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Friday, October 03, 2008

Not Even a Bump in the Road

I had to go to Fox News to find the headline, but I knew someone out there must've written one. I ran "Palin won debate" through Google News and came up with "Sarah Palin, McCain’s Secret Weapon, Wins the Debate," from Andrea Tantaros -- billed as a "Republican Political Commentator."

There, we learn that Sarah Palin is a "Lazarus in lipstick," who "won the debate because she exceeded expectations and connected with the American people on a personal level."

"Governor Palin breathed life into the McCain campaign and rectified public opinion about her competency, which was crucial," Tantaros writes. "Republicans, heave a sigh of relief." In other words, all she had to do was avoid drowning in a glass of water and the right would declare it a triumph of statesmanship. Low expectations do that for a candidate. But isn't this a confused metaphor? If Sarah Palin "breathed life into the McCain campaign," then she's Jesus -- McCain is Lazarus. You've got to be careful with those biblical references.

After watching the debate, I scored it to Biden. I wasn't alone. Early polling from CBS gave it to Biden, as well -- 46%-33% among undecided voters. In fact, that polling showed Biden nearly twice as successful as Palin at recruiting converts to the cause; while 10% said Palin convinced them to back McCain, 18% said that Biden brought them over to Obama. Still, 71% didn't commit either way.

With Obama ahead in the polls, I thought that Biden should play for a tie. He played it a little better than that, but still pretty safe. Joe Biden has always struck me as a little bit of a dick -- the kind of guy who points at you by making pistols with his fingers, then winks and says, "there he is!" Maybe it's just me, but that kind of guy always struck me as a phony. That side of him was mostly in check last night, although I did laugh out loud when he said he spent a lot of time at Home Depot -- I have my doubts.

Later polling by CNN kind of caught me by surprise. They gave it to Biden as well, by an even wider margin -- 51%-36%. But what got me was that more found Palin likable -- 54%-36%. I found her forced, with a contrived folksiness, and stuck on "perky," like a local morning news anchor. In the end, she didn't make me think of a possible future president so much as a cartoon chipmunk with an accent straight out of the movie Fargo. Maybe she benefitted by a comparison with Biden's personality. Still, it doesn't seem to have mattered -- they gave it to Biden anyway.

Palin turned in a mostly gaffe-free performance -- although at one point, she seemed to believe a civil war general was running things in Afghanistan. Gen. David McKiernan is the man she was thinking of, not Gen. George McClellan. In the end, Palin managed to exceed expectations by not wandering off the stage.

I was switching around after the debate and I lingered on CNN's replay of the debate for a moment. They've got this weird focus group dial polling thing scrolling at the bottom of the screen -- dial up if you like what you're hearing, down if you don't. Twice while I was watching, Palin used the "mavericks" line and it failed miserably; the group dialed it down immediately. That attempt at branding doesn't seem to be working. I think it tickles people's BS sensors. I'd been wondering why calling yourself a maverick didn't look like bragging to people. I don't wonder about that anymore -- it does.

Biden did let people know there was an actual person in that suit. Talking about his family, he choked up. "But the notion that somehow, because I'm a man, I don't know what it's like to raise two kids alone, I don't know what it's like to have a child you're not sure is going to -- is going to make it -- I understand," he said. His daughter and his first wife were killed in a car accident, his sons were badly injured. I guess it's true what they say about that kind of loss; you never get over it, you just get used to it. It's always there.

I don't think that there was any one place where she lost this; Palin's performance was consistently sub-par throughout. But, if you put a gun to my head and made me choose one mistake, I'd choose this:

IFILL: Governor, you mentioned a moment ago the constitution might give the vice president more power than it has in the past. Do you believe as Vice President Cheney does, that the Executive Branch does not hold complete sway over the office of the vice presidency, that it it is also a member of the Legislative Branch?

PALIN: Well, our founding fathers were very wise there in allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the office of the vice president. And we will do what is best for the American people in tapping into that position and ushering in an agenda that is supportive and cooperative with the president's agenda in that position. Yeah, so I do agree with him that we have a lot of flexibility in there, and we'll do what we have to do to administer very appropriately the plans that are needed for this nation. And it is my executive experience that is partly to be attributed to my pick as V.P. with McCain, not only as a governor, but earlier on as a mayor, as an oil and gas regulator, as a business owner. It is those years of experience on an executive level that will be put to good use in the White House also.

Wow. She's repeating Cheney's philosophy here. Bad move -- jock itch is more popular than Dick Cheney. Biden lost no time diving on this:

Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history. The idea he doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.

And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.

The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he's part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.

A-freakin'-men. McCain=Bush is one thing, Palin=Cheney is a clincher. Neither is a winning message.

In terms of success, I give this to Obama-Biden. Sarah Palin needed to do more than just prove she's not an actual intellectual invalid, she had to make some sort of difference in the race. She didn't. Personally, I think she did a better job than McCain did in the first debate -- he was seriously awful -- but it turns out that's not good enough. Biden didn't knock it out of the park, but he didn't need to. Obama-Biden is ahead right now, all he needed to do was just maintain the lead and not change anything. He did that.

Palin proved she was able to cover her ignorance by dodging questions. At least one time, when she should've been able to talk in depth and defend her position, she only repeated what she'd just said. And, at times when she was addressing her opponent, she was looking directly into the camera -- which struck me as a little weird. I imagined a lot of people sitting at home thinking, "My name's not Joe Biden, lady."

All in all, I found the first and only vice presidential debate mostly boring. It was newsworthy only because of its participants. Nothing really happened, nothing was changed.

Which has to be what Obama-Biden were hoping for.


1 comment:

Midwest Mom said...

Another winner, Wisco. Ain't sarcasm a beautiful thing, gosh-darnit!

I don't happen to think Biden is as much of a dick as you do... but I'll let that go -- for now. I happen to know that I've seen him wandering around the plumbing section of Home Depot a time or two.

As for the Palin-Cheney connection, if you were wondering whether there were others who thought the airhead cheerleader succeeding the evil puppeteer would be a bad thing, I can answer you in two words:

You Betcha!

;) -MM