“That One” and “Thatone”: Will “That One” Become “Thatone”—the Defining Moment of Debate 2 Between McCain and Obama?

What did Republican John McCain mean when he called Barack Obama “that one”?

Here’s the clip:

Is it a sign of contempt (as Andrew Sullivan thought)?

Or worse?

Is it a sign of dehumanizing objectification—with racial overtones?

In other words, is “that one” being used in the tone of a Southern backwoods character, out of the film Deliverance, saying to a captive person, as if talking about a piece of meat: “I want that one there.”

Or is it something more benign, as when an old person affectionately refers to a mischievious grandchild: “You know who had their hand in the cookie jar? That one!”

I can imagine McCain, in his softer emotional moments, thinking of Obama as a worthy younger opponent with whom he feels this degree of family familiarity.

And I’m inclined to give McCain the grandpa-interpretation “benefit of the doubt” here.

But I still like the phrase as a badge of honor, or a campaign pin, as someone has already quickly come up with, and which Andrew Sullivan posted on his website:


What McCain might have meant in a mean way, I regard as something of which to be proud.

I’m with “Thatone.”

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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