The now-famous video of John McCain glancing repeatedly and furtively in the general direction of the backside of Sarah Palin while she gave her VP candidate speech has divided the electorate into those who say he was looking at her teleprompter (though why he needed to read her speech instead of listening to her, I don't know) and those who think he was being a sleazy guy (an impression boosted by his obsessive fiddling with his wedding ring while he was looking at whatever he was looking at).
I don't know what he was doing, but another odd thing about the event is how he keeps trying to kiss her at the end of her speech, and how she keeps moving out of his reach. Maybe this was just an awkward moment, but it sure looks like she doesn't want McCain leaning towards her as he does. Eventually she gives in and he kisses her cheek.
This has happened to me before (though never with John McCain), including an episode a few months ago when I was visiting another university and an American scientist I have met maybe once years ago insisted on kissing me, and not in a European-style cheek kissing kind of way. I stepped back and made it clear I only wanted to shake hands, but he ignored that. He's about a foot taller than I am, and I didn't feel like I had much choice. I wish there were a good way to avoid such experiences, whether or not someone is going to put a video of it on YouTube.
And then there's the issue of the ambiguous glance. This post is not a political rant or a comment on Palin's qualifications or her ability to be a "good" mother and a candidate/VP (I find the latter question abhorrent and cannot be objective about the rest of it). This is a comment on the significance of McCain's glances, no matter what he was looking at:
- If McCain was looking at the teleprompter, he wasn't listening to Palin. If he had to look sideways to see the teleprompter, why not just listen to her? Didn't he know that furtive glances would look strange? And didn't he know that, given the location of the teleprompter, it might not be obvious what he was looking at? Her speech was a rather important moment in his campaign, if not in history.
- If he was glancing at her, does he think that it's OK to look at a woman this way, on or off camera? Zuska and others have written about men-looking-at-women issues recently and in earlier posts, and I will not go over all the reasons why a woman might not want to be stared at in the way that McCain appears to be staring at Palin. I find Palin's political and social views repellent, but I think she should be treated in a respectful and professional way.
If this moment really is going to be historic, McCain should listen to his running-mate when she is speaking, he should look her in the eye, and he should treat her with the same respect that he would have given to any of the men he considered choosing as a VP candidate. And then, if elected, to show solidarity with all the women who are paid less than men for the same work, he should pay her 77% of Cheney's salary. [← joke]
8 years ago