The Education of Ebert

Did you know that John McCain refused to look Barack Obama in the eye during Friday night’s debate? According to Roger Ebert today, everybody knows that. Ebert builds a column today around that “fact” as well as a rumination about McCain’s body language and concludes that McCain was being rude and he is offended. “Obama is my guy,” Ebert writes. “And if you are rude to him, you are rude to me.”

Let’s set aside for now the fact that Ebert has no problem being rude to McCain and, even more so, to Sarah Palin, to whom he was also sexist and condescending. No, let’s just stick with the facts about McCain’s eyes.

As Bob Somerby – an Obama supporter who nonetheless has a brain and can’t stand the false narratives of the American political system – shows at his invaluable Daily Howler, nobody seemed to notice McCain’s problems looking Obama in the eye until Obama string-puller David Axelrod mentioned it in the post-debate spin room.

Somerby goes on to show how the post-debate punditry was oblivious to the alleged problem with McCain’s body language in their immediate reports but after a day of reading each other and letting the spin memes set in, suddenly discovered how horrid it was. (His arms looked mighty stiff at the lectern! I bet he can’t even use a computer!)

Of course, this is patently silly from the get-go. Does anyone really believe John McCain is afraid or unwilling to look Barack Obama in the eye?

Dear Roger: You are still one of the best of the best when it comes to movies, but your political analysis isn’t even worthy of straight-to-video.


12 responses to “The Education of Ebert

  1. You and Somerby may be right about the pundits in general, but James Fallows noticed it during the debate, posting about it at his Atlantic blog at 10:17 EST:

    I’ll admit that I didn’t notice it, but that makes it no less striking (or weird) once it was pointed out. I did notice in real time how much Obama was looking at and listening to McCain.

  2. Hmm. WordPress doesn’t want me to post the link. Let’s try this; you can add the www yourself:

  3. Same point as Levi above…doesn’t matter if everyone “noticed” this on their own or had it pointed out by Axelrod and other spinners. The key question: Is it true? (Not all spin is a lie.) When you look at the debate, can you see real evidence that McCain was being a pissy, condescending little turd because his little suspend-the-campaign charade failed miserably?
    I don’t know whether Roger Ebert actually noticed it in real time, or had it pointed out to him after the fact, but that doesn’t invalidate his conclusion about what it reveals about McCain’s (lack of) character.

  4. divisionstreet

    I have to disagree. If it wasn’t noticeable to viewers the first-time around – pundits ready to pounce on every word and gesture – how could it suddenly become important only because you’re told to go back and look at it and get angry? It’s like Al Gore’s sighs and inventing the Internet and the rest of the manufactured malarkey that liberals once complained of and now traffic in gleefully. I thought this was the kind of thing Obama says is the kind of distraction that stops us from focusing on what’s really important.

  5. I noticed. I think it also came up in discussions by pundits (the talking heads on cable) who asked “who look more Presidential? ” I didn’t think it was unreasonable for them to mention that Obama made confident gestures while speaking, often looked directly at his opponent, and they associated this with greater confidence and perhaps command. You could not help but notice McCain differed in his demeanor, often considerably.

  6. Someone called this an obsession with “style points.” I couldn’t agree more. I’d rather know that he can do a triple axel, not whether he can do it with style.

  7. Ebert lately reminds me of Garrison Keillor — brilliant at what he does best, and sounds like an absolute loon when he rambles on about politics.

  8. Grayslake, IL

    It was very clear to me during the debate that McCain refused to look at Obama. It was even specifically stated “Tell him, not me” (moderator). Barack’s composure continues to display who is most ready & who is most qualified to help get this contry back on track. What would McCain do if he has to meet w/ other heads of state and he doesn’t like what they say..smirk, as he did at Obama? I’m sorry, but anyone who didn’t notice the obvious denial on McCain’s part to make eye contact must have been out of the room during the debate.

  9. John Coctostan

    I didn’t notice McCain’s behavior because, like anyone sane, I was drunk. But I’m glad Ebert and others pointed it out. I wish Rhodes would explain why refusing to look at your opponent during a debate isn’t downright weird. Gore sighed cuz he was debating a moron. No equivalence.

  10. Chris LaFortune

    I gotta say, I noticed it, as well. Aside from it being a mild annoyance, I wasn’t all that worried about it. My wife, she noticed it during the debate and pointed it out. She was aggravated by it and preferred Obama’s engagement with McCain while answering. We both noticed that he did, indeed, look at McCain often. I don’t know how big a deal it really is, and I’m not sure anyone ought to select a candidate based on it, but it did happen and was noticeable.

  11. Unindicted Co-conspirator

    Ebert has been writing political columns every presidential campaign for at least the last 8 years.
    Always to oppose the Sun-Time’s idiotic endorsement of a republican.
    Face it, he’s a better writer than any of us or anyone else at the ST!

  12. divisionstreet

    In addition to the first link to Bob Somerby provided in the post, I suggest folks read what Somerby came back with today addressing Fallows etc.:

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