Some viewers of last week’s debate noticed an unusual habit on the part of Republican nominee John McCain: He seemed unwilling to look directly at his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama.
For the 72-year-old Arizona senator with a history of a touchy temper, it seemed to be a deliberate snub of the young rising star pol whose stock just keeps rising. McCain went on ABC’s This Week Sunday, where he was asked about the visual tic.
“During the debate, it seemed that you were reluctant to look at Senator Obama. … Some people were saying that that was showing disdain for him,” host George Stephanopoulos said. “Is that fair?”
McCain decried the perception as “just foolishness” before attempting to explain that his apparent refusal to look Obama in the eye, even when the Democratic candidate was looking at him and addressing him directly, was just the way he did things.
“I’ve been in many, many debates and a lot of time I don’t look at my opponents because I’m focusing on the people and the American people that I’m talking to,” he insisted. “That’s what the debate’s all about.”
McCain is right that he’s been in many, many debates — during the 2008 primaries, McCain participated in 17 debates with his fellow candidates.
A look at some clips from those appearances, though, suggests he’s much more comfortable looking directly at his fellow Republicans than he was last Friday sharing a stage with Obama.
During a January debate in New Hampshire, McCain looked right at Mitt Romney before jibing that the former Massachusetts governor was truly “the candidate of change.”
In an MSNBC debate, McCain looks across a stage filled with candidates to argue his credentials as a tax cutter directly to Rep. Ron Paul.
When the candidates gathered at the Reagan National Library, McCain and Romney again engaged in a face-to-face dialogue as the two were seated next to each other.
And debating on Fox News, McCain stressed his foreign policy positions as he looked right at Paul.
This video include examples of previous debates where McCain has looked at his opponents.
This video is from ABC’s This Week, broadcast September 28, 2008.
The following video was posted to YouTube demonstrating McCain’s unwillingness to look at Obama: