Primatologist Frans de Waal on David Broder:
Frans de Waal: Nervous Old Male: David Broder in the Washington Post of September 28, 2008, writes an opinion piece entitled "McCain as the Alpha Male." Since the term "alpha male" comes out of primatology, and I have known many males who qualify, I feel like commenting on Broder's observation
... 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....
A confident alpha male chimpanzee would never show studied indifference. I have seen such behavior only in males who were terrified of their challenger.... A self-confident alpha male just approaches his challenger and sets him straight, either by attacking him or performing a spectacular display of his own. No avoidance of eye contact: he takes the bull by the horns. It rather is the hesitant or fearful alpha male who avoids looking straight at the other.... I read the body language between McCain and Obama as that between a senior male being challenged by a remarkably confident junior one. The senior didn't know exactly what to do. He avoided eye contact and body orientation, probably realizing that a direct confrontation might not go his way. If McCain was an alpha male, it was an incredibly insecure one...
McCain as the Alpha Male: There were no knockout blows in the first presidential debate of the fall, but John McCain outpointed Barack Obama often enough to encourage his followers that he can somehow overcome the odds and deny the Democrats the victory that has seemed to be in store for them. 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.
Whether viewers caught the verbal and body-language signs that Obama seemed to accept McCain as the alpha male on the stage in Mississippi, I do not know. But it reinforced my impression that McCain was the more aggressive debater. He flung the adjectives that stick in a listener's mind, calling Obama "naive" and therefore "dangerous"...
Did Broder really remain in his cave, reading none of the polls reported on Saturday that showed that voters thought Obama had done a better job in the debate? Or is he just a big liar when he says "I do not know"?
I say liar.
Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?