Has our country really devolved to the point where if you indicate agreement with another person about a point- about a principle- that this somehow makes you weaker than the person you are agreeing with? Does your agreement on a particular point mean that you are agreeing with your opponent whole scale, about every issue? Does your agreement mean you are conceding, whole scale, that the other person is better-qualified than you to handle an assortment of diverse issues?
These are apparently the assumptions of John McCain and his advisors, whose ad campaign now includes clips of Barack Obama at the debate, stating his agreements with McCain on various points: “You’re right, John.” “You’re absolutely right, John.”
These statements, according to McCain, reveal bad things about Obama. They show Obama is weak, and not “ready to lead.” They show McCain is the superior candidate.
And best of all is the fact that Obama actually meant what he was saying. He was being genuine! “There, you see?! He said it!! From his own mouth! He really believes ‘John is right!’ He said it all those times!”
Let’s think about this for a moment.
What if YOU were in a debate. A dispute. Say you’re immersed in employment litigation. Or in a heated argument with your spouse.
The other person is disagreeing with you, and keeps on disagreeing with you, and keeps on disagreeing with you. Many of the issues are personal to you. Things get heated.
And then your opponent drops a bomb on you.
“You’re right about that point.”
“You’re absolutely right.”
Huh?! Oh… ok.
Now… I ask you this. How did this “you’re right” – bomb make you feel?
For me, I’d feel validated. This person was attacking a host of beliefs I held dear, but at least they acknowledged I made a good point about that one issue. Maybe it’s time for me to chill out. Maybe there’s hope. Reasonable people can disagree. Maybe we can reconcile on the other issues.
These are the thoughts I’d have. I’d feel defused.
Now, to McCain. How did he feel- at the debate- at those moments he was told “you’re right?”
Probably like me. He probably felt better after Obama made each statement indicating his agreement. McCain probably felt validated. Defused.
For the moment, at least.
McCain should have left those moments alone, and let validation be validation. Let civil discourse be civil discourse. Leave those “you’re rights”- those flashes of goodwill- to remain untouched, and accepted as they were intended.
But instead of leaving well enough alone, after the debate, McCain sends out an advertisement. An advertisement suggesting that all those “you’re rights” boil down to signs of weakness. Of concession. As cause for dominance. Cause for ridicule.
All the things that have been fueling our devolution.
Our country has a host of monumental problems to solve. This is no time- there has never been a time, and we don’t have time- to make a problem out of agreement and goodwill.