October 16, 2012

"A candidate who actually nods when his opponent makes a powerful counterargument—as Obama did several times during the last debate—is a rare bird."

So wrote Slate Culture Critic Meghan O'Rourke on October 28, 2008, in a collection of short statements by various Slate writers, explaining who they were about to vote for and why. For some reason, this article isn't available on line anymore, but it turns up in a Google search as a "doc" file that downloads. I had the text to Google because my son John had blogged it back in '08, and he remembered it and emailed me about it after I blogged today about how I hadn't interpreted Obama's looking down and nodding in a negative way.

Here's O'Rourke's entire statement of why she was voting for Obama:
For his charisma, his cautiousness, and his cool. In a time of high stakes, we need someone who can sort out the best course of action without bridling in anger. A candidate who actually nods when his opponent makes a powerful counterargument—as Obama did several times during the last debate—is a rare bird. Of course, Obama is untested in many regards. My main concern about him is this: How will he deal with making an unpopular or tough decision? Can he keep his cool then without losing confidence in himself? I believe so, and that's why he has my vote.
If you Google that text, you'll get to the document that has the many statements of various writers. I predict there's a lot of raw material for analyzing the state of affairs today. State of affairs... the state of America's affair with Barack Obama.

If you love a man, his passive nodding means one thing. If you've fallen out of love, it's something else. Obama's demeanor at the first debate didn't diminish our affection for him; our reaction to it was evidence of how we already felt.

What can he do now? Act some different way at debate #2? If my hypothesis is correct, it doesn't matter what he does. We won't like it.

ADDED: I'm rooting around in that Slate document. Here's Tim Wu, evincing the classic '08 madness:
Most of all, I like his obvious inner calm. It suggests that his decisions will come from somewhere other than expediency, anger, or fear. It's like electing Obi-Wan Kenobi as president.
And here's some prescience:
Emily Yoffe, "Dear Prudence" Columnist: Obama

Please, please, Barack, don't become another Jimmy Carter.

67 comments:

chickelit said...

A President who stands on one leg during a debate is a rare bird indeed.

campy said...

it doesn't matter what he does. We won't like it.

But the mainstream press is going to say he was AWESOME!!!

David said...

"Obama's demeanor at the first debate didn't diminish our affection for him; our reaction to it was evidence of how we already felt."

Althouse you are on a roll of magnificent insights today. I say that mainly because you agree with me.

chickelit said...

campy said...
it doesn't matter what he does. We won't like it.

But the mainstream press is going to say he was AWESOME!!!


Don't get all rash,mon


Ann Althouse said...

"A President who stands on one leg during a debate is a rare bird indeed."

A flamingo!

edutcher said...

From what I can tell, he's prepping for this one the same as the last.

He may look at the Romster while he (Romney) is talking, but it won't change things.

The Romster is doing what he's done all his life and that's the margin here.

Barry, OTOH, is on the spot for the first time in his life. Candy Crowley, bruiser that she is, may try to deflect the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but even she isn't big enough to shield him completely.

Bill said...

Meh. His looking down, or even nodding, didn't strike me as poor performance. I read it as being respectful of your opponent's time to speak and acknowledging, but not necessarily agreeing with, his argument.

Even his stammering and all his "Uh"s are just his conversational style. After 8 years as a Bush supporter, I'll cut Obama lots of slack on linguistic idiosyncrasies.

No, it was the complete lack of substance. It was what the "Uh"s signified: a flailing around for an attempt to find some relevant way to defend his record, or define the future, or attack his opponent, or anything. But he was as ill-prepared and poor performing in the debate as he's been in the presidency. He can't be fired soon enough.

chickelit said...

A pinko flamingo!

Ann Althouse said...

On our block all of the guys call her flamingo
Cause her hair glows like the sun
And her eyes can light the sky
When she moves she walks so fine like a flamingo
Crimson dress that clings so tight
She's out of reach and out of sight

When she walks by she brightens up the neighbourhood
Oh every guy would make her his if he just could
If she just would

Some sweet day I'll make her mine, pretty flamingo
Then every guy will envy me
Cause paradise is where I'll be

Pretty flamingo, pretty flamingo

When she walks by she brightens up the neighbourhood
Oh every guy would make her his if he just could,
If she just would
Some sweet day I'll make her mine, pretty flamingo
Then every guy will envy me
Cause paradise is where I'll be
(Sha la la, la la la la pretty flamingo)
Some day I?ll make her mine,
Sha la la, la la la la pretty flamingo)
Yes I will, yes I will, make her mine
Sha la la la la la la la la la la laaaaa....

X said...

an odd duck is a rare bird

Jay said...

My main concern about him is this: How will he deal with making an unpopular or tough decision? Can he keep his cool then without losing confidence in himself? I believe so, and that's why he has my vote.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

Bang up job in that department, huh?

SteveR said...

Based on that brilliant assessment, I imagine she's real happy with the last four years

chickelit said...

Note that POTUS stood on his left leg last debate: LINK. He needs to stand firming on both left and right feet tonight.

Jay said...

like his obvious inner calm. It suggests that his decisions will come from somewhere other than expediency, anger, or fear. It's like electing Obi-Wan Kenobi as president.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

oh my God!

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

Nonapod said...

I can't objectively evaluate Obama's demeanor in a debate so I rely on other peoples interpretations to determine if he comported himself well. I have a predetermined view of the guy that's pretty fixed (that he's a puffed up narcissistic idiot).

That said I have no idea what he can do in this debate to change the current trajectory. I don't think he can pull off being aggressive without coming off mean, and I know he can't be passive since that was what killed him last time.

AllenS said...

You said: "Obama's demeanor at the first debate didn't diminish our affection for him; our reaction to it was evidence of how we already felt."

Utter bullshit. This is what you should have said: "Obama's demeanor at the first debate didn't diminish MY affection for him; MY reaction to it was evidence of how I already felt."

[emphasis added for clarity]

AJ Lynch said...

On the job training is what Obama got for the last four years and he showed he just can not handle the job so like Clint Eastwood said "it's time to let him go".

Rob said...

"Please, please, Barack, don't become another Jimmy Carter."


Waaaaaayyyy too late. Don't be a dolt, Althouse.

Bob Ellison said...

Wikipedia:

"Pretty Flamingo" is a song written by Mark Barkan, which became a hit in 1966 when Manfred Mann's recording of it was released as a single.

Mark Barkan is a songwriter and producer. He was also a musical director for the television show The Banana Splits Adventure Hour.

The series costumes and sets were designed by Sid and Marty Krofft and the series' sponsor was Kellogg's Cereals.


Any song even indirectly associated with the Krofft brothers should be shunned.

Rob said...

Manfred Mann. Love that song.

furious_a said...

From the linked article: Can he keep his cool then without losing confidence in himself? I believe so, and that's why he has my vote.

Barack is so cool...he can roll over and go back to sleep after being informed that one of our embassies has been overrun and the Ambassador is missing.

THAT'S how cool!!

chickelit said...

"Pretty Flamingo" by Manfred Mann (1966, the best year ever for pop tunes).

Matthew Sablan said...

Mark Hamil thinks Obama is Obi Wan too. (Or am I getting my Mark Hamil quotes messed up?)

Chip Ahoy said...

They can analyze the nods, the looking down, the note-taking, the seeming agreement all they want but it's not what viewers are responding to.

Here's what I responded to, and it might surprise you that my response is representative of the whole world's response, so it's a very handy thing for me to possess, this universal response thing I got going on.

Compare this image of Obama with Romney, ignore Romney for the moment, the photo is trying to compare something not germane here.

Obama's eyes. Darkened. Looks like an early Dracula movie. What's the word ... drums fingers ... sinister.

Compare it to the similar side-by-side debate photo with McCane on Althouse lower down. Look how soft Obama is. You could just squeeze him. Milk chocolate. His eyes. No shadows. No scary old movie.

The Romney debate Obama was like holding a flashlight under his chin in a tent.

Photography. Lighting. White balance. It's tricky with a single individual and tricky as hell, almost impossible with two opposite complexions. You see how tuning it all in for one wrecks the other.

Lem said...

We won't like it.

But hes likeable...

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Seriously? Really? You wrote this in jest I hope.

If you love a man, his passive nodding means one thing. If you've fallen out of love, it's something else. Obama's demeanor at the first debate didn't diminish our affection for him; our reaction to it was evidence of how we already felt.

Ooooh. That Obama. He is sooooo dreamy. Luv luv luv. What is he saying? Oh....who cares....he is dreamy.

an odd duck is a rare bird

Every other duck has to be an odd one.

Chip Ahoy said...

Did I just now misspell McCain? Oh well.

Dan in Philly said...

I have never been interested in Obama's "performance" abilities becasue I think that's a stupid way of evaluating a president. I go with the person who I think has the ideas and ideals and character best suited to lead the country and I know debates are poor in revealing such things in the candidates.

I can certainly judge if someone gives a good performance and I thought McCain did poorly last time, and Obama benefitted mostly by letting him self-destruct. Maybe this is the only thing he can really do?

Did he really beat Hillary in a debate? He had one good line but otherwise it was Axlerod's ground game that won the primary. McCain didn't even prepare and it was only the financial crisis and McCain's poor reaction to it which really sealed Obama's victory then. Why the heck did anyone think Obama was some great debator anyway?

Most people use reason to justify their decisions after making them rather than arriving at a decisions using reason. If you decided Obama was your choice, you could choose anything you wished to justify it, he was such a blank slate you cold project intellect, debate skills, speaking skills, or whatnot to make you think you've come to your decision reasonably. What we're seeing here is many experiencing the cognitive dissonance when what they assumed was their reason for doing something (voting for O) proves to be based on nothing other than justification.

garage mahal said...

I predict Romneybot 3.0 will continue his metamorphosis into presenting himself as a Democrat at the debates.

Perhaps even produce a drop of saline liquid substance from one visual duct after a question that is pre-programmed to elicit an emotional response.

::::::::::::::::Upload complete!

Surfed said...

Actually, President Obama kinda', sorta' resembles a peanut. His head anyways. I guess we could shorten that to 'nut head' if we were W passing out nicknames...

Zach said...

I wonder if advice columnists ever go bad. Start giving horrible advice just to see if anyone will follow it.

Dear Prudence reminds me of the old NYT Ethicist columns. It was absolutely uncanny how the Ethicist could take the starkest, simplest situations and proceed to give horrible advice.

chickelit said...

Chip Ahoy said...
Did I just now misspell McCain? Oh well.

I think you were deliberately making him sound old and doddering rather than the evil brother of Abel.

Seeing Red said...

Compare & contrast Biden w/Ryan....

Would they say the same about Ryan?

Astro said...

His 'inner calm'? Ha.
He was staring at the podium because he was thinking 'I got nothing...' He froze; he had nothing to say.

What's that old saying? 'Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt'. Something like that.

hombre said...

Commensurate with an earlier Althouse blog post, the issue for me was Romney, not Obama. I thought Romney had an excellent presentation and command of the material. If he repeats that performance, given the plethora of ammunition against Obama, he'll be fine, but he must keep the focus on Obama.

Btw, Obama is already another Jimmeh Carter except, if memory serves me, Carter lost fewer embassy employees in Iran and didn't lie about it.

DADvocate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
exhelodrvr1 said...

If he does well in a debate, relative to his opponent, nodding is good. If he does poorly in a debate, relative to his opponent, nodding is bad.

crimsonjoe said...

Didn't that Slate article have about fifty writers offer their opinions on who they were voting for? Going by my hazy memory, 49 were voting for Obama and 1 was either voting for the Green Party candidate or abstaining. I'm not sure you could have gotten that high of a percentage from a candidate's family.

DADvocate said...

Have we ever had a significant problem with presidents losing their cool?

DADvocate said...

Last time I was in a debate and noticed my opponent nodding, I thought, "Wow! He's agreeing iwth me." Then I realized my long winded, monotonous presentation had bored him so that he was nodding off to sleep.

Pookie Number 2 said...

Is a flamingo the same thing as a Flaming "O"?

dbp said...

I think Obama's best bet is to do pretty much what he did last time.

If he does a Bidenesque, 'fire-up the base' performance, he will fire up the base. For both sides. And loose swing voters.

He should look a little more interested and engaged, but keep it low-key.

creeley23 said...

Tonight Obama will be better prepared and more animated. He will not look down. He will be more aggressive, but carefully so.

He will have a collection of zingers in his quiver and deploy most of them.

Romney will be much as he was last time: a prepared, dynamic, happy warrior.

Candy Crowley will be a wildcard.

I don't know how many Democratic plants will be in the audience as there have been in the past.

Methadras said...

At this point, Urkel needs to pat his head with one hand and rub his belly with the other hand while balancing on his right leg to make any sense of what his policies are.

Seeing Red said...

State Department official: Negotiations to extend U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan starting soon

BarrySanders20 said...

Chip says:

"Compare this image of Obama with Romney, ignore Romney for the moment, the photo is trying to compare something not germane here."

The Obama image reveals he is clueless about what to do to fix the problems he faces, yet knows that millions of his minions expect him to have the answers.

The Romney image shows he knows what to do. You know, for the ladies -- he might scare you, because he's a man and knows what to do. As much as a Mormon would do that kind of thing.

Romney could smoke a crack rock tonight and I would not change to Obama. Even though that would be hypocritical for a no alcohol/no caffeine Mormon to smoke crack.



Balfegor said...

Most of all, I like his obvious inner calm. It suggests that his decisions will come from somewhere other than expediency, anger, or fear.

I just don't understand how people could get that reading off of Obama. He has excellent self control to be sure, and that is a virtue in itself, but inner calm? Obvious inner calm? Wha?

harrogate said...

"If my hypothesis is correct, it doesn't matter what he does. We won't like it."

Well, that's obviously true of the "We" making up the lion's share of this site. And certainly, of many other sites. Of course others will be predisposed to approve, regardless of what he does. Not a stunning hypothesis, there.

It's the sort of thing that causes so many people to argue the debates don't much matter anyway. Or even the billions spent on advertising and news coverage. I'm not that fatalistic about it, but I am getting there measure by measure.

bagoh20 said...

" Of course, Obama is untested in many regards. My main concern about him is this: How will he deal with making an unpopular or tough decision? Can he keep his cool then without losing confidence in himself? I believe so, and that's why he has my vote."

This stupid reasoning would allow you to vote for a 12 year old, a successful serial killer, a fraud, a con man, or any manner of disasters, yet it would also allow you to overlook someone with a record of competence and success if he just didn't look right to stir your lady parts.

I honestly don't see any advantage to being "intelligent" enough to be in the intelligentsia, since the level of stupidity seems to be unaffected. What would be considered obvious dumb rubism if written from a trailer park is somehow intelligent when you have credentials.

bagoh20 said...

Ask yourself, if you could be sure of having only one quality in the guy you elect as President, what would it be?

Tim said...

O'Rourke's entire statement of why she was voting for Obama:

"For his charisma, his cautiousness, and his cool. In a time of high stakes, we need someone who can sort out the best course of action without bridling in anger. A candidate who actually nods when his opponent makes a powerful counterargument—as Obama did several times during the last debate—is a rare bird. Of course, Obama is untested in many regards. My main concern about him is this: How will he deal with making an unpopular or tough decision? Can he keep his cool then without losing confidence in himself? I believe so, and that's why he has my vote."

Although none of these things came remotely true, does anyone doubt at all that O'Rourke is voting for Obama again?

Let's see, shall we?

"Meghan O'Rourke ‏@meghanor

How on earth are Pre-existing conditions covered under your plan, Mitt? Stop lying."

Meghan O'Rourke Still Loves Her Some Obama

I'm telling you, these people are irrational, and are impervious to his failures.

ricpic said...

I'll bet O'Rourke considers herself a sophisticate who makes her decisions based on auras and emanations, not boring pedestrian statements such as, "Energy costs will necessarily skyrocket under my plan."

Nathan Alexander said...

Ask yourself, if you could be sure of having only one quality in the guy you elect as President, what would it be?

humility.

So that he would do his best to surround himself with people smarter and more capable than himself.

So that he would feel the need to sell every single idea/plan he has to the American public...so that even if they don't agree, they at least know why he thinks it is best for the US.

So that he would respect and honor those who sacrifice for the nation.

So that he would be able to laugh at himself and not take it personally when someone else laughs at him.

So that he would not criticize his successor, and largely stay out of politics after his time as President is done.

So that any success would be about his subordinates, and any failure would be his own.

Effective leadership starts with humility.

dreams said...

"If you love a man, his passive nodding means one thing. If you've fallen out of love, it's something else. Obama's demeanor at the first debate didn't diminish our affection for him; our reaction to it was evidence of how we already felt."

Love him all you want. He doesn't love you, he doesn't even like you and he isn't likable despite what the liberal media constantly tells us and you might believe. See the quote below.

"Is Obama going to solve this growing problem by playing the Sandra Fluke card? By being warm and fuzzy? (His former aide and now head of the left-wing Center for American Progress Neera Tanden says, “It’s stunning that he’s in politics, because he really doesn’t like people.”) Will he absolve Clinton of blame and apologizing to the American people? It will sure be interesting to see how the Obama team tries to stem the defection of women voters."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/post/obamas-problem-with-women/2012/10/16/6173198a-17a0-11e2-9855-71f2b202721b_blog.html

bagoh20 said...

My one quality that I would want is proven competence. There are other things that help, but without that, you might as well throw darts at a phone book.

Is there any other job for which you would even consider hiring someone with no history of success other than getting hired to jobs they never finished? It's like you are your own con man taking yourself for a sucker and succeeding.

Michael K said...

Chauncey Gardiner (Chance) kept his cool very well, too.

DADvocate said...

I have word from reliabe, but unnamed sources, that Obama plans on giving Romeny the finger!!! It worked before. Why not now?

chickelit said...

DADvocate said...
I have word from reliabe, but unnamed sources, that Obama plans on giving Romeny the finger!!! It worked before. Why not now?

Obama's whole first term has been to give Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand" the invisible finger. But the results are all too clear. But yes, watch for hand signals.

Stephen St. Onge said...

Here's a link I turned up when I googled the text Ann quoted. It appears to be the original blog entry.

http://jaltcoh.blogspot.com/2008/10/why-im-voting-for-obama.html

Kirk Parker said...

Rob,

Maybe the dolt is the one who doesn't realize block-quoted material is, well, quoted.

And for me, I have no problem with Yoffe's statement; I think aspiring to reach up to Carter's level is something reasonably within Obama's grasp--tough, but doable if he really applies himself.

deborah said...

Obama flipping Hillary off? There's your sign.

bagoh20 said...

Jaltcoh's explaintion for voting for Obama is classic and maybe even genetic. He starts with "First, let's get McCain's negatives out of the way. ..."

and without ever covering his positives goes to "Now onto Obama's positives..."

and lists the opinions of various MSM sycophants.

A perfect example of what went wrong in 2008.

If you review his "McCain negatives", you soon see that Obama not only has his own version of each, but that he has many more of the same and worse.

Many people just totally conned themselves, all the while thinking they were being smart, and rational. The con men always say that's the easiest type to con. It was simply very poor selection of the evidence, and I think that subconsciously (at least) it was on purpose.

Cosmic Conservative said...

Please. Obama won this second debate before the the shocked expressions of his campaign surrogates with bylines wore off after the first one.

All Obama has to do now is show up and not drool on himself and the media will rave "He's BACK!" I would guess the majority of stories are already written with a few blanks to pop in some "relevant" text.

Romney cannot win tonight. He can't even get a draw. The best he can do is to continue to come across as a decent, honorable, competent replacement for Barack Obama.

Luckily for all of us, that's all he needs to do at this point.

Tim said...

"Jaltcoh's explaintion for voting for Obama is classic and maybe even genetic. He starts with "First, let's get McCain's negatives out of the way. ..."

I bet he's voting for Obama again, too.

bagoh20 said...

Assuming that Romney wins this debate again, will the media continue to be obvious suck ups or are they ready to move on. I'm not optimistic, because the denial is so deep seated. I think this is the most exciting question in all this: will we have a functional Press again? Of course we will if Romney is President, but will it appear before that?

It will also be interesting to see if the race card will be dealt in earnest. That always comes out in avoidance of admitting a mistake.

Tim said...

bagoh20 said...

"Assuming that Romney wins this debate again, will the media continue to be obvious suck ups or are they ready to move on. I'm not optimistic, because the denial is so deep seated."

If Obama immolates on stage, then yes, out of simple self-preservation, the media will turn on their failed project.

But that's unlikely. A standard, workmanlike win for Romney will not be enough; they'll continue to carry water for their candidate, if only to protect the chance to carry him across the finish line in Ohio and whatever other state he needs to get to 271.

As long as Obama has a chance, they'll be right there for him.

David said...

Don't set the bar so high for Obama.