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Ballad of Narayama

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Guess who's not coming to dinner

I do not like you, John McCain. My feeling has nothing to do with issues. It has to do with common courtesy. During the debate, you refused to look Barack Obama in the eye. Indeed, you refused to look at him at all. Even when the two of you shook hands at the start, you used your eyes only to locate his hand, and then gazed past him as you shook it.

Obama is my guy. If you are rude to him, you are rude to me. If you came to dinner at my house and refused to look at or speak with one of my guests, that would be bad manners and I would be offended. Same thing if I went to your house. During the debate, you were America's guest.

What was your problem? Do you hold this man in such contempt that you cannot bear to gaze upon him? Will you not even speak to him directly?

Do you think he doesn't have the right to be running for President?

Were you angry because after you said you wouldn't attend the debate, he said a President should be able to concern himself with two things at the same time? He was right. The proof is, you were there. Were you angry with him because he called your bluff?

During the debate, Jim Lehrer repeatedly called upon both candidates to speak directly to each other. Obama looked at you. He addressed you as "John," which as a fellow senator is his privilege. His body language was open. You stared straight ahead, or at Lehrer, or into space. Your jaw was clinched. You had a tight little smile, or a grimace, or a little shake of your head.

I had to do two things at once while watching the debate. I had to listen to what was being said. And I had to process your rigid and contemptuous behavior. If you were at a wedding and the father of the groom refused to look at or speak to the bride, how would that make you feel? Especially if you were the father of the bride?

You made a TV commercial showing the moments Obama agreed with you. Everybody knows he did. Did his agreement show honesty, or weakness?

It is significant that you said it proved he was not ready to lead.

What is the better leadership quality: (1) Willingness to listen to your opponent, and keep an open mind? (2) Rigidly ignoring him? Which of the two of you better demonstrated the bipartisan spirit you say you represent? Was there anything he said that you agreed with? Could you have brought yourself to say so?

I'm not the only one who noticed your odd, hostile behavior. Just about everybody did. I'm sure many of your supporters must have sensed the tension. Before the debate, pundits were wondering if you might explode in a display of your famous temper. I think we saw that happen, all right, but it was an implosion. I have instructed my wife to exclude you from any future dinner parties.

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