Thursday, October 02, 2008

The VP Debate

I missed the first half of the debate so all this talk about how manic Gov. Palin was comes after the fact. What I did see though was a pretty boring debate between a senator who knows his stuff and a governor reading from her cliff notes. The longer I watched, the more mangled Gov. Palin's responses became. There were a few times I wondered if my beer had been poisoned because what came out of Gov. Palin's mouth was a string of words that everyone has generously called a 'sentence'.
What really struck me though was the feeling I had heard all of this boilerplate before; not in this election, but in 2004 during the presidential debates. While there were a few references to present events, it was as if McCain's advisors had lifted President Bush's talking points directly from his campaign. Sen. Biden kept plugging away with his arguments while Gov. Palin could do nothing but recite talking points. And her faux-Minnesota charm didn't do much to cover her obvious lack of material at the end. With the bar set so low for Gov. Palin and the expectation of a typical Bidenism, of course a lot of people came away from this debate with a more favorable impression of her.
I thought she had this debate in the bag until she threw herself on a funeral pyre--she started talking about how hard it is to raise a family in today's America. Now I'm not one for seeing men cry or get choked up. My grandfather instilled a sense of stoicism in me that doesn't allow for such things. But then my step-grandmother died of cancer two years ago. My grandfather had been with this woman for 20 years; they married two years after the death of his first wife of 50 years, also due to cancer. There's a certain quality to such emotions provoked by those memories that no one, not even God, can deny a man. Sen. Biden had one of those moments of emotion and it's an emotion Gov. Palin has never experienced. And she glibly passed it by. That's going to stick I think, particularly when her running mate cheated on his first wife and then divorced her to marry the mistress.
The other point that I think stands out was Gov. Palin's line of attack that attempted to contrast Sen. Obama's message of change and future-thinking with his campaign's constant associations of Sen. McCain to President Bush. First, it made no sense. Why talk about change and future-thinking if the recent past was all grand and keen? Now you can talk about the need for change and future-thinking, but the evidence backing up that argument lies in the past. The Bush presidency and its attendant problems (Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebannon, the entire cabinet, the economy and tax policies) are the past.
Thus, the second part: Sen. McCain is a member of President Bush's party. He's gone on record supporting the president on many occasions over issues Sen. Obama thinks differently on. Sen. McCain's proposals if elected president are similar to those of President Bush, if not more so. If Sen. Obama is running on a platform of change from the policies of President Bush and Sen. McCain wants to continue many of those policies, then it only makes sense to connect the two. What's so hard about this? The logic is pretty easy to follow for Sen. Obama. And yet McCain's advisors decided that attacking Sen. Biden on talking about the past if he's the running mate to a change candidate made sense. Of course, when you try to articulate it, it doesn't make sense, but there's an example of the McCain campaign's logic for you.
Overall, I don't think this debate changes much. If Gov. Palin's crass attitude toward Sen. Biden's dead wife sticks then it does hurt the McCain campaign. And if the McCain campaign continues with the line of attack that a change candidate can't talk about the recent past then it only makes them look ridiculous to independent voters. I think it's a wash; neither VP pick screwed up seriously or in an obvious way. All the debate has done is assuage the decided voters.