Last night, during the Vice Presidential debate, we were shown the glaring contrast between the two tickets. The Obama/Biden campaign has been hammering on the McCain=Bush theme so much that I’m almost sick of hearing it. I’d love to see a fresh new attack, there are so many to choose from, but this has been working for them so I’ll trust their judgment. Last night’s debate should have crystallized this for anyone who still has doubts. If you have trouble seeing it, flip the ticket and look again. McCain=Cheney, Palin=Bush. Do you see it now? Crusty old rich hawk. Dumb-ass hick governor that has to read everything off the teleprompter. McSame/Failin’ ’08.
Sarah Palin’s abysmal performance last night should have been universally panned by any thinking viewer or pundit, and yet we’ve set our expectations so low that she was given a free pass. She was unable to produce concise substantive answers to any question, and when she didn’t have a memorized talk track, she fell back to the list of keywords that we’ve all come to expect from her. There were even Bingo cards and drinking games printed with these buzzwords on them.
Like W, she played the “folksy” card ad nauseum. In the first minute she was already laying it on thick. She was full of “yer durn right!” and “’em” instead of “them” and “hockey mom” and “Joe 6-pack”. She actually said “Joe 6-pack” in a debate! That’s who she thinks you are! I hope that the rest of my countrymen are as sick of being condescended to as I am. Matt Damon said that her candidacy is like the plot of a bad Disney movie, and I couldn’t agree more. That’s not good enough for me, and I have hope that it’s not good enough for the rest of the electorate either. These are tough times, complicated times, and we cannot afford to let another inept, under-educated buffoon limp along in the toughest job in the land. It hasn’t worked for the last 8 years, and it’s not going to work for the next 4.
Let’s talk about sexism for a second. Yesterday’s pre-debate coverage was full of armchair advice for Joe Biden. From every corner people were telling him that he should only attack McCain, and avoid the appearance of attacking Sarah Palin at all costs, lest he appear “sexist”. If that’s not sexism, I don’t know what is. Joe Biden followed this advice last night. He referred to Sarah Palin (generously, I might add) as “Governor” and kept his attacks focused on McCain. Sarah, by contrast, was free to fight with both hands and directed her attacks at “Joe”. This is bullshit. If she were a man, this would never have been the case. An incompetent man in this situation would have been eviscerated. She winked at the camera, and spoke in a breathy voice when she wanted to fake sincerity. It was patronizing and offensive.
Joe Biden wasn’t the only one coddling her. Gwen Ifill was softballing it as well. Sarah Palin doesn’t know anything about the job. She doesn’t know much of anything about anything. She doesn’t know what magazines have news in them. She doesn’t know any Supreme Court cases, even though she could potentially name a judge to the Court. She might be a nice person to meet on the street, but she is grossly out of her league in national affairs. If she doesn’t have the name of the President of a foreign country memorized, she’ll dodge the question. If she doesn’t have a talking point, she’ll dodge the question. The whole country has winced in vicarious embarrassment at her answers during Katie Couric’s interviews. This should have been a continuation of that bloodbath, and it would have been if not for Gwen Ifill padding all the questions with built-in answers. She framed the questions in such a way that ANYONE could have given as good a performance as Mrs. Palin did last night. She also allowed the Governor to dodge and evade questions at will, never holding her feet to the fire. I actually saw post-debate pundits praising this as “good debate strategy” which is bullshit. I was never a debater, but I have a hard time having respect for someone who can’t answer the questions, or even give a general answer on the same subject. She twisted the first several questions in to rambling nonsense about her “energy policy”. She should have been called out on this, but she wasn’t. I’m fairly certain that this was because the moderator was also trying to avoid the perception that she was being “too hard” on Palin.
Let’s talk for a minute about her energy policy… She referred to Alaska as a microcosm of the US, which it’s not. Alaska is an anomaly. Crafting an energy policy for a state that floats along on a cushion of combustible resources takes no great skill. Think Beverly Hillbillies. It’s already set up, all you have to do is watch the money roll in. Watch this video by Fareed Zakaria, the relevant section is toward the end. He explains that her experience in Alaska is not relevant experience for the United States as a whole. You see, we have these things called “cities” in the lower 48. People live in them. Hopefully enough people to change the landscape of the election…
I was disappointed to see that gays were thrown under the bus by both candidates last night. There’s no good reason for this. The only reasons are religious reasons, and those are bullshit. This wasn’t new. I’ve been disappointed by our ticket’s stance on this issue, but it was sad to see it emphatically restated. There was a point of distinction to be made, however. Sarah Palin still seems to think that being gay is a choice. I’m not gay, but I don’t believe this to be the case. She went on to say that she “tolerates” her gay friends. I’m sure they’re grateful, but once again I found this condescending and patronizing. Being “tolerated” is not the same as being treated as an equal.
I haven’t mentioned anything about Joe Biden’s performance, other than the fact that I felt it wasn’t a fair fight because he was constrained by rules that didn’t apply to her. That being said, I felt that he was eloquent, informed and skillful. He didn’t ramble and digress, and did a good job of getting the facts out there. He may have come off as a little stiff to those who prefer the informal, and frankly inappropriate, style that Palin employed. And he didn’t fumble, as many assumed he would.