Friday, October 03, 2008

Bidens Wins VP Debate

TONIGHT'S debate was a microcosm of the race so far.

Sarah impressed out of the gate. But the longer it went on, the more she was exposed as being out of her league.

Her persona is disarming. Quite effective, actually. She's a competitor and she goes for the jugular. Even if she misses. And she missed a lot.

Her disarming persona can't make up for her utter lack of knowledge and depth.

Cute and cutting can only take you so far.

And yet, a woman who admitted in one moment that she's only been at this for five weeks, stated, minutes later, without blinking, mind you, that she wants the office of vice president to have more authority over legislative matters.

She's George W. Bush and Dick Cheney with lipstick.

Thank goodness Biden reminded us that Dick Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president in American history.

I think this debate also showed that people don't know Biden either, despite his Senate career, so people were getting to know him as much as they were the "doggonit" fraud from Alaska.

He had to have won some hearts when he choked up near the end talking about being a single parent and almost losing all his children along with his wife.

Palin's response to his tragedy was to ignore it and start talking about how much of a maverick McCain is and how they would bring real change. "Change is coming." Her delivery was abysmal. She knows it's not true, and she's just not a good actress.

I think that was the most striking moment of the night for me and it summed up both of them completely.

Biden is human. Palin is a robot.

And the human had it in him to shred like a dry rotted sheet the notion that McCain is some kind of maverick while the robot stood stunned.

I think Biden did something unexpected and very effective in his choke-up moment. He turned gender roles on their head by saying that just because he's a man doesn't mean he doesn't know what it's like to be a single parent.

In almost one fell swoop, he took Palin's biggest appeal from her. Not that she's a single parent., but she's been playing the "mommy" card like it's the big joker. But motherhood isn't the only parenthood that matters. Fatherhood does as well. Both presidential candidates wrote memoirs featuring their fathers. Barack Obama has made fatherhood a campaign issue. Biden, by relating his own tragedy as a father and husband, drove that home in a way Palin couldn't respond to and he never had to demean her to make the point.

That will appeal to women and men.

Through two debates it's become crystal clear: One ticket exudes compassion and knowledge. The other, viciousness and ineptitude.

I won't be the only one who whittles it down to that.

:: :: ::

Friday Morning Reactions:

The New York Times editorial board agrees that Palin was too reliant on her prepared talking points:

But Ms. Palin never really got beyond her talking points in 90 minutes, mostly repeating clich├ęs and tired attack lines and energetically refusing to answer far too many questions.

Senator Biden did well, avoiding one of his own infamous gaffes, while showing a clear grasp of the big picture and the details. He left Ms. Palin way behind on most issues, especially foreign policy and national security, where she just seemed lost. It was in those moments that her lack of experience — two terms as mayor of a tiny Anchorage suburb and less than two years as governor — was most painfully evident.


Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal compliments Palin's folksy, populist tone but has a back-handed way of doing it:

She is not a person of thought but of action. Interviews are about thinking, about reflecting, marshaling data and integrating it into an answer. Debates are more active, more propelled—they are thrust and parry.

Not a person of thought. Hmmm. Using Noonan's logic, Palin does badly in interviews because they are "about thinking." I don't know about you, but I think that is a pretty important quality in the potential President of the United States.


The Denver Post editorial board thinks she held her own, but might have lacked enough specifics to sway undecided voters:

She hailed Israel as an important ally, but didn't get much beyond calling for a two-state solution with Palestine. She called for cutting taxes to create jobs, but failed to counter Biden's outlining Obama's tax cuts for the middle class.

Bottom line: Palin's biggest task is convincing undecided voters that she could lead should she have to, and it's hard to see whether her performance, as clean as it was, held enough substance to sway them.


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial calls it a draw:

In this debate, Biden clearly had a better grasp of the issues. Palin skillfully sidestepped questions she didn’t want to answer from moderator Gwen Ifill and, in so doing, did manage to sidestep that media filter she talked about.

But if the gauge is whether Palin could go toe-to-toe and present herself as genuine and an alternative, she clearly did her ticket a favor in this debate.


Diane Francis, one of our neighbors up North at the National Post is spot on:

She wasn’t present. She wasn’t real. She was Sally Sound-byte.

This debate was more revealing than the Presidential one last week because it became very clear that she simply doesn’t have the substance to be VP much less President which reflects badly on John McCain's judgment. Obama will crush McCain. Said that months ago. Truer than ever.


Headline of the morning: Sarah Palin ignores questions she doesn't like in debate (NY Daily News)


Best quote of the morning (Dougas Burns, Iowa Independent):

For her part, GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin – speaking with the programmed cadence of a GPS navigation system — used forced folksiness to deliver crammed material in the manner of a high schooler looking to score a good grade on a Spanish test. The kid may escape with a B-minus, but he wouldn’t be able to order a cup of coffee in Spain a week later.


Mike Madden of says Sarah Palin exceeds expectations - and still loses:

She might have undone whatever good will she earned with her "aw, shucks" Wasilla hockey mom ways, though, when she utterly failed to react after Biden choked up while discussing the death of his first wife and their daughter.

Palin's response was ice cold: "People aren't looking for more of the same. They are looking for change. And John McCain has been the consummate maverick in the Senate over all these years."

It was at this moment in the debate when Biden showed real authenticity and Palin showed just how programmed she was. She clearly did not know how to react - because she hadn't prepared for it - so she launched back into the talking points.


John F. Harris and Mike Allen of Politico declare Biden the clear winner:

To the contrary, it is hard to count any objective measures by which Biden did not clearly win the encounter. She looked like she trying to get people to take her seriously. He looked like he was running for vice president. His answers were more responsive to the questions, far more detailed and less rhetorical.

On at least ten occasions, Palin gave answers that were nonspecific, completely generic, pivoted away from the question at hand, or simply ignored it: on global warming, an Iraq exit strategy, Iran and Pakistan, Iranian diplomacy, Israel-Palestine (and a follow-up), the nuclear trigger, interventionism, Cheney's vice presidency and her own greatest weakness.


Scot Lehigh of the Boston Globe, Biden's ready for the job:

You can say this about Sarah Palin: She did better debating Joe Biden than she did being interviewed by Katie Couric.

But that sets the bar very low indeed. So let's pay Palin the respect of treating her exactly as a male candidate would be treated. And that means saying this: She was simply nowhere near as good as Joe Biden.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this article that clearly & easily articulates the sentiments of 60% of the voting population. As time progresses,the voting public has become increasingly unwilling to accept the excuses, the tirades, the race & gender cards and shock tactics of the McCain campaign.

Obama took a gamble by betting that the American people would respond positively to a more mature, humane and ethical campaign philosophy. His high humanitarian standards are evident in all his surrogates as well as his influence on Biden. By contrast, one can clearly see the work of Rove, Cheney & the generally offensive, & clearly more of the same, Bush campaign tactics. Obama's instincts about the voting public have been correct, even when it made his supporters a nervous wreck. It is so awesome to watch him out strategize and out class his opponents all the way to the white house. It is amazing to see him offer a new paradigm, like a breath of fresh air, to his colleagues who are also fed up with the ugly, derisive & destructive campaign tactics.

So yes, the event represented a microcosm of this campaign cycle, with Obama/Biden representing thoughtfulness, depth & compassion. Hope is on the way. Thanks for a great article.

Claudia said...

Biden is human. Palin is a robot.

Exactly! Great review of last night's debate. You hit the nail on the head.

rikyrah said...

This is a great writeup, Craig.

THE telling moment was her response to the Biden emotional moment.

SHE HAD NO RESPONSE. No HUMAN response. Biden's talk about the loss of his family was about as searing and real as it gets. And, she acted as if he was talking about gas prices.

I'm a woman, and it showed me she has no soul.

The VP question, was without a doubt, very powerful. I loved Biden for that.

The best part is that Biden was able to attack McCain pretty much unchallenged, because to defend McCain would have taken not reading off of index cards.

Anonymous said...

Great post Craig.

I agree, this was a chance for the country to get to also get to know Biden. I was familiar with the tragic story of his first wife and daughter being killed in an automobile accident, but hearing it alluded to in the first person was very moving. More importantly, he reinforced that Palin does not hold some special trademark on parenthood. Men and women are both capable of loving and caring for their children.

I know many say she passed, or met expectations. But for me, her performance was dismal. I agree with Chris Matthews, she did nothing more that recite. To top it off, her recitations often did not match the questions asked. I CAN RECITE. I CAN MEMORIZE. I have to conduct a training next week. You think I can skate by whenever someone asks me a question by responding with some prepared speech? No, I am expected to have a command of the topic. I am expected to be able to respond based on the scenario presented to me. I can assure you at the end of my class when participants are asked to fill out an evaluation, that I would not receive complimentary ratings.

Anonymous said...

1. That Noonan comment is striking to me.

But IMO reflection goes deeper than thinking.

It is connected to learning and as such, to me, is in the realm of the sacred.

and .... of course Palin would not be able to go there.

2. Biden is human. Palin is a robot.

Yes! My girlfriend cracked me up last night when she said this:

"She's like a robot or something like that.

You just want to take her smarmy little face off and see if you can replace it or something"

And when I pointed out that she had not been watching but only listening to the debate on the radio, she said:

I know, I know, it's just the way that she talks, you can hear her smarmy little face

3. Palin is the thing that the collective spits out to fight harder against what could change. She is entirely of this horror and it SHOWS.

4. Sound is my first language and I tried to listen to the debate but hearing hurt hurt me so much I couldn't stand it, hurt me physically so I had to turn it off. And I did want to listen. But I could NOT.

Dan Scarlett said...

Bravo, Craig, for veering from talking about tennis-- an interesting and pleasant topic-- to a dialogue about possibly
the most crucial and pivotal
moment in the history of the human race.