The original problem was McCain's flat, obvious, no-two-ways about it, witnessed- by-tens-of-millions-of-people refusal to look at Obama at any point during the debate last week. The problem now is the contrast between that indisputable reality and McCain's flat refusal to admit that this was so, in his interview yesterday with George Stephanopoulos. (Excerpt from interview at end of this post; representative photo, via Andrew Sullivan, right here.)
There are three ways to account for McCain's current claim:
1. He did not remember on Sunday morning the way he had behaved on stage 36 hours earlier;
2. The reasons for his behavior were so powerful, instinctive, and atavistic that he was not aware of what he was doing at the time;
3. He was aware of his behavior at the time, and remembers it, but has decided that this is not a plus and so is telling a lie.
Logically I see no alternative to these three options. All in all, the least damaging to McCain is probably the last, the flat-out lie.
UPDATE. At the suggestion of several readers, I'll agree that logically there is a possibility #4, or maybe #3.5: That McCain has mis-remembered his behavior in a convenient and more positive way, so that he is "sincere" in saying that the worst aspects of it didn't happen. This is less a "flat-out lie" than a common sort of self-delusion. Whatever the genesis, his body-language on stage was unbelievably insulting and classless.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, during the debate, it seemed that you were reluctant to look at Senator Obama.
MCCAIN: I wasn't.
MCCAIN: Of course not.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we went back through the tape, and some people were saying that that was showing disdain for him. Is that fair?
MCCAIN: I was looking at the moderator a great deal of time. I was writing a lot of the time. I in no way know how that in any way would be disdainful.