The Debate From the Great Fly-overI was watching the candidates as they deplaned for the debate. First, Obama skipped down the steps alone and galloped over to shake the hands of the flight crew. When the McCains arrived, Cindy walked down the steps first. Only the polite thing to do, but something looked different. She walked slowly with her back against him and her hands braced on the rails as if to prevent his pitching forward. Once on the ground, she fell back to walk behind him but she walked very closely with her hand behind his back as if to steady him. These little "tells" may not be noticeable to everyone but, since I so recently was responsible for an elderly, unsteady man, it appeared obvious to me that this campaign has taken a toll on John's strength and they are being very careful to hide that fact from the public. I think you can sometimes tell more about a man's physical health by the solicitude or lack of it on the part of the wife, and his wife, millionairess or not, tells me that he is not well.
During the entire debate, the whole performance of McCain was a bit off and off-putting. He behaved like nothing but a churlish old man, insisting that his way is the only way and "you young whipper-snappers had better accept his wisdom, based on his vast experiences from 50 years ago. He has been there and he knows what he is doing, whether you like it or not!"
Strutting around on-stage, flapping his arms like an aquarium seal and giving a performance that brought to mind a frenetic, wind-up Mini-Me on meth. From his "new idea" of buying the risky loans from the financial companies and re-writing them so that owners can afford their mortgage payments (haven't we heard that somewhere before?) to having a "secret plan" to defeat Al Qaeda but he's not gonna tell us. We oldsters could only harken back to Richard Nixon's "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War. (By the way, that really worked out well, didn't it?)
When we add McCain's assessment of the reasons for the growth of terrorism coming out of Afghanistan, it was like he was coming to us from outer space. He said that, after the Afghan Freedom Fighters had defeated Russian forces and forced them out of the country, we abandoned that nation and they resented that. In fact he was almost half right. He neglected to recognize that, for all those grueling years, it was the Taliban Freedom Fighters who kicked Russia from their country, but he is right that they resented our abandonment of their country. At the time, our concern was not the nation of Afghanistan but its strategic physical position relative to our struggle against Russia. We trained and helped to fund the Al Qaeda troops from Saudi Arabia and sent them in to help the Afghan forces. When they succeeded in the tasks to which we had assigned them, they were discarded like used Kleenex. I wonder why they hate us with such intensity...
On the other hand, the attitude of Obama was all but dismissive. He would lounge atop his stool and smile indulgently as McCain spouted his almost-inane opinions and grandiose proposals, an act of which we all have been guilty when a beloved, belligerent old uncle invokes the Good Ole Days when he was in his prime, all the while boring the socks of the youngsters in the room whose reluctant brains are unable to comprehend the society in which the old man insists on living. Unfortunately, this assessment may not be so far off the mark.
Just when I had almost convinced myself that the signs I had seen of possible physical debilitation or fatigue had possibly led me to an erroneous assumption, the debate ended. Barack and Michelle Obama waded into the audience, shaking hands and posing for candid photos as if that was what they really came to do, and the debate was only a delay in the beginning of the festivities.
Cindy McCain collected her husband from the stage and they quietly left the building. How sad that nobody seemed to miss them. It reminded me in a painful way of the quote by General MacArthur, "old soldiers never die, they just fade away." I mourn the fading into irrelevance of all the old soldiers, sailors, and other heroes of my day and the loss of their influence on our lives, political, social, and personal. I especially mourn the little old ladies sitting in the corner and smiling at the antics of the youngsters as they fumbled, failed, and eventually found their own new ways of life.
If only the old men could develop such an attitude...