The Corner

The Debate: Bad Feelings After the Snoozer in Nashville

I have a new story up on last night’s debate in Nashville.  After it ended, there was serious unhappiness in some quarters of the McCain campaign — not with Barack Obama, but with NBC’s Tom Brokaw.  Some key members of the campaign felt Brokaw had diluted the town hall format — a McCain favorite — by asking too many questions of his own.  One irritated McCain aide called it “the worst-moderated debate in the history of presidential debates.”

And then there was “that one,” the moment when McCain, talking about the energy bill, said, “You know who voted for it? You might never know — that one,” pointing to Obama. “You know who voted against it? Me.” When the debate ended, Obama aides were pushing the idea that that showed some serious hostility on McCain’s part:

“That was a fairly telling moment,” the Obama adviser told me. “In the last debate, [McCain] couldn’t look [Obama] in the eyes, and in this one he couldn’t even say his name….Voters pick up on those things.”

McCain’s aides say he meant no disrespect. “I think [McCain] was trying to be funny,” the McCain adviser told me. “I don’t think he was trying to be pejorative. I wish he hadn’t done that, but it’s just how it came out. I think he was trying to be funny.”

Team Obama wasn’t buying it, because they thought the “that one” episode wasn’t the only example of what they viewed as McCain’s hostility. “McCain simply isn’t comfortable being around Obama at this point,” the Obama adviser told me. The adviser brought up the end of the debate, when “Obama sticks out his hand to McCain and McCain kind of nudges Cindy there, so that Obama shook Cindy McCain’s hand.” The implication was that McCain so dislikes Obama that he wouldn’t even shake his hand. But McCain and Obama had already shaken hands and briefly embraced immediately after the debate ended — in fact, they were standing so close to each other that Brokaw had to ask them to separate so that he could see the TelePrompter. Whatever it was, it wasn’t a snub.

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