If there’s one thing I expect my DC poltiical pundits to be intimately familiar with, it’s bullshit expressions of masculinity. So when David Broder declares John McCain an alpha male for not looking at Barack Obama during the debate.
It was a small thing, but I counted six times that Obama said that McCain was “absolutely right” about a point he had made. No McCain sentences began with a similar acknowledgment of his opponent’s wisdom, even though the two agreed on Iran, Russia and the U.S. financial crisis far more than they disagreed.
That suggests an imbalance in the deference quotient between the younger man and the veteran senator — an impression reinforced by Obama’s frequent glances in McCain’s direction and McCain’s studied indifference to his rival.
If there’s one thing an alpha male does, it’s make eye contact. It’s a basic tool of dominance. Your steely gaze is used to break others, make them look away and become unable to challenge you directly. Being utterly incapable of looking Obama in the eye is a sign of utter weakness – it turned McCain’s aggression into bitter sniping, every attempt to take down Obama into an attempt to bypass the challenges in front of him. There’s a reason Obama kept calling McCain “John” and agreeing with small portions of what he said right before challenging the rest of his argument: McCain was simply incapable of engaging Obama directly. I’m sure it’s possible that utter avoidance is the new alpha male tool, but that would be too good of news for the rest of us.