Last week, I wrote about how Josh Marshall and other liberal bloggers had revised their early interpretations of the first presidential debate to conform to the meme about John McCain being "small and angry." As I argued, it was the sort of pathological character-driven narrative that Republicans used so effectively against Al Gore, but no one seemed to recognize the parallel.
Since then, Marshall has repeatedly pushed the same talking points, using as evidence a contentious exchange between McCain and the editorial board of the Des Moines Register. First, he suggested McCain was mentally ill by making a joking reference to the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:
We though McCain was steamed when he wouldn't make eye contact with Barack Obama. But he almost blew a fuse when he got some real questions from the editorial board of the Des Moines Register. In today's episode of TPMtv, we analyze the tapes (with a little help from the DSM-IV):
Marshall then accused McCain of "a troubling lack of emotional control":
Campaigns are filled with hyperbole. But this, the no-eye-contact business at the debate and even the over-the-top affect at the Des Moines Register editorial meeting together suggest that McCain feels a sense of palpable disgust with Obama or visceral antipathy for him that is so great he's incapable of overcoming it in public settings.
That's a troubling lack of emotional control. But it seems in line with the character trait many mention about McCain -- that he is unable to engage in any contest without demonizing his opponent in his own head. There are a lot of other possibilities this seems to point to -- none of them pretty.
And he later invited readers to speculate further on McCain's mindset:
Not just a rhetorical question. What do you think has John McCain so angry? It's like anything could send him over the edge. Look at the video (the McCain vids start about 30 seconds in). Send me your thoughts ...
The debate and the editorial board meeting are pretty weak evidence for the sweeping claims that Marshall is making. McCain may loathe Obama and all he stands for (we'll never know for sure), but an alien who read all this hype about McCain's anger would be shocked at how restrained he was during the debate.