Sound Off | John M. Broder
The images and body language of Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain spoke volumes tonight, even with the television muted. I watched a good portion of the debate with the sound off because I was writing on deadline. C-Span showed the entire debate in split screen and whenever I looked up I saw Mr. McCain looking across at Mr. Obama with a strained look of incredulity, or the pained smile of an indulgent teacher listening to a recitation from a particularly dim-witted student.
There were obvious flashes of anger and aggression, when it looked as if Mr. McCain might actually cross the vertical split-screen line separating the combatants and wring Mr. Obama’s neck. (I may have been watching too much “Saturday Night Live.”) Toward the end of the debate, I saw Mr. McCain use the universal “air quotes” gesture, a clear sign he was mocking something Mr. Obama had said. It almost didn’t matter what. Mr. Obama, for his part, either listened stolidly, scribbled notes or smiled at his opponent with that Ronald Reagan “There you go again” smile.
For much of the time Mr. McCain was on the attack, Mr. Obama just sat there absorbing the blows as if wearing body armor. Which, in a sense, he was, in the form of a double-digit lead in national polls.