I had discussions all day long yesterday with folks both in person and online about whom I felt won the debate, and I thought long and hard to figure out what to say. It finally hit me: Palin didn't so much win as she escaped with a win. Here's why I say that:
Joe Biden had mucho more experience in this sort of thing. It should have been in the bag for him. Not only that, Palin was damaged goods after having weak showings in her two interviews. On top of that, the debate was being moderated by a seasoned professional in Gwen Ifill. And yet, a comedy of errors led to Palin getting away with one.
I was told that Biden held back because Palin's a woman, and he didn't want to be viewed as sexist. I say: Pfft! How long did he know that Palin was going to be his debating opponent? And in all that time, he couldn't round up the local coven - er, I mean, a group of feminists to help coach him in debating female opponents without appearing sexist? How many feminists are in the Democratic Party anyway? (it could be that the Dem fems are still mad about the turnout of the primaries...)
Next, Biden had concentrated his attacks on McCain as a way to avoid criticizing Palin. Others told me that McCain is the top of the GOP ticket and that it was legitimate to criticize him. Yes, I agree with that - but, if the Dems wanted to show that Palin is too inexperienced for the veep job, then this was the time to do it. Here the Dems had an opportunity to take a wounded Palin down in probably the most public way that they're going to get before the election, and they let that opportunity slip away.
Not only that, this was a debate between vice presidential candidates! Their job in this debate is to show why they would be the better man (or woman) for the job. Part of doing that is to demonstrate why your opponent is NOT qualified. The closest Biden got was his "bridge to nowhere" comment, which actually got a brief rise out of the crowd that was supposed to be silent. But he didn't follow it up - instead continuing his attacks on McCain. Biden really needed a "You're no Jack Kennedy" Lloyd Bentson moment, and it didn't come. I blame Biden's failure to capitalize on finishing off the damaged goods that was Sarah Palin on poor coaching and preparation by the Democratic leadership. Look, do they want to win this election or not?
Next, in regards to Gwen Ifill, I felt that she handled herself professionally, and even said so here on my blog. However, others told me that she pulled her punches and didn't follow up on some of Palin's responses or chide her for going off track of the topic that was being discussed at the time. Others still said that this book controversy thing got into her head. I still feel that she is professional enough to deal with that, but I seem to be in the minority on that view. Why don't they think she could handle it? No one I asked who criticized Ifill's performance have been able to tell me that one.
As for Palin herself, her performance was well enough to save her a total meltdown. There were some of the flashes that got her in the national stage in the first place - even if she did use the word "maverick" half a gajillion times. Some critics chided her folksy twang, but maybe that's the way she talks - because 5 weeks into a national election is not enough time to lose one's twang. She went off track a few times, and didn't answer the question at other times. The shorter time for response benefitted her, but I think it did the same for Biden who has a tendency toward wordiness.
I'd rate her performance about a C+ at best, and she got away with a win mostly on the charity of her opponent rather than her own efforts. By the way, I give Biden a B-, but no more, because he didn't accomplish what he should have accomplished, and that was to stare Palin down. That Palin escaped being taken down completely is enough for me to award her the win.
Score for the debates so far:
Two debates to go. As usual, I'll be giving my take on how they did. Stay tuned!
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1 month ago