Barack Obama is nearly impossible to rattle. His aides and friends are fond of pointing out that his emotional highs are not too high and his lows are never particularly low. It is Obama's almost preternatural calm that will be John McCain's main obstacle at Wednesday night's final presidential debate in Hempstead, N.Y. [...]
Under these challenging circumstances, and with a vast audience of voters tuning in, McCain will enter the debate hall for his last chance to shake up the race. In order to change the dynamic, McCain will have to produce a major memorable moment at the expense of his rival — by forcing an error, exposing a flaw or unattractive trait, or revealing an inconsistency or weakness — which would then be replayed incessantly on the airwaves, rapaciously dissected by the media, and seized upon by the public.
Yet after more than a dozen primary debates and two previous high stakes presidential debates, Obama has remained calm to the point of being boring, and so low energy that McCain often appears to be arguing with himself. Obama nevertheless is uniformly confident and well prepared, his natural demeanor translating into a reassuring steadiness in the eyes of a jittery public.
I apologize to anyone who gets dizzy and passes out from the fumes rising from all those superlatives. Objective press? Not so much, I'm thinking.
The thing is, Obama has revealed plenty of unattractive traits, and has seemed far less than "imperturbable" on many occasions. But the only place these moments of less than stellar presentations have been "played incessantly" is YouTube, and as far as "rapacity" goes, I guess the media wore itself out going after Sarah Palin, and just doesn't have the energy left to expose the flaws of their favorite son.
For just one example, consider this, from Saddleback. Or another, a montage of various gaffes Obama has made, here. We don't see these kinds of clips on the nightly news; we only see the more polished, more confident examples. If Obama seems "imperturbable" at all, it's only because of the video editors at the MSM news channels.
I think that no matter how tonight's debate goes, within seconds of it ending the talking heads will be telling us how brilliantly Obama did, how magnificently he answered every question, and how (playing by the talking points Obama's campaign thoughtfully pre-released to the press so they'd know what to say) erratic John McCain was.
I have one more prediction to make: tonight, several key players in the mainstream media will use the word "presidential" to describe Barack Obama--again, regardless of how well or poorly he actually does in tonight's debate. They will sigh the word, "Presidential," they will coo the word, "Presidential," they will tag him with that label and then use it at every opportunity between now and election day to get it into the public mind. Some of the less balanced MSM types may abandon any pretense that they're being objective, and may all but endorse him. If he does unusually poorly, though, they may insert the word as a question, "Yes, I know, but was he presidential?" they will ask each other, giving every chance for the word to be affirmed, and for the paid opinion brokers to tell us that yes, tonight, despite whatever flaws, Barack was Presidential.
It's pretty easy for a candidate to appear "imperturbable" when the people who do the most to shape public opinion are themselves helping to create the illusion--and in the coming days, the illusion that Barack Obama is "presidential" will be created in exactly the same way.