The Veep Debate — First Impressions

I’m a morning person, so I watched last night’s debate, threw together some notes and thoughts and observations, and then went to bed. I’m going to pull them together now, and then later I’ll write a more detailed analysis of things.

First up, I have to say that I saw exactly what I’d hoped I wouldn’t see. Palin came across, especially at the beginning, as too nice, too conciliatory, too eager to please and be liked — in one word, wimpy.

Biden, on the other hand, was level, in control, knowledgeable, sincere, confident, and solid. The problem with that, though, is that Biden is exactly like that in two circumstances — when he’s 100% right on something, and when he’s completely talking out of his ass. It’s only after you fact-check him that you can determine which it is, and that’s almost impossible to do on the fly in a debate.

Palin’s line about “talking to the American people” and talking past Biden and Ifill came across as rejecting the whole notion of a debate — the reason all three of them were there. It could have been a successful strategy, but to me she didn’t quite pull it off.

Biden’s line about “the ultimate ‘bridge to nowhere’ was a good bite, but runs the risk of reminding folks that both he and Obama voted for it — twice.

When Palin got serious — a little edge to her voice, no smiling, looking straight into the camera, firm, resolute– she was at her best. She came across as honest and sincere and serious and all too credible.

Biden had a real challenge, keeping his inner bullshitter reined in enough to not let out any flagrantly bogus claims — and nothing leaped out at me. I’ll check in later to see what other folks find that he sneaked under the radar.

When Palin came across as folksy, I didn’t buy it. I’ve lived in small towns, and I live in a very small state, and the folksy speech pattern is dying out except in the movies and on TV. We’re getting homogenized in accents. I was once told by a speech therapist I met that I have absolutely no perceivable accent, no regional speech patterns, that I talk almost perfectly like a generic American, and I’ve lived in New Hampshire my whole life. Maybe Palin really does speak like that in her normal life, but it didn’t convince me.

Biden is very carefully toeing the line in not attacking her too strongly, not coming across as condescending or dismissive.

Oh, great. Palin just blew a perfect opportunity. When Biden talked about how Obama had warned about the looming subprime mortgage crisis and how McCain said he was “surprised” by it, she should have come back and said “yes, and then John McCain fought to pass new regulations on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but was blocked by Democrats. What did Obama do besides talk about it?” That would have summed up one of the two key differences between Obama and McCain — Obama’s all talk, McCain actually tries to achieve things.

Gosh, Biden sure does love to hear himself talk, doesn’t he?

Palin’s using every question to talk about energy policy. It’s too transparent — everyone knows that is one of her strengths, but it doesn’t relate to everything. She’ll get a chance to talk about energy later, I’m sure.

Whoops, my bad. Ifill just brought up energy policy — and immediately turned it into a question of whether or not they agree that global warming is entirely a man-made problem, or if they are a heretic and should be burned at the stake. Palin gave a thoughtful, analytical, detailed response — we’ve certainly contributed to it, but there are a lot of other factors over which we have no control that have also played a role. Biden, on the other hand, couldn’t swear his eternal loyalty to Saint Al Gore and put all the blame on us sinful humans.

Palin has a beautiful smile. And I wish she wasn’t using it so much tonight. She’s far more convincing when she’s somber.

Hey, Biden just said “I’ve always supported (clean coal). That’s a fact.” Whoop! Whoop! Bullshit alert! Bullshit alert! I’ve learned that when Biden asserts something as an absolute fact, he’s most likely talking out of his ass. I’ll make a point of checking on that one later.

Oh, good grief. Palin says “nuculer.” That is one of my biggest pet peeves. I HATE that. HATE HATE HATE it. It’s small consolation that the very first major political figure I heard say it was Jimmy Carter, a genuine nuculer scientist. It still comes across as ignorant and grates on my ears.

Whoops — Biden just came out against gay marriage, both on his own behalf and for Barack Obama. Someone put Andrew Sullivan on suicide watch. Watch for numerous gay rights advocates to start saying that they’re just saying that for the rubes, that they’re really for gay marriage.

And now Biden is unloading his prepared sound bite for the evening — the “I haven’t heard how McCain would be different from Bush” litany. Watch for that one to be posted all over the left side of the blogosphere.

Hey, did Biden just invent a new ethnic group? “Serbs, Croats, and Bosniacs?” Oh, great, yet ANOTHER group that’ll be seeking Equal Opportunity status.

Now the question is about Biden’s position on interventionism. In all the list of times Biden has supported the US intervening around the world, she didn’t mention one glaring time he opposed it — the first Iraq war. And when it comes to the current Iraq war, Biden voted for it. How will he spin that?

OK, he’s trying the Hillary Clinton defense — “I voted for us to threaten war, I never expected that Bush would actually take the ‘Authorization For The Use Of Military Force’ and actually use military force.” Sorry, Joe, that one simply doesn’t hold water.

Palin, on the other hand, points out that she, as governor of Alaska, has done more to actually do something about Darfur than Biden, as senator has — and she’s absolutely right.

Now Palin’s unloaded her prepared sound bite — “Say it ain’t so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again.” Again, her folksy speech grates on me. Maybe she really does say things like “doggone it” in real life — I’m sure SOMEONE does. But to me, it was a bit too transparent — the “say it ain’t so, Joe” line calling back the classic line from the Black Sox scandal, coupled with the all-too-deliberate echoing of Reagan’s devastating “there you go again” rebuttal to President Carter in 1980. As the saying goes, “too cute by half.”

It was much like the McCain-Obama debate: no clear winner, but no real loser, either.

All in all, I’d have to say that Biden came out slightly ahead in the debate. Palin was nervous at the start, but as it went on she relaxed and grew more confident and improved as it went on. Biden, on the other hand, started out cool and competent and in control, but slowly started reverting to type and started blustering and improvising and asserting facts that just weren’t so — the man’s inner bullshitter simply cannot be contained.

I’ll give more thoughts after I poke around and see what points others have noted, then reconsider the whole matter. But that’s my thoughts, collected on the fly and composed after a few hours’ sleep.

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