As I wrote last night, I found Senator Obama's debate behavior off-putting, to say the least, but that angle went largely unremarked on by the TV pundits in their post-debate analyses. I remembered that although Al Gore got high marks immediately after the first debate of 2000, over time the debate became infamous because of the bad impression Gore made on viewers at home, and I wondered if we would see the same reaction gradually set in regarding Senator Obama.
Dean Barnett of the Weekly Standard thinks Obama lost the debate with his rudeness: "...the real damage came with the debate's optics...Obama by his own creative antics often came across as childish, petulant, and a little odd."
For example: "Several times during the debate, Obama would smirk and laugh while McCain spoke. The optics of this were just awful. If Obama had wanted to come across as an arrogant jerk, this is the strategy he would have chosen. Frankly, it's rather shocking that Obama repeatedly made such a mistake. Al Gore cost himself the 2000 election with his first debate performance where he derided everything George W. Bush said with a series of sighs and smirks. Oh yeah--the polls and the pundits said Gore 'won' that tussle right after it concluded, although history has rendered a different verdict."
Barnett also cites Obama's disrespect in repeatedly referring to Senator McCain as "John" (a habit shared by Senator Biden), while McCain respectfully referred to Senator Obama by his title; Obama's odd pronunciation of Pakistan; and what may be the debate's most infamous moment, "I've got a bracelet too!"
I was a bit surprised the pundits said there were no memorable soundbites, because Obama's petulant "I've got a bracelet too!" -- then demonstrating he didn't even remember the name on his bracelet -- immediately jumped out at me.
Barnett doesn't even delve into Obama's repeated rudeness in talking over McCain and trying to drown him out.
The pundits may have felt Obama "held his own" on debate points, but it will be interesting to evaluate in the coming days whether Obama's behavior left a negative impression with viewers at home.