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February 1, 2008

Yes, Kodak Moment … But Can They Mine (Yes, Mine) Their Manners Come September?


It was so fitting that the debate last night was held at a theatre … (named for “Kodak,” no less) … in Hollywood …  teeming with actors.

In fact, it was this specific moment — when I saw it live, but even more so, after I saw the photo — that made me feel like I was watching theatre.  (Not to mention, potential victory in the Fall.)

If you recall, these two pounded each other silly the last time they met.  But here, just a week-and-a-half later, we had something beyond civil.  You could even call it: “Academy Award civil.”  The perfect gentleman holding the chair for a real lady.  But the formal display of such stereotypic roles was a give-away.  A give-away, in other words, that the scene — and, by extension, the evening itself — had less to do with good manners than a strategically mannered display.

Sure, it was one of those junctures in this bloody war where the perceived necessity, on both sides, was to make nice — like real nice.

But you know what?  I don’t care.  Because, however much it was feigned, what I got out of last night — and shots like this — was how powerful it can look and feel if these two want to play together like grown-ups.  And, if Obama and Hillary can reprise last night’s show after only one is left standing, just for the unifying purpose of destroying defeating McCain, then I’m willing to pay to see it.

update 5:55 pm PST: I agree with the commenters regarding my choice of language.  “Defeat” McCain.

(image:  Kevork Djansezian/A.P.  Los Angeles.  January 31, 2008.  caption:  Democratic presidential hopefuls, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., helps Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., to her seat before the start of a Democratic debate at the Kodak Theater. Via YahooNews)

  • jmac

    I enjoyed the give and take of the SC debate – my husband (of 39 years) and I go after each other all the time. One of the top advisors in the Clinton campaign is married to one of the top advisors in the Obama campaign and they certainly worked together to pull off a debate on substance last night that left me feeling as good as the picture.

  • boxcar

    the only mistake made was that the networks didn’t reschedule this for Friday night primetime.
    It was so orchestrated that while it may have helped the “Democratic Ticket” get elected, it truly displayed the staged nature of our political system.
    This primary season was just “Last Comic Standing”, or “American Idol”. With the obvious difference in that in “American Idol”, the person that wins is the one that gets the most votes.
    Sorry for being pessimistic on this, but i can’t pretend that this is even remotely real.

  • black dog barking

    It looks like they’re sitting down to Sunday dinner, stopping at a nice restaurant after church. Yes, you can disagree about matters of personal importance and still respect your adversary. If you don’t plan on ripping your opponent’s beating heart from his chest and eating it raw then there’s a chance you’ll have more encounters in unpredictable circumstances. Nice ain’t just nice, it’s smart too.
    In that spirit I think it would be enough to send Sen McCain to a well-earned retirement from national politics — no need to destroy him in the process. A respectful process that changes government would prove destructive to Mr Limbaugh, Ms Coulter, others. No loss there.

  • margaret

    What I noticed was how artificial it looked, purely in a visual sense, not the content, so much: Obama is half in shade, and therefore, darker, (at least on half of his face, nice allusion to his heritage) and Clinton is in the spotlight, and therefore, lighter, and whiter. But, he is a gentleman, all the time, and she is only a “lady” whenever it suits her purpose.
    (I hope he beats the….out of her in November.Electorally speaking, of course.)

  • martin

    In any other context. Bag folk would be a screamin round this one. But so it would seemst that notions Democrat are being replaced with a pragmatic democratism that will…well, come back…to haunt. I am trying not to be simply reactionary – how easy has that become theses days – but progressive. Within the framework of our briefs/underpants.
    Knickers: this makes me feel quesy. These are supposed to be the people who are making a difference. 300million people make choices. Please. Informed. Do the rest of us rely: on this? For our parents pensions. Stark, soiled difference. Comical

  • David

    Destroy McCain? He has been more correct on the war than Clinton has. He is the one GOP candidate who has courageously opposed torture and has called for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. He’s hardly perfect, but this is exactly the type of language that the Bush administration uses to demonize its opponents. The utter emasculation of the Democratic party coupled with Republican dominance for seven years is precisely what has caused so much harm to the country.
    Beat McCain – that’s fine, but don’t stoop to their level.

  • Jessica

    You know, I completely agree with you Michael. I would probably say I am a moderate, leaning toward the rebublican side, but wow-the democratic party was really impressive last night, which is indicative of things to come.

  • Johanna

    You don’t care if it’s feigned? I do. Hillary’s behavior in every other debate was to turn and fix Obama with a glare of fury, like the look Michael gave Fredo in Godfather part II. The phony theatrics of last night served one person, her. I’m surprised Obama fell for this staged love-in. Unless they have already cut a deal to be on the same ticket.

  • shaker o salt

    Michael, I read what you wrote on Huffpost and I just want to thank you so much for stating the obvious.
    I don’t have cable, but it looks from reading about the debate both candidates did very well and it had a record viewership.
    I want to win, too!


    I ma so upset I missed the Debate.

  • Cactus

    I taped the debate and so far I’ve only seen most of the last hour. My impression of the seesaw between the two is that their respective handlers (i.e., campaign managers) had a little talk to each to cut the crap. If what jmac says is true (and it probably is), that is probably what happened. I did notice that when there was a ‘tricky’ question asked by Wolf et al., Obama responded with humor and defused the tension. Witness his reply to the question of both being on the ticket.
    I felt a bit uneasy when he reached to move her chair because as a feminist, she is quite capable of moving her own chair. OTOH, as a gentleman, in today’s mixed old/new social standards, was that not the polite thing to do? Of course, he could have just walked off in the other direction, unless the stage was set up so that he had to exit around Hillary. But if their advisors had, indeed, gotten together to give them a dose of reality, that would explain it.
    Besides, the grownup has left the building. With Edwards sitting at the table, they could count on their spat not getting out of hand because Edwards would be there to reign as moderator. Now, they must rely on each other. The dynamics have changed. For all of us.

  • Johanna

    What was going on between them for a long time is not best described as a spat. She was subjecting him to a shunning. Her handlers would bring her to another part of the room when he entered. You could see the occasional footage of him coming toward her trying to speak to her, and Hillary looking past him. Her behavior at all previous debates was quite striking. Only he was subjected to the treatment of her turning and staring directly at him with a look of hatred. And that line “while you were defending the slumlord Rezko….” Who else got that treatment? Edwards’ line about being a grownup in this affair was lame and infantilizing, and failed to do justice to the fact that she was the aggressor.

  • Michael

    All the emotions and strategies everyone has mentioned here are no doubt there. But there is a bottom line: if people in this position can behave in a civilized manner on stage — and all politics at this level is on stage — then there is some hope that some civilized manners may be brought back into politics. And maybe on that platform of manners, it might be the issues rather than the personal (mis)relations that get discussed. Oh I’m allowed to dream…

  • Johanna

    The issues are being discussed — but can anyone evaluate whether someone’s healthcare plan (will cost 2.475 trillion and 95 cents) can actually be adopted and work, much less what the unanticipated consequences of it will be? The candidates’ natures, behavior, disposition — all of which are a part of character, ARE, however, decipherable, when they are not putting on a show.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    Cactus : “I [as a feminist] felt a bit uneasy when he [Mr. Obama] reached to move her [Mrs. Clinton's] chair because… [the lady] is quite capable of moving her own chair. OTOH, as a gentleman, in today’s mixed old/new social standards, was that [Mr. Obama's gesture] not the polite thing to do?
    => Driving Miss Daisy Crazy ?
    The Question BAGman & Cactus pose, imho, is: Does this image depict the polite thing for any man, in any situation to do -vs- a politic thing for this man, in this context, to do?
    The British, of course, are the masters of employing manners apparent as either a protocol of respect, or as a passive-aggressive means of shaming = dominating others; literally, by “putting some one in his or her place,” where ‘that place’ is not the same station, by conceit implicit. iow, Yank, should a Brit shower you with manners, he or she may quite possibly be mocking you in plain sight: a proper Brit snubs you by shaming you, not by shunning you.
    if we did not recognize this man and woman, or where they were: the manner of this gesture = their behaviour would be unambiguous, chivalric presumed: the Knight puts the woman in her place, true; but by doing so the Lady, thus, on this pedestal beknights her (otherwise common) man servant, quid pro quo. The protocol permits both genders to equalize their stations, while allowing each gender to retain its unique identity… it does not define ‘gender’, per se ~ so much as it allows it = gender distinction, to persist.
    He gave her class; She gave him sex appeal? (MadameGonzo would daresay: He gave her lip, She gave him Libido“>Libido :)

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