What McCain Was Really Saying
Psychiatrists deconstruct the hidden conversation during last night's debate.
by Lizzie Stark
After last night’s debate, it’s clear that McCain wants to be Sarah Palin, Obama feels guilty about winning, and neither candidate really wants to be president. At least that’s the interpretation of a panel of psychiatrists who were scanning for subconscious messages during the debate.
Most insta-polls reported Obama the winner, but viewers may have missed his subtle gestures of dominance. “Whoever walks over to shake hands first, that’s a very powerful move. That’s kind of a dominant thing,” said The Daily Beast’s Dr. Stephen Josephson, a cognitive behavioral therapist from New York City. Obama won the first hand duel, extending his palm a few precious seconds before McCain did.
McCain is essentially shorting the presidency. If he loses, he brings down the Republican Party, and validates his unconscious desire to blow up his own party.
T. Byram Karasu, Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Montefiore Medical Center, was struck by both candidates seeming lack of interest in winning the presidency. “Obama has no interest in fighting,” Karasu said. “He would like basically to be thought of as a smart person…he wants to compete for the prize, but not to win.
“He’d be happy to have this discussion go for years…he does not know how to bring this to closure, he doesn’t know how to knock out the other person,” Karasu said. Most likely, “he doesn’t think he deserves it,” and feels “a certain guiltiness about winning,” adds Karasu.
McCain, meanwhile, is grappling with a subconscious desire to lose the race. “He is essentially shorting the presidency,” said Karasu. If he loses, he brings down the Republican party, and validates his unconscious desire to blow up his own party.
“If women and conservatives are as powerful as they are supposed to be,” McCain will win the presidency, said Karasu. “But if, by picking a staunch conservative and a woman he loses the presidency, then that validates his Maverick-y distaste for both.”
McCain was also channeling his running mate last night. “Basically, McCain has no clear identity as a nominee, and that was why he was trying to imitate Sarah Palin,” Karasu said. The Republican nominee used Palin’s qualities of “direct aggressive behavior and aggressive language.”
He spoke with his fists, not his hands, and even walked toward Obama during several of Obama’s answers. McCain was never calm, but “consciously he was trying to contain his emotions,” behavior Karasu described as “emotionally incontinent.” When McCain approached audience members, they drew back. “He was close, but it was not the closeness of intimacy,” Karasu said. “It was an aggressive presence.”
In contrast to McCain’s clenched fists, Obama made graceful gestures and actually laughed off some of McCain’s accusations. As the younger, more handsome man, Karasu said, he had a definite edge in the body-language department. Plus, he had “professorial competence,” in front of a small crowd.
McCain’s repeated refrain of “my friend” was a way of buying time. “McCain is generalizing all the time, as if he is not well tuned to the issues. Obama is a much better student—it’s a kind of professorial competence...that’s was why he was so comfortable,” said Karasu.
And while the post-debate polls called it for Obama, they don’t mean much, Dr. Shanto Iyengar, a book author who writes about political psychology and teaches Political Science at Stanford, said. “The people watching the debates are not unbiased judges of the candidates’ performance,” he said, noting that a substantial amount of research has been done on the matter. The polls “simply represent the fact that there are more people who want to vote for Senator Obama and they’re simply rationalizing their choice.”