The first debate between the presidential candidates is over. I watched it last night and heard nothing new from the information I had already read or heard about their positions. However, as I listened, I began to think about politics in 2048, and what conditions led up to my choice of creating a future American dystopia. Not much has changed.
Then I began watching as if watching a scene playing out in a movie or play or one I’d been reading. By stepping back to gain objectivity, as if I would need to describe the scene or answer questions about it on a test, I noticed immediately the difference between McCain’s and Obama’s demeanors, their body language. This physical aspect supported what each was saying, I thought, but also revealed character. Just like it would in a movie or novel.
Obama moved around more, it seemed, acted relaxed, loose, open. He turned his head and looked at McCain while McCain talked. He addressed him directly, to engage him in a direct discussion. He acknowledged McCain’s contributions and knowledge in a stance of openness, i.e. his arms were either at his side or were open as he held onto the podium.
McCain moved little once he was standing behind his podium. His body had the tension of anger in his stance. He never turned his head to look at Obama. He never addressed him directly but referred to him as if Obama wasn’t even there. When he spoke of Obama, it was to emphasize his inexperience and “naivete.” While he didn’t cross is arms (a closed stance), he focused on the moderator, his body turned slightly away from Obama.
One of the issues they discussed was whether or not to engage Iran in face-to-face talks. Consistent with their body language, Obama was open to it, but McCain was not because he said it gave Iran’s leader legitimacy. Huh. I thought Iran’s president was elected, which usually means, in the past anyway, that he’s a legitimate leader (of course, the election’s legitimacy could be debated, I guess). Obama commented that Iran’s president was not the most powerful leader in that country, an astute comment. McCain just smiled. I thought the smile was unreadable — knowing, encouraging, snide, condescending, patient, happy? Who knows.
At any rate, during this Iran discussion, I suddenly realized that the way McCain was responding to Obama (an adversary) was probably the way he’d respond to anyone he didn’t like and with whom he disagreed, i.e. for example, the leader of Iran. Hardly statesmanlike or diplomatic. Presidents often must deal with the leaders of other countries they might not like or agree with, for example, France, and as statesmen, diplomatically. The French are our allies and have been for years, but because they challenged Bush regarding invading Iraq, suddenly French fries became Freedom fries (and I never heard what a French kiss became). Did Bush snub President Chirac at any of the G-8 meetings? I don’t think so.
In the Perceval novels, I occasionally wander into scenes with politicians. I consider what I witnessed last night to be ninety-seven minutes of research….