to say that you and Bob Herbert and lots of honest journalists of all races shouldn't let McCain/Palin have it with all barrels.

Posted by: dicka1 | October 16, 2008 2:35 PM | Report abuse

King: It's not about racism. It's about Marxism. Rational people do not oppose The Marxist Messiah because he's half black or half Arab or half whatever he is. We oppose him because we know that Marxism is not only inherently unfair, it doesn't work. The only people still obsessed with skin color in this day and age are black American Marxists. You can count yourself in that group.

Top 10 African Americans I would love to see as President of the United States:

1. Walter Williams
2. Thomas Sowell
3. Clarence Thomas
4. Condi Rice
5. Colin Powell
6. JC Watts
7. Ward Connerly
8. Lynn Swann
9. Shelby Steele
10. Michael Steele

Posted by: PauvrePapillon | October 16, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

You know, Colbert, my personal reaction, like yours, is to kick somebody's a** when spoken to with such disrespect as McCain's. In Alaska, we call this 'dropping the gloves' from our hockey tradition. There are rough parts of real life, even in business, which require that direct action, maybe not fisticuffs, but at least direct confrontation. But truthfully, when with colleagues and confronted with a serious and complicated problem, calm and patience is required, along with the ability to not allow yourself to be baited. Barack Obama has to show these high level executive skills, and show them publicly when confronted with a complex, confrontational, angry old man. Obama most certainly did not lose my respect in his handling of McCain.

Posted by: AKwatchman | October 16, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I would add Amy Holmes to my list but she is too young and born in Zambia.

By the way, though, isn't it a bit strange that The Marxist Messiah refuses to produce a state-certified birth certificate? Was he really born in Hawaii or was he really born in Kenya?

If it turns out that he's not even a natural U.S. citizen, you are going to see one hell of a mess as the U.S. Supreme Court removes him from office and we are left with riots in the streets as Joe "Can't-Remember-Who-Was-President-in-1929-and- When-TV-Was-Introduced" Biden takes over as President.

Posted by: PauvrePapillon | October 16, 2008 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I think Obama shouldve have called McCain out on the issues of McCain putting a halt on spending. How is McCain going to help people with housing, healthcare, energy and education if he does that. You cant do those things if you dont want to spend money. But I understand he has to be careful what he says.

Posted by: fcrowderjr | October 16, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

I understand your thinking, Colbert, but I think Obama's strategy was better. He has taken the high road in all these debates and wound up looking more presidential. The initial reactions were clear - 2 to 1 in favor of Obama. All he had to do was give McCain enough rope to hang himself - which he did, with a smug and scornful look on his face.

McCain is right that he isn't George Bush. Bush learned from his mistakes in the first debate with Kerry and controlled his face and body language in the remaining debates. McCain is more impulsive and headstrong that Bush, apparently.

Also, Bush is a better pilot. McCain lost five planes during his time in the service and Bush didn't lose any during his time in the Air National Guard. Sorry - I couldn't resist the gratuitous jab, but I'm no Barack Obama. Thank God, our candidate is.

Posted by: johnsonc2 | October 16, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse


Obama wanted McCain to diss him. And he wanted to reply with the cool demeanor we saw last night. And as a young viewer, what I saw was a hothead firing random shots at a guy who kept his cool and deflected them, one after another. Which one looked "presidential?"

Obama looked like a guy I would like having on the hot seat. McCain scared the **** out of me. He was not aggressive. He was totally erratic.

Someone recently said that McCain should fire his campaign staff. After last night, I think the campaign staff ought to for McCain!

Posted by: BwanaDik | October 16, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I understand your concern, Mr. King- that McCain was able to attack freely without Obama counter-punching, thereby seeming like the better Commander-in-Chief. However, voters already knew that McCain was witty (and angry), but not particularly effective. It may have been painful to watch, but as others have said so well, Jesus himself "turned the other cheek", Obama does not have to stand up to "The Man " as he IS [so close to being] "The Man", and he "knows his place"- behind the desk in the Oval Office (which really is oval, by the way- I've seen a replica of it at the Reagan Library)!

Posted by: netnuevo | October 16, 2008 3:13 PM | Report abuse

McCain made an ass of himself. There was no need for Obama to respond.

Posted by: jimcummings | October 16, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I would have liked for Obama to have popped him one. It took some nerve for McCain to get out there and play the victim because Obama had not denounced Lewis while all the while McCain is standing behind the trash talking pit bull. But, Obama looked like the adult and McCain looked like all he had was a bucket of mud that wasn't sticking.

Posted by: SarahBB | October 16, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I was in the military for most of 21 years and the one thing I learned that I've taught my children and anyone else's that were close enough to me, "carry yourself in such a way as to "command" respect so that 'demanding' will not be necessary." Folks who are disrespectful, and have reasonable common sense, will see the error of their ways, even if they don't admit it, when they are disrespectful to you and you don't respond to it.

Posted by: sallee54 | October 16, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Oh sure, give McCain something else to bash Obama about...being an angry black man. This would give McCain's attack dogs more fodder. No, I think Obama did the right thing and let McCain make an ass out of himself. Obama defended himself where he needed to.

Posted by: cheez | October 16, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

It is not racism, sexism or Marxism. Condescension is a tactic used by insecure people everywhere. It was very apparent last night that Senator McCain felt very insecure and unsure of his own policies and ideas. For Senator Obama to fire back continual attacks which would have gone unanswered would have been to descend to Senator McCain's level and would have proven nothing to anyone. I am tired of a government that reacts emotionally and personally on every issue, that considers their personal gain and feelings over the needs and greater good of the country.
Senator Obama impressed me with his cool, calm demeanor. I am ready for the change!

Posted by: csegeln | October 16, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

We've all heard those old cliches that tell us never to stoop down to the level of our enemies, or that the cream always rises to the top. John McCain has a reputation for losing his temper. I am glad that Barack Obama kept his cool. He did just fine. As long as Obama doesn't get too complacent and take things for granted, he will be elected our next president.

Posted by: luvsopals | October 16, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

You pundits. You are exactly wrong, Mr. King. YOU might have liked to see Obama attack more, but the American public -- most specifically and importantly, the undecided and independent voters, most decidedly do not.

Obama refused to climb in the gutter with McCain and judging by every poll cleaned McCain's clock by doing so.

Posted by: monk4hall | October 16, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

King.....I know what you are saying but I have to disagree totally. See if you understand the negative campaign machine the republicans can use then you know that Obama realized that he can direct his comments to the people and they will decide. This race is pretty much all over and McCain with is accusations didn't do one thing to his favor. Obama realized that, called him on the topics that he knew were coming up and slammed him for it. So for you to say he had to do this or that doesn't matter because what he HAD to do, he did and convincingly.

Posted by: gabbamonkey | October 16, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the observation that McCain was disrespecting Obama - as he has done in all the debates - but I disagree with the suggestion that Obama didn't respond correctly. To have fought back as suggested would have been to fall into the trap that was being laid for him. McCain would have liked nothing more than to pull Obama into the mud with him. The goal of the debates and the campaign, though, is to win the Presidency. Achieving the overwhelming public verdict that he'd won the debate is the best push back that Obama could have done. Obama kept his eyes on the prize and let McCain hang himself with his own rope. After he wins the election, I seriously doubt Obama will ever again let anyone - especially McCain - speak to him like that.

Posted by: skrut003 | October 16, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me, Sir, but when civil rights era leaders learn that worrying over 'respect' one receives from one's opponent is counter productive, gang violence will cease.

Get it?

Probably not. Neither does Mr. Jackson, Mr. Sharpton, et al. Ergo, neither do people living in the self-imposed ghetto of a slavery mindset.

We LIKE the fact that Obama is above the shallow concerns of "respect" from one's political opponent. It is completely unimportant.

Further, it certainly show's the opponenct's lack of civility, doesn't it?

Drop the victim mentality Sir. Replace it with goals and determination to make the world a place where intellect is valued, and lauded, vs demands for hollow (and most likely faux) public displays of respect.

TRUE admiration of you, and your efforts will immediately follow.

In the meantime, let's focus on policy discussions and vote in Obama/Biden in 2008, shall we?

Posted by: onestring | October 16, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Mr. King,

I enjoy reading your columns, but I think you are very seriously wrong on this one. I'm 30, a graduate student, and teaching keeps me in contact with undergrads. And one huge cultural difference that I think exists between younger people and older people in this country right now is that confrontational behavior and anger are actually much less respected and much more disliked in the younger generation than amongst older people.

In class discussions, for example, when one student rails unfairly against another student, and the other one just remains calm, doesn't reply with anger, and keeps talking about the real subject of discussion, that student wins almost automatically, in the eyes of all the other students. They can already see that the aggressive student is being unfair - they don't need to be told that by the student who is under attack. By not responding in kind, the calm student shows that (s)he is focused and thoughtful while the other one is out of control.

This seems to be a big cultural divide. Time after time, even during the primaries, I heard Boomers wonder why Obama didn't 'fight back' harder. Perhaps having grown up in an era of controversial cultural movements and confrontation, they had more respect for 'righteous anger'. But those of us who have grown up in the shadow of the Boomers, and had to listen to their debates refought every few years are heartily sick of confrontation and hostility. In our eyes, the person who acts with civility and grace and doesn't lose his/her temper wins the debate almost by default.

It may be that Obama's decision not to hit back harder or be more aggressive towards John McCain will cost him votes. But if it does, I am almost certain that those will be the votes of people over forty or fifty, not the votes of younger people.

Thanks again for your column.


Posted by: Beren | October 16, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Mr.King, I usually agree with you, but in this case I think Senator Obama did us all a service by keeping his eye on the target, not on the attacker. No one enjoys it when all that happens is a "you did / he did" back and forth. And they both would look like kids on a playground (which happens all too often in our politics).

Posted by: Tojo1 | October 16, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

On November 5, if all goes well, President-elect Obama will settle John McCain down right fast, I predict. Barack is much too classy to play McCain's game, but McCain will be yesterday's game and America will have the leader so sorely needed for so long. Dissing will be yesterday too, and all of us will stand a little taller. Peace.

Posted by: mfbullock | October 16, 2008 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Mr. King, I both agree and disagree with you. It's no question what McCain has been trying to pull, but I think Obama's gotten into his head and underneath his skin, so he doesn't have to "do" righteous indignation.

Just think back to when Obama, Biden and McCain were all on the floor to vote on the bailout package. The senators were standing on their respective "sides" when Sen. Obama went over to McCain to shake his hand. He did it to screw with him: he knew and McCain knew that the cameras were on them, pretty much daring him to put his pettiness on display.

Frankly, Obama had McCain's number back when they were working on the ethics reform package. He knows how to needle McCain without leaving a mark. And during the first two debates, I think Obama physically dominated him without ever being physical. McCain condescends to him, w/o question, but he fears him, too. He always seems to "lose his bearings" and scamper off the stage in the debates. Smells like chicken to me...!

I know it may seem like Obama is being a Jackie Robinson 2.0, but I prefer to compare him to a Ninja--you don't know you're hit until you suddenly find yourself on the floor, bloody and dying. Obama is the epitome of "Don't talk about it; be about it."

And that's something those of us "young'uns" respect.

Posted by: ednt4606 | October 16, 2008 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I disagree. Obama countered McCain's baseless accusations one by one, and when McCain reiterated false statements already countered by Obama, Obama moved on, as he should have. I have watched many past presidential debates, and have always been frustrated with how candidates would get bogged down in accusations and denials and counteraccusations. Obama simply refuted McCain's lies and returned to the issues.

McCain, in harping on nonsense, showed how flimsy his platform is. In fact, I believe Obama described McCain's policy positions better than McCain did. I don't see how any impartial observer could believe that McCain was anything than a bitter, mean, and empty man. McCain destroyed himself last night. Obama needed to do nothing but address McCain's attacks directly and move on to the important issues we face as a nation. He did this brilliantly.

Posted by: RealityIsNotOnlineOrOnTheTV | October 16, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

TIME MAGAZINE has made some comments about RACE recently, and in particular, that OBAMA must walk a fine line: AN ANGRY BLACK MAN CANNOT BE ELECTED TO PRESIDENT.

I noticed a few headlines today, proclaiming McCAIN AS ANGRY WHITE MAN. That tactic (expressing anger at the government, the economy, the war) has been used for years, and by many generations. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

VIETNAM war protestors expressed plenty of anger towards the government, and the so-called "system". I was a Vietnam era college protestor. We war protestors, had plenty of culural support for our actions. My parents, for instance, did not want me to get drafted and get killed in VIETNAM.

The IRAQ war protestors have expressed anger, but there has been little cultural support for action, at least, in the U.S. Without a critical mass of support, the anger is easily dismissed. Bush has effectively muzzled the media's coverage of the IRAQ war, and the huge loss of life.

I feel Obama has been particularily guarded in his criticism of the IRAQ war. McCain has been able to criticize Obama's failure to recognize the so called, SURGE. Of course, claiming the success of the SURGE is highly disputed by various experts.

No matter what side of "show anger" you come down on, everyone has an opinion. Anger is a human emotion, but we all know that it is not always understood, nor directed at the source of conflict. For instance, I might be angry with my dear wife, because she didn't buy gas when last using the car. But why didn't I fill the tank, she might retort?

Since Obama is near the same age as my own children, I have learned long ago that my anger doesn't "get heard" by my children. They will do whatever, to learn their own lessons, on their own terms.

Kahil Gibran wrote something about this in his book, The Prophet. "And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children."

And he said:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

Posted by: rmorris391 | October 16, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

The younger set should be impressed that Obama kept cool and didn't let disrespect lead to anger. Too many young kids today perceive disrespect and reach for a gun. They can learn a lot from Obama who will have the ultimate last laugh in November.

Posted by: impressed1 | October 16, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I suspect that most of the elctorate is about to hand the "anger is over" message to Mr. McCain, so it's fine by me that Obama is looking further ahead.

Besides, I think ednt4606 is right on the money. Obama isn't wasting his time on displays. He's whipping McCain without breaking a sweat. McCain looks hopelessly outmatched.

Posted by: Attucks | October 16, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I usually agree with Mr. King. But I think he misses the point. The example Obama sets for the younger generation is how to prevail and accomplish big things, which is how real respect is ultimately earned. Obama is not of the older generation or the sixties generation whose anger was needed to fight the historic civil rights fight. He knows that anger is America's enemy, he's not angry, and he is charting a course that makes it possible for him to lead a country that he didn't divide. His steadiness of purpose is critical to his and our success.
Jackie Robinson didn't show anger. He won by excelling at his job. That's still the ticket, and Obama knows it. He's setting a great example for the younger generation of all races.
As a 61 year old guy who comes out of the experience of the sixties, I remember the old saying: don't get angry, get even by winning.

Posted by: f-jsachs | October 16, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

i must disagree with mr. k. i must say that my initial reaction was he should have used the pile of available attacks to destroy sarah palin and mccain.
yet, on further reflection, his handlers were right to adopt the rope-a-dope strategy, which allowed mccain to self-immolate.
why have mccain's numbers been going down? first reason in nyt poll-negative attacks.
why should obama lose this advantage by descending to the cess-pool?
mr cool whipped (sorry couldn't avoid the pun!) mcain, and did it by letting mccain's
grimaces, tics, fake smiles and condescension backfire.

Posted by: mediator27 | October 16, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

This article is racially motivated. How dare you state that McCain was being a racist of his generation by attacking Obama in the arena of debates. That's politics.

Basically you are saying that McCain is a racist simply because he is running against a black man. What a paranoid attitude and quite racially motivated.

This is a sad piece of journalism. You are trying to teach the younger generation that they had better not contest a politician of color lest they be deemed racist. Nothing from McCain indicated that Obama shouldn't be president because of the color of his skin.

I'm an American of Arab background, and I didn't see the flames of hatred coming from McCain. Only your hatred could help that vision come about. The same goes for your racist backers of this article.

Posted by: jmounadi | October 16, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

PauvrePapillon thanks for the laugh! Your top 10 list of African Americans for President is a joke.

Posted by: OHREALLYNOW | October 16, 2008 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Look, if you are going to see racism in every single thing people say and do, I can't stop you. But I think that is sad and also unfair.

You also need to try to understand politics a little bit. When you are behind, you attack. When you're ahead, you don't. That is the unwritten but well understood rule. Obama did nothing wrong by not attacking McCain. Why should he? He doesn't have to do it. The economic crisis will take care things for him. This is about winning an election. And he's going to win.

I would also like to remind you that John McCain has a black adopted daughter. And the decency to not drag her into the fray over race in this election. I think that says something about him.

Posted by: stephanie2 | October 16, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

As a 60-year-old white male, I have infinitely more respect for Obama than McCain precisely because he did not let the condescending tactic that McCain attempted affect him or throw him off balance. Obama came across as calm, rational and presidential. More importantly, he did not come across as a black man who was being disrespected, he came across as a man of superior temperment who is ready to be president. He truly has managed to transcent the old racial quagmire in a way that appeals to people of all races. He has my vote!

Posted by: DTurner1 | October 16, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

This is so on point: "Carry yourself in such a way as to 'command' respect so that 'demanding' will not be necessary."

Besides, President Barack Obama can do all the bragging he wants to do when he's being sworn in while McLame watches on.

Posted by: ednt4606 | October 16, 2008 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I disagree with the idea that Obama needed to somehow stand up for himself and refuse to take the abuse or disrespect. I think he refuted most of the negative comments made by McCain, but he took the high road overall...or at least it looked that way. The rudeness and negativity shown in McCain's attacks showed much more about McCain than they did about Obama. Obama seemed like Teflon last night...not much stuck to him. He let McCain dig his own grave. McCain started looking desperate and Obama didn't play into it or go down that path.

I see it as commendable and "presidential." Not all attacks need to be acknowledged. Other than setting the record straight, what was he supposed to do? It wasn't as if he pulled a John Kerry and let most of the accusations stand without response. Obama did not let McCain swift boat him.

Posted by: holly10092003 | October 16, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Obama showed maturity with his restraint. McCain showed "old," as in grumpy, old . . . .

Obama wanted to debate issues; McCain's target has been character - and his plan has backfired. Voters are dealing with the perfect economic storm, and McCain wants to express his outrage about Ayers and ACORN. Is that silly or what? Give McCain a chance to fly high and, little by little, he has shot himself down - one incident after another.

To his credit, Obama has wisely avoided comments that might antagonize McCain supporters; that and an even temperament will be helpful in diplomatically handling both foreign and domestic policy.

Posted by: nlersch | October 16, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Obama showed maturity with his restraint. McCain showed "old," as in grumpy, old . . . .

Obama wanted to debate issues; McCain's target has been character - and his plan has backfired. Voters are dealing with the perfect economic storm, and McCain wants to express his outrage about Ayers and ACORN. Is that silly or what? Give McCain a chance to fly high and, little by little, he has shot himself down - one incident after another.

To his credit, Obama has wisely avoided comments that might antagonize McCain supporters; that and an even temperament will be helpful in diplomatically handling both foreign and domestic policy.

Posted by: nlersch | October 16, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

I disagree; Machiavelli said “never do an enemy a small harm,” and by simply ignoring McCain’s comportment last night, Obama was able to inflict damage that was large and likely fatal. In the face of Obama’s indulgence, the power of McCain’s demeanor was reduced to that of an old corner wino flailing around, challenging imaginary people and threats. The kind of person that can't always avoid if you're running late or have an important destination. Obama has gotten inside McCain’s head and it’s killing him. In his mind, Senator Obama is disrespecting McCain’s family, his rank and all the things he believes are rightfully his. Obama has effectively dismissed McCain and those like him as being irrelevant.By virtue of his winning,Obama will send a powerful message to all those who will follow. McCain is already suffering mightily over what he’s done to himself and Obama’s success will only add salt to the wounds. Surely that's more satisfying in the long run than a one time debating smack down .

Posted by: klcscott | October 16, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

At first I thought I disagreed with Mr.King.
Having read through his entry twice, though, I'm
not so sure. An old nursing axiom advises, "Pain is what the patient says it is." This is something Mr. King knows about from experience, and I don't. I'm just thinking Obama's effectiveness in presidential politics but there may be more to it. I've started a blog to explore this further at http//

Posted by: martymar123 | October 16, 2008 6:35 PM | Report abuse

I must disagree with you also, Mr. King. I feel Senator Obama came across quite well. I saw Senator McCain as an angry old man who would not be able to keep a calm head in a heated disagreement. Senator Obama simply kept his cool and set the records straight. How best to determine the character of a man when he is under fire? If he can hold up under this kind of heat, then surely he can manage dealing with the heads of other countries even when the conversation becomes a little heated. As a woman of color, I feel he did a wonderful job.

Posted by: suchalady | October 16, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

As one who has experienced the implacable situation of being bullied, I am reminded of all the many times the individual who was picked on - if they hit back - were always the ones caught and blamed. This is the genius of the bully who would then shuffle a bit, look coy and innocent. It is called victimization.

Barack's ability to refrain from 'hitting-back' and instead use reason is an infinitely far more valuable lesson to American's at this precise moment than the course you are suggesting. A course, I might add, that has gotten us exactly into the mess we presently we find ourselves in as a nation fighting two wars while going bankrupt.

Posted by: lifesized | October 16, 2008 9:31 PM | Report abuse

"McCain was no doubt trying to portray Obama as an upstart. But in doing so, he adopted an attitude familiar to people of color who find themselves in the company of folks who don't want them there.

You hear yourself described as nice but naïve, well-intentioned but lacking an informed opinion, energetic but without sound judgement -- the kind of subjective but devastating characterizations that are career-enders."

Although most readers seem to have come to a different conclusion than Mr. King, I still think the above is one of the best things he's written that I have read.

I think he's speaking about something I sometimes suspect I see with certain minority commentators when I'm trying to listen to what they have to say and the others talk over them. Or they're included on the set but mostly excluded from the conversation.
As a white person, I thought at first I was imagining this, but I've seen it over and over again. It's like the old Essence fashion mag blurbs that read, "No one will doubt your authority---or your good taste."
Imagine marketing clothing to white males that way.

I enjoy reading the entries here and seeing so many different perspectives.

Posted by: martymar123 | October 16, 2008 10:46 PM | Report abuse

OBAMA BIDEN 08...!!!###@@@


Posted by: fu_buki | October 18, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

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