The thought had occurred to me before, perhaps from
something that I�d read, but the image was so striking as soon as they walked
out on stage to shake hands with the moderator that I wasn�t able to shake it
through the whole debate: Barack Obama, long, lean and debonair, looked just
like Bugs Bunny, and John McCain, the hunched-over and stumpy old man, made a
perfect Elmer Fudd.
I�d also never noticed before how much McCain sounded like
Elmer Fudd (without the speech impediment). His voice has the same kind of
high-pitched, sing-songy raspiness as Elmer�s; and he telegraphs his plans to
trap Barack with the same kind of evil glints in his eye that Elmer displayed
when he was cooking up a plan for the Wascally Wabbit.
McCain is more Nixonesque than Fudd, however, something else
I�d never really noticed before. I hadn�t watched the Republican primary
debates at any length, but in those, McCain�s essential creepiness just made
him one of the crowd. You didn�t have the focus you did in Friday night�s
debate. I also appreciated the split screen broadcast that let us watch the
reactions of the candidates when the other one was speaking.
Obama usually looked like he was standing on the outside of
the garden fence, holding a bunch of carrots. McCain was either deviously
calculating when he was going to spring his next pre-planned talking point,
nervously chuckling at his own jokes, or frantically fuming as his plans blew
up in his face, and he�s watching Bugs Obunny escape again -- just like Elmer.
It wasn�t all a cartoon, though. At times I felt like I was
watching one of the best presidential debates since Kennedy and Nixon (it�s
heartbreaking to listen to those debates today, and hear them trying to outdo
each other in how they are going to help the poor). Obama was his usual cool
and highly prepared self, unflappably handsome and intelligent. You could
really see the impressive young man who made so many early admirers think of
him as a future president. Obama, for all his faults, has the real potential to
be one of those transformative American presidents whose name is left on an
To give McCain his due, he was also better prepared than I
expected, and he showed up to fight. Earlier in the day, I had written to my
niece -- who was confused why McCain pulled the lamebrain stunt of trying to
cancel the debate -- that I thought McCain really, in his heart of hearts,
wants to lose the election and retire to his houses and cars in sunny, dry
Arizona. He�s an old man.
But after watching last night, I no longer think that. This
was an old man who was putting up a fight, a cantankerous old codger with an
inbred sense of supreme privilege -- he�s owed for all those years he spent
tortured in prison, the son of an admiral, no less -- and on transparent display
throughout the debate was the boy his schoolmates, in their childish frankness,
nicknamed �McNasty.� The reason McCain pulled the debate stunt is because he�s
still the same person he always was, the guy investigator Cliff Schecter calls
�the Real McCain:� the Naval Academy fuckup who couldn�t keep a plane in the
air, even before he was shot down.
Senator, I knew Elmer Fudd. You�re no Elmer Fudd.
Michael Hasty lives on a farm in West Virginia,
where he wrote a column for seven years for the Hampshire Review, the state�s
oldest newspaper. In 2000, it was named best column by the West Virginia Press
Association. His writing has appeared in the Charleston Gazette, Online
Journal, Common Dreams, Buzzflash, Tikkun and many other websites. He publishes
the blog, Radical Pantheist. He plays guitar and harmonica with the
folk/gospel trio, the Time Travelers. Email:. radicalpantheist(at)gmail (dot)