Debating The Definition of Debates


The Vice Presidential debate is over and I’m glad we can finally talk about larger issues again.

The bottom line for this debate was clear in my view. It was less about who won or lost and more about Governor Sarah Palin‘s performance. She’s the one everyone is curious about. After the incredible disaster of the Katie Couric interviews everyone wondered if she’d destroy the entire McCain campaign in one last major meltdown. That didn’t happen and that seems to have re-energized Republicans with regard to her capabilities but it’s a false sense of security.

In the final analysis this was supposed to be a debate. Viewed as a debate Governor Palin failed in every legitimate analytical perspective. Senator Joe Biden made Palin look like a complete novice with regard to her grasp of virtually everything of importance in the world today.

It struck me that the most accurate way to comment on Palin is to realize that she was extremely polarizing tonight. If you went into the debate as a fan of hers then you likely left happy. If you weren’t a fan then you were even more certain of your position afterwards.

However, back to the debate concept, the facts are pretty irrefutable:

Governor Palin, on several occasions flat-out dodged the question. On several of those she did respond to she botched the answers. I was concerned that she didn’t understand what the Constitution says about the powers of the Vice President. She tried to pull a Dick Cheney and that’s not going to endear her to any undecided voters.

It seemed clear that Governor Sarah Palin also benefited from a poor job of questioning by the PBS moderator. There really weren’t any surprising questions. Palin simply sat up there reciting a series of stock answers from her speeches and this only worked because of the lack of originality in the queries.

I quickly tired of her avoiding answers by trying to play to “ordinary” Americans by again using the phrases, “hockey moms” and “joe six-packs”. We’re just completing eight catastrophic years that underscore the result of voting for an “ordinary” guy we all want to have a drink with. The last thing I want in office is a run-of-the-the-mill hockey mom. We deserve much more.

She offered no real facts. When she did try a few they were incorrect.

A major blunder in my view was when she tried to suggest that the blunders of the current administration represent nothing out of the ordinary. She said that all administrations have these. This from the aforementioned hockey mom who must have taught her kids that two wrongs don’t make a right.

I caught several examples of her trying to leverage past great moments in history. The biggest one was when she plagiarized President Ronald Reagan when responding to Biden with, “There you go again, Joe.”

She had her backside handed to her by Biden when she overstated the “Maverick” title that John McCain has been trading on after having shed that skin to get the nomination. Biden turned the comment on its ear pointing out how his maverick label isn’t accurate based on the record of things that matter to most Americans.

Biden’s biggest moment was calling out Palin on the biggest point of all. He noted, quite memorably, that Governor Palin failed entirely to point to a single case where John McCain’s planning differs at all from those of President Bush. The irony is that Governor Palin kept trying to suggest that Biden is stuck in the past when it’s so easy to suggest that it’s McCain who’s stuck there.

She failed entirely from telling anyone about any substantive plans for how her ticket would solve any problems. Senator Biden pointed out such details more than a few times. It was all talking points without any depth.

In the biggest testament to her true make-up she again failed heavily. Near the end of the debate Joe Biden was put in a position where he felt he needed to touch on the tragedy that had befallen his family back when he was 29. Biden was clearly moved and choked-up and really connected with many. When the response period moved quickly back to Palin she offered no comment, no response, no sympathy—nothing. She just went right to more talking points about Americans desire for change. Yes, we want change—change away from people who talk the talk but don’t have a heart that allows them to truly walk the walk.

The best thing you can say about her performance tonight is that she didn’t wilt. If that’s what you see as being enough to qualify someone for the White House then I have to seriously question your judgment.

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