A wink, a nod and a loss

In the aftermath and varying opinions of the overhyped debate between the Democratic and Republican candidates for vice presidents, two areas of consensus appear to emege: Sarah Palin didn’t do anything  TOO stupid and voters, the ones who still make the decisions on election day, feel Joe Biden won the night.

Incredibly, Palin held her own by not debating: She announced straight out that she would not answer the questions but would stick to talking points. It was, perhaps, the only way she could stay out of trouble but it showcased an inexperienced, inept candidate who has trouble with facts and only a faint relationship with specifics.

She winked. She nodded. She grinned. She said "betcha." But she didn’t debate.

In a format where clear winners are impossible unless one side or the others screws up big time or one side of the other scores a "knockout," neither Palin nor Biden emerged as the clear winner. Still, Palin did nothing to stem the doubts that remain about her ability to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

Writes Democratic political activist Bob Shrum:

Sarah Palin has experience being a runner-up — which will come in handy in November. Tonight she barely kept up. In advance, the commenteriat almost unanimously agreed on a false measure of this debate. Judging by "expectation" meant that pundits could conceivably award a faux victory if she was half-coherent and modestly informed after a cram session in Arizona. But voters apply an absolute standard, not a low water mark of expectations: With America facing two wars and economic disaster, Americans ask if a candidate is up to the job.

By any rational assessment, Palin wasn’t tonight — and hasn’t been any time she’s not reading a teleprompter. President Palin– the nuclear button, recession, the health care crisis, global warming (which she doesn’t believe in, as she believes in creationism) — well, it simply doesn’t compute. A part in Fargo, yes — that office in the West Wing, no.

The Politico’s analysis:

Millions of Americans were watching Thursday night’s vice-presidential debate waiting for a demolition derby moment — another crash by GOP running mate Sarah Palin, another serving of raw material for the writers at "Saturday Night Live." 

By that standard, she got out alive, though there were white-knuckle moments along the way: questions that were answered with painfully obvious talking points that betrayed scant knowledge of the issue at hand, and sometimes little relevance to the question that had been asked. 

But recent days have given John McCain’s team little reason to suppose that not-that-bad is good enough. The Republican ticket’s sliding polls and narrowing electoral map gave it a different imperative in her showdown against Joe Biden. That was to alter the trajectory of the race in a way reminiscent of how Palin first enlivened Republicans—it seems long ago now—when she joined the ticket in late August. 

Absent new polling, there is little reason to think she cleared that bar in St. Louis. 

To the contrary, it is hard to count any objective measures by which Biden did not clearly win the encounter. She looked like she was 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.

Writes Dan Balz in The Washington Post:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin spent much of the past two weeks on the defensive, hounded by critics over halting performances in television interviews and questioned even by conservative writers doubtful about whether she is ready to be vice president.

But the Palin who showed up for Thursday’s debate against Democratic Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. was anything but defensive. In a fast-paced exchange about a range of domestic and foreign policy issues, she was the aggressive campaigner who in the first weeks of her candidacy had so energized the Republican faithful.

As a result, what was touted as a moment of truth for Palin instead turned into a lively and civil argument between the two vice presidential nominees over the policies and records of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama. For 90 minutes, they sparred over Iraq and Afghanistan, energy and global warming, the economy and taxes, and which candidate would do more to protect the middle class.

One debate will not erase doubts that have been building about Palin’s capacity to serve as vice president, but the effect of the encounter may shift the focus away from the sideshow that Palin has become and put it back on the two presidential nominees and what they would do for the country. Thursday’s debate adds to the importance of the two remaining presidential debates, the first of which will be held Tuesday.

Palin produced at a moment McCain needed it most. In the past two weeks, his standing has deteriorated as the focus of national attention has shifted almost entirely to the economy. National and state polls show Obama gaining ground, and the preface to the debate Thursday was the news that McCain is pulling out of Michigan, once seen as a potential pickup.

Tom Shales of The Post was more pointed:

Sarah Palin looked as though she had prepared for her appearance at the vice presidential debate last night by studying Tina Fey’s impressions of her on "Saturday Night Live." She twinkled and winked and piled on the perkiness, a "darn right" here and an "I’ll betcha" there.

The challenge to Fey, who is scheduled to play the Alaska governor and Republican candidate again on the next "SNL" broadcast, will be to out-Palin Palin, to make the parody more outrageous than the original.

At the same time, Palin seemed determined to banish thoughts of her as airheaded and inexperienced; she was really debating her own public image rather than Sen. Joe Biden. She subverted the whole purpose of the exercise by merely repeating the key points of her running mate, Sen. John McCain, and ignoring questions that called for more specific answers.

A focus group for CBS and the viewer response line for CNN scored the debate for Biden and undecideds said they were leaning more towards the Obama-Biden ticket after watching the debate.

With the vice president sideshow over, the focus now switches back to the two principal candidates and their two remaining debates.


  1. woody188

    Kucinich rolls over and plays dead every chance he gets. When push comes to shove he makes sure to take care of himself and his trophy wife first. This makes him worse than many other Congress critters, because he is a pretender fooling real honest and hard-working people into following him, and then hanging them out to dry when the poo hits the fan. Don’t fall for it anymore!

  2. Southerner

    Your comments about what you claim are Obama’s sins might be more credible if you cited where your information came from. Tell us where you got the info. Cite your sources. Otherwise, you’re just parotting Republican talking points, and I, for one, am not going to take that seriously unless you tell me where you got the info.

    You say that neither Palin nor Obama is ready to be President. I would, of course, strongly dispute that, but I know I’m not going to change your mind. But even if that were true, would you actually prefer that Palin become President instead of Obama? And given McCain’s age and history of cancer, if he’s elected, Palin could well be in the White House a year or two from now.

    That scares me beyond anything I can describe here. And it has nothing to do with the fact that she’s a woman. It has everything to do with the fact — or at least my sincere perception — that her philosophy of governing is based on dangerous fantasies and smug, willful ignorance. This was clearly on display at her debate with Biden. She didn’t behave like a serious candidate for high political office. She behaved like a cocktail waitress schmoozing for a big tip. It seems to me that her behavior at that debate should have appalled anyone who claims to have a preference for open, competent government.

    Whatever your criticisms of Obama, legitimate and otherwise, at least he’s willing to respond to direct questions in a debate. The differences between how Palin and Obama would run our government seem to me striking.

  3. ekaton

    Kibitzer, I know. The Republicans. I mean, Sarah Palin, you guys? Really? Really?

    — Kent Shaw

  4. Billbop

    Heck, the last time a good looking gal
    like that winked at me that many times,
    she was trying to get an extra $20 for
    a lap dance.
    Almost felt like I was cheating on my wife 😉

  5. Kibitzer

    Stay on CHB because I like to see a variety of opinions, not just down-the-line mutual admiration society stuff. But I need to ask you: Do you REALLY think the McCain/Palin ticket is better for America than the Obama/Biden one??

    Personally, I’d rather write in Ron Paul (though my state won’t allow me to), and thus am not a doctrinaire liberal. But there is no way in Hades that I would ever feel that McCain and Palin are the right ticket for where the country is at, especially at this time. Life is too serious for second-drawer talent in that position of responsibility, for the nation and for the world.

  6. acf

    Being governor of a state that has a huge surplus because of huge oil company payments rooted in the high global price of oil is not a major challenge of executive budgeting. Being governor of a state with lots of acres, but less people than most moderately sized (650,000) cities in the lower 48, is again, not much of a managerial challenge. Having to hire a city manager for a town of, what…6, 8, 10 thousand, doesn’t say much for the executive skills of its mayor. In fact, a town that size could even have a part time mayor, or one who is just the senior member of the town council or board of selectman. All in all, not much experience to brag about, unless you’re trying to ‘burnish’ a thin resume.

    As for Obama, as far as I know, law enforcement is the responsibility of the mayor & city council of a city, not a state legislator who represents the area, and I’m not absolutely certain, but I think community organizers don’t have that responsibility, either.

  7. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    What really makes me sick is how even pundits that that don’t like her having acknowledged she is as dumb as a doornob walk on eggshells being carefull not to notice her as the Elephant in the room she is.

    Dip Krap pundits stating how she skillfully avoided questions by not answering them…come on, skillfull my Pink Ass, thats bald faced arrogance! Nothing ‘skilfull’ about that. She has the intelligence quotient of a flea (no insult intended to fleas).

    The Chimp is a Noble laureate compared to Palindum… ‘SHOCK’….Never thought I’d hear myself saying that.

  8. pondering_it_all

    >being a governor who has actually balanced a budget is completely dismissed

    Sorry, Sherry. “Balancing the budget” of the State of Alaska is no accomplishment at all: They have so much oil company income that they don’t have an income tax or even a sales tax. The “budget” calculation consists of (oil income – state expenses) / population = your yearly royalty check. Sarah Palin didn’t have to negotiate with her state assembly, didn’t have to choose programs that would need to be cut, didn’t have to do much of anything at all except sign the spending bill her handlers put in front of her.

    BTW: I really enjoyed the way she threw Bush and all the congressional Republicans under the bus during the debate! She remembered to distance herself and Senator McCain from the Bush Administration, but apparently forgot that, in the highly unlikely event they win, she would have to work with a Congress full of members she just called corrupt, wasteful, blunderers!

    She also had no difficulty spouting the joys of deregulation in one breath, and than calling for stricter regulation in the next. Could it be that Sarah Palin doesn’t understand the meaning of that term? Because if she does, then that just makes her a sociopath who can lie with a straight face.

  9. Pablo

    Kucinich and Gravel
    were the only good, sincere candidates on the democratic ticket, but the american people as a whole are lazy, fearful of change, and led by a media run by the same corporations that control our politicians through legal briber–errrr-ummm uhh I mean lobbying. They don’t want anybody that will rock the boat too much, so now we must hold our noses and vote for the lesser of two evils, or third party as one last rebellious statement before the whole #&@%house goes up in smoke.

  10. sherry

    John Q wrote: I know that sooner or later the question about who is the real Sarah Palin will come out. The fact is that she is a political humanoid robot created under the code name of “Sarah”, taken from the character Sarah Connor of the Terminator series.

    I have been saying the same thing about the Obamabot for weeks.
    Have you seen the YouTube where his teleprompter went down? You could have a drinking contest for all the stammering and “uh”. Sadly he was talking about healthcare.

    He too reminds me of George Bush.

    Yeah, Palin has an accent. So does Bill Clinton. So does Hillary.

    What a bunch of sexist jerks you all are. She is cute. O my goodness! Perhaps she should have rented a Janet Reno costume. Would that make you feel better?

    She DOES have executive experience. Yet, being a governor who has actually balanced a budget is completely dismissed. Obama was a community organizer.
    Anyone know of any great accomplishments there? Crime in the southside is 80% higher than the rest of Chicago. Was it 95% higher before he put his golden touch there?
    He funneled housing money to Rezko, and yet the poor and the elderly went without heat during a cold Chicago winter. Obama pleaded ignorance about what was happening in his very own district. Among the poor. Among his very constituents.
    Rezko, had zero building experience when he received those grants and loan guarantees. Perhaps this is why his buildings were not up to code, fell apart and went into foreclosure. He wasn’t stupid though. He made millions and left the state and federal government holding the bag. Nice guy, huh?
    Did any landmark legislation happen under Obama’s watch?
    In the state senate? In the US Senate? O yeah, the ethics bill. So, is Washington all cleaned up now?
    And BTW, Biden out right lied when he said Obama never said he would sit down with Iran with out preconditions. Not only did Obama say it, he said it was ok by Kissinger, who quickly said Obama mischaracterized his statements and expressed resentment.

    Palin is not ready for POTUS. The scary part is, neither is Obama.

  11. John Q

    I know that sooner or later the question about who is the real Sarah Palin will come out. The fact is that she is a political humanoid robot created under the code name of “Sarah”, taken from the character Sarah Connor of the Terminator series. The full description of the project is “Political Android Lacking Intellectual Nuance”, hence the last name PALIN. The programming of PALIN is still a work-in-progress. She is released suddenly before she is fully functional due to the dire situation of the McCain campaign. A much improved version of artificial intelligence is expected to be implemented before the 2012 presidential election. I hope that answers your question.

  12. jgw

    Palin did a GREAT job! She also proved that she was a well trained soldier doing what she was told. She stuck to her script (literally – color codes and all) and only tried to deviate one time (a mistake). I have revisited the debate and have found that almost half the time she was either reading, or studying, her notes and the rest of the time being endearing by looking directly into the camera and smiling (she did this REALLY well) whilst giving well prepared and rehearsed thoughts and/or replies.

    I am sure there is a real Sarah Palin and am equally sure we didn’t see her last night. I do know that without her notes she is a disaster, as her two interviews have shown. Someplace, in between the interviews and debate there must be a real person but I haven’t seen that yet and am not holding my breath. Any discussion that what she was saying was, somehow, the real Sarah and her views, is, I think, simply wrong.

    Port Angeles, WA

  13. knockknock

    I’m still trying to understand why nobody is bringing up McCain’s part in the Keating Five and the S&L rip off of the elderly.

    Are Obama and Biden just being gentlemanly or will Obama finally bring it up in another debate?

    Very disappointing to have such factual information against your opponent and not use it.

  14. snargle

    Just dress her up in a flight suit and whisk her off to an aircraft carrier flight deck…*POOF* Instant G.W Bush with boobs! 🙂

  15. John Q

    The only person I’ve ever heard pronouncing “nuclear” as “new-cue-lar” is G. W. Bush. Palin pronounced it the same way many times during the “debate”. For a while there I thought I was seeing Bush in skirt and lipsticks talking. Learn how to walk like Bush and you’ll be really “presidential”, my gorgeous. Can I have a hug!?

  16. Ann

    “Democratic and Republican candidates for vice presidents, two areas of consensus appear to emege: Sarah Palin didn’t do anything TOO stupid and voters, the ones who still make the decisions on election day, feel Joe Biden won the night.”
    My my how cute I watch CSpan again to not hear anyone else I like to make up my own mind. But my question is who’s ticket is she running on? She agrees with democrat’s more than republicans. Ain’t she cute. Well cute doesn’t get it.
    Refusing to answer questions well I wanted to say then why did you show up. Then saying there you go again going back well duh as I recall Bush is still the president and even though she doesn’t have a record in this McCain and Biden sure as heck do I wouldn’t call that going back when Biden went through the votes all three of them had made glory be where did she get that.
    She tried and I give her E for effort and F for not knowing she is so out place it makes you feel sorry for her but not enough to risk our country on. She scares me and OMG she needs to go back to Alaska and put this way behind her, then she can sit on her porch and watch Russia.