Thursday, October 02, 2008
Veep picks mix it up
The one and only vice-presidential debate of this election cycle has only just ended. My initial impression: Sarah Palin did quite well, especially early on in the engagement, but on the whole Joe Biden's greater experience and knowledge carried the day.
Joe Biden had a much higher bar to clear than did Sarah Palin. Biden, after all, was expected to win, especially in light of Sarah Palin's disastrous interview with Katie Couric last week. Governor Palin had actually become a drag on the McCain ticket according to some polls, and some conservative columnists had publicly called for her to step down.
In the debate, however, Governor Palin definitely showed that she is no dummy; she spoke with authority and confidence. She engaged Senator Biden directly, in direct contrast to McCain's furtive performance in his debate with Obama last week. Her demeanor was self-assured and it is certainly to her advantage that she is such an attractive person. But, at times, it seems that she was reciting her answers, almost like a Catholic reciting the Rosary.
Several times she tried to steer the course of the conversation toward energy and energy policy, which, no doubt, the McCain campaign perceives as her strength. It seemed awkward and contrived, especially when she did it in lieu of actually answering the question posed by moderator Gwen Ifill. And she made prolific use of the word "maverick" when referring to her running mate, Mad Johnny as if desperately trying to conjure distance between her ticket and the Republican party.
Also, I found her frequent attempts to appear an everyday gal a little tiresome. References to "Joe Six-pack" wore a little thin. But her biggest mistake of the evening was when she suggested that the Constitution allowed for expanded powers for the vice-president. This allowed Senator Biden to liken her to the despised Dick Cheney. Faux pas, Sarah!
Senator Biden, on the other hand, chose not to engage Governor Palin directly. He made frequent reference to obscene corporate profits and the growing disparity between the wealthy and the middle class, defended Obama's positions, and repeatedly drew comparisons between the McCain campaign and the Bush administration. Senator Biden's years of speaking on the floor of the Senate and in front of cameras definitely showed.
Biden is quite capable of eloquence and he spoke movingly about the need to address the genocide occurring in Darfur and about the plight of the American middle class. He was gracious and respectful to his opponent.
All in all, I think Sarah Palin did as well as could be expected. The problem for her is that she must defend the myopic and out-dated policies that John McCain has staked out as his ground. There's only so much lipstick you can put on that pig (just to choose a random colloquialism).
Recent polls show Obama starting to break away. Governor Palin didn't do anything tonight to hurt her ticket, but neither did her performance do anything to reverse the trend. Senator Biden was solid and dependable. And, you know, that's probably all one could want in a vice-president.