"That One"

John McCain seems like a friendly guy. Whenever he’s making speeches, it’s always “my friends” this and “my friends” that. Granted, he’s usually making speeches in front of partisan supporters, but even at the town hall debate in Nashville, with a room full of undecided (and presumably unfamiliar) voters, everybody was, seemingly, John McCain’s friend.

Except Barack Obama.

No one expects the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees to be good friends (although Joe Biden does love him some John McCain), but there has historically been a certain congeniality between rival candidates, even if it’s a velvet glove around an iron fist. Something as cordial as “my esteemed opponent” can be delivered with withering sarcasm, but the boundaries are respected. Indeed, on numerous occasions Barack Obama has praised John McCain as an honorable man before ripping into his various policies.

Which made this bit from McCain on Tuesday night stick out like a sore thumb:

“By the way, my friends, I know you grow a little weary with this back-and-forth. It was an energy bill on the floor of the Senate loaded down with goodies, billions for the oil companies, and it was sponsored by Bush and Cheney.

You know who voted for it? You might never know. That one. You know who voted against it? Me.”

Not “Sen. Obama,” or “my opponent,” or even just “him.”

“That one.”

Back when I was 10 or so, my friends and I were playing kickball in the backyard. One kid shanked it off out of bounds, and into a neighbor’s garden. After carefully retrieving the ball, we were about to continue playing when the neighbor, an older gentleman to whom Grandpa Simpson could be reasonably compared, came out and immediately started yelling at us. My friend’s mother came outside to see what all the fuss was about. The neighbor pointed to the cataclysmic destruction to his garden (3 snapped rhubarb stalks), extended a gnarled finger at the boy responsible and croaked with kid-hating contempt, “That one!”

This is precisely how John McCain views Barack Obama, as some smart-ass kid with no respect, ruining his garden, wearing those crazy clothes and listening to that “rock ‘n’ roll” music. Given McCain’s already crotchety demeanor and reputation for having a nasty temper [bravenewpac.org], this may not play well with independents and undecideds. And while some may see a racial component to the insult, referring to a black man with a dehumanizing pronoun, I don’t believe John McCain is a racist. A bit of a dick, but not a racist. The GOP seems ready to run with it, however, perhaps believing it will advance their efforts to highlight Obama’s “otherness.” [www.politico.com]

I say knock yourselves out with that one, guys. Run with it. It’s not like it could backfire or anything.


– Michael Turner