Friday, October 03, 2008

Debate "Morning After"

No matter how you think it went, it was a interesting night ... this debate that USA Today noted "... started with high stakes and low expectations."


Here's what some of the commentary looked like this morning:

Arizona Republic: Biden wins; Palin passes
The L.A. Times called it "mostly political theater"
US News&World Report reports: Palin Seized Her Moment But Still Lost
and the New York Times notes: "Palin Recaptures Her Image"

And the post-debate polls were looking like this:

CNN:
Sen. Joe Biden -- 66%
Gov. Sarah Palin -- 28%
Neither -- 5%

NY Daily News:
Sarah Palin -- 38%
Joe Biden -- 56%
Neither -- 6%

CBS (uncommitted voters):
Biden -- 46%
Palin -- 21%
Tie -- 33%

And here was my favorite commentary ... from the Chicago Tribune:
Palin stands her ground; Biden states his case
By James Oliphant Chicago Tribune

ST. LOUIS — They were in the same room Thursday night, but Joe Biden and Sarah Palin often seemed to be participating in separate debates.

One debate dealt with issues. The other served as a platform for Palin's unique brand of Alaskan-bred populism and twangy asides. On the campus of Washington University, the two vice presidential candidates showed off their wildly different styles born of disparate histories. The result was at times an oddly disjointed affair, where the two skittered and shifted off-topic.

With the GOP ticket trailing in national polls, Palin spent most of the time on the attack. She was armed with talking points involving tax increases, domestic drilling for oil, critiques of Democrat Barack Obama's record on the war in Iraq and stinging one-liners. And she repeatedly attempted to steer the debate to allow her to use that ammunition, regardless of the question at hand.

As a result, Biden, the longtime Washington insider, frequently was forced to explain the intricacies of congressional procedure and nuances of international diplomacy, often in a defensive posture.

For Biden, the debate served as much as an introduction to American voters as a test of his mettle. Although the Delaware senator has served in Congress for more than 35 years, he isn't well known nationally. Two attempts to run for president, 20 years apart, were unsuccessful.

His assignment Thursday was simply to maintain the momentum the Obama campaign has been building during the last three weeks. But along with that came a challenge posed by Palin's sex. He needed to walk a line between respectful and combative—and avoid coming off as patronizing or condescending. The McCain campaign has made a habit of terming attacks on Palin sexist or elitist.

Palin was not burdened by such concerns and, as befitting her overnight rise from a state politician to a national star, she spent much of the affair showcasing her feisty, salt-of-the-earth personality, employing such phrases as "darn right" and "bless their hearts" and smiling and even winking at the audience. She referred to herself again as a "hockey mom" and said she was talking to "Joe Six-Pack."

She said she appreciated the chance to talk to the country without "the filter" of the "mainstream media."

At one point, smiling at the crowd, she said, "How long have I been at this, like five weeks? So there hasn't been a whole lot that I've promised, except to do what is right for the American people, put government back on the side of the American people, stop the greed and corruption on Wall Street."

Along those lines, she portrayed herself and her running mate, John McCain, as "mavericks" and populists, saying together they would fix broken government. "Change is coming," she repeated like a mantra. But her folksiness masked a willingness to use a broad brush to attack Obama and Biden, repeatedly suggesting that Obama didn't support the military, saying he sought to make the United States beholden to foreign oil and pushed to increase taxes at every opportunity. Several times, Biden seemed frustrated.

"Facts matter," he said at one point.

Palin seemed most comfortable talking about her work as governor of Alaska, dealing with the energy industry. "The chant is 'drill, baby, drill.' And that's what we hear all across this country in our rallies because people are so hungry for those domestic sources of energy to be tapped into," she said. "They know that even in my own energy-producing state we have billions of barrels of oil and hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of clean, green natural gas."

She succeeded Thursday in one crucial respect: re-establishing herself as a charismatic, composed performer. The evening had offered a needed opportunity to reverse a growing perception among voters that she lacks the intellectual firepower and experience to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Her command of the issues had come under heavy fire in the last two weeks, largely because of her interviews with CBS' Katie Couric. Those interviews showed a rambling, sometimes incoherent side of the Alaska governor that had not surfaced in pitch-perfect stump speeches crafted by the McCain campaign.

But after Thursday, that question may recede a bit as an election issue, switching again to whether McCain and Palin can present a convincing case that their administration would offer something different than the current one.

And that's where Biden seemed the most commanding. Avoiding directly attacking Palin, he went after McCain again and again: on the economy, branding the Arizona senator as a deregulator who encouraged the current Wall Street crisis; on foreign policy by tying McCain to the war in Iraq; and on health care, where Biden labeled McCain's health care plan, which involves tax credits, "the ultimate Bridge to Nowhere."

"Look, all you have to do is go down Union Street with me in Wilmington or go to Katie's Restaurant or walk into Home Depot with me where I spend a lot of time and you ask anybody in there whether or not the economic and foreign policy of this administration has made them better off in the last eight years," Biden said. "And then ask them whether there's a single major initiative that John McCain differs with the president on. On taxes, on Iraq, on Afghanistan, on the whole question of how to help education, on the dealing with health care."

At one point near the end of the debate, Biden seemed to be overcome in referring to the car accident that killed his first wife and his baby daughter in 1972.

At the close of the debate, both sides claimed victory.

"All McCain and Palin are offering is more of the same," said Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. He said Palin "did a good job of articulating the McCain agenda—a failed agenda."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he was "very pleased that [Palin] was able to articulate in a way that people can understand the differences between Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama."

joliphant@tribune.com
Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune

6 comments:

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks for this summary, Susan. I seem to remember this feeling in High School "the morning after" what I thought was going to be an important date and ended up being yet another dud.

Palin still scares the beejeesus out of me and I'm still wondering why Hillary couldn't have been nominated.

uffda51 said...

Sarah Palin wants the past to be off limits. She wants to opt out of press coverage. And she wants to expand the powers of the vice president, which, after Cheney, is saying something. A Fox News poll scored the “debate” (read: made for television event) 86-12 in favor of Palin. I guess it takes all kinds. Bush still gets a 27% approval rating in the polls. Who are these people? Does Joe Six-pack not know how to pronounce “nuclear” either?

Who were those greedy and corrupt people Sarah Palin talked about? Ken Lay? I’m still waiting, here in California, for my refund from Enron’s market manipulation. Jack Abramoff? Duke Cunningham? Ted Stevens? The Keating Five? Would Palin have outed Valerie Plame? Pardoned Scooter Libby? Forced Harriet Myers to testify?

Biden was adequate but missed great opportunities to ask what would have happened if George Bush had succeeded in turning Social Security over to Wall Street. He missed the chance to remind America, the city on the hill, the beacon of freedom for the world that Palin extolled, that we are now known around the world for torture, rendition, and preemptive invasion and occupation. He didn’t mention Hurricane Katrina and how conservatives developed, rather than preserved, wetlands and ignored, rather than maintained, levees. The “pro life” party will always favor jobs, development and low taxes over human life. He missed the chance to remind America that McCain-Palin’s economic advisor, Phil Graham, referred to America as a “nation of whiners” and wrote legislation which gutted oversight of the banking system. He missed the chance to tell Sarah Palin that “drill, baby, drill” means relying on a finite 19th century energy source. It’s a bit disingenuous for Palin to now talk about energy independence after Republicans put Bush-Cheney, two oil men, in office, and for decades fought every effort to increase the fuel efficiency of cars. Even Boone Pickens has figured this out.

There are two sources of renewable energy available world wide and 24/7. The sun and the tides. Kids at junior high science fairs create devices which capture and store this energy every year. Perhaps if we had a president with “the vision thing,” who challenged us to be rid of the need for oil in ten years, we could save our economy and the planet. A “maverick” VP who thinks that global warming is not man-made, thinks sexual orientation is a choice, thinks humans walked the earth with the dinosaurs, and wants to “drill, baby drill” would be a disaster we cannot afford.

Ellie Finlay said...

Here's my favorite quote about the debate:

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

It's from a Capitol Hill Blue article.

Dan said...

One can neither win, nor lose a debate. What they can do however, is express to their respective consituents whether or not they logically make sense to them and make them feel as though they are truly fighting for them. They can connect with them, and hit home with the diverse modes that reflect the worldviews of their constituent base. Apparently, judging by the nature of the reaction from both sides, both sides are claiming victory, when this is actually incalculable. It is simply a reflection that both candidates followed through with the hypothesis stated above.
So... no one "won" or "lost" the debate. The prevailing views of either opponent will logically come through as the representative majority in the end on voting day. And of course from the Republican view it will stop the bleeding, which is a turn around from the commonly held views of the formerly "incompetent" Sarah Palin. If having Sarah Palin avoid any gaffes was the objective, then yes... they won. Same goes for Biden.. no gaffes or mysoginist attacks = a win. Pretty low standards for both, but c'est l'avis.
I don't particularly like that Biden had to keep correcting Sarah Palin either. It seems as though she was simply spweing out information that was fed to her.
My vote still went to Obama. That's the most elated I've ever felt in my entire life for ever having cast a vote for a candidate to high public office.

star said...

uffda51-
Very Well said Sir/Madam!
I am so tempted to use some of your line- they are so aptly put.
thanks!

TCherry said...

Too often we get caught up in the Black/White,Female/Male hype. Although Hilary Clinton being elected and debating Sarah Palin would have been very "entertaining", it is not the best decision for what this country needs. I love Hilary, but this country needs Joe Biden. He is expert and very experienced in foreign policy and would be an excellent advisor to Sen. Barack Obama in the White House. We need a change, not entertainment. Sarah Palin is entertainment enough. Its time to turn off the cartoons with McCain/Palin or rather Palin/McCain, and tune into something that is going to make a difference. This country has suffered too much under the Bush administration and our economy needs a relief. That relief will come with Sen. Obama as The President of the United States.