When the cannibal chief obliged, the Israeli jumped up, leveled his Uzi and mowed down his captors.
“If you had the Uzi all the time, why didn’t you use it before?” he was asked.
“I can’t do this unless I am angry,” he replied.
Barack Obama’s debating performance reminds me of this joke. At the first confrontation he was listless and lifeless. He just wanted the silly thing to end.
During the second debate, he was a changed man. Energetic. Aggressive. Decisive. In short: Angry.
When the confrontation started, it was 3 a.m. in Israel. I could have recorded it and watched it later. But I was unable to wait. My curiosity got the better of me.
Of course, this whole performance is silly. There is no connection at all between talent as a debater and the ability to lead a nation. You can be an outstanding polemicist and unable to conduct a rational policy. Israelis have only to look at Benjamin Netanyahu. You can be a purposeful leader, and fail utterly at expressing yourself. Yitzhak Rabin, for example.
Yet Americans insist that their leaders demonstrate their prowess as debaters as a condition for being elected. It somehow reminds one of the single combats of antiquity, when each side chose a champion and the two tried to kill each other, in place of mutual mass slaughter. David and Goliath spring to mind. It’s certainly more humane.
The rhetoric was not directed at the mass of voters. As has been said before, it was aimed at the “Undecideds,” a special class of people. The title is supposed to confer some kind of distinction. For me it makes more sense as an expression of contempt. If you haven’t decided yet, three weeks before the gong sounds, is that something to brag about?