Oct 2, 2008

Vice-Presidential Debate Observations: Live Blog Post

Having a few hours with which I can perform my civic duties and knock out a blog post, I decided to start a continuous post on tonight's vice presidential debate between Senator Joe Biden from Delaware and Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska.

As I see or hear anything worth commenting about, I'll update the thread.

9:04 pm:Biden ignores Ifill's question about Congress to launch into an indictment of George W. Bush and to promote Barack Obama.

9:06 pm:Palin's first comments are pro-McCain, punctuated with folksy touches like her references to soccer games and her use of the phrase "I Betcha."

9:08 pm:Biden brings up McCain's "the fundamentals of the economy are sound" gaffe, and Palin takes the bait. On the defensive, she spends a portion of the time having to explain McCain's statement.

9:10 pm:Palin, in a question about the housing and credit crises, said that predatory lenders are partly to blame for people who bought "$300,000 houses when they could only afford $100,000 houses." I wonder how this will play with millions of voters for whom a $300K house must seem like a mansion, and that Palin is out of touch with housing costs.

9:13 pm:Uh-oh...Palin's response on the economy were a bit on the rambling side; not as bad as the infamous Katie Couric interview, but unpolished and unsure.

9:15 pm:Biden is doing a much better job with time management - he has ended each question so far with a polished statement, while Palin has been caught twice so far being cut off before finishing her answers.

9:17 pm:Palin has been addressing Biden directly more than the Senator has been addressing the Governor. I think Biden must be avoiding creating the appearance that he is being condescending or mean-spirited to Palin.

9:20 pm:Biden - who has a reputation as a more polished debater - is doing a better job of helping viewers follow his arguments with phrases like "Number one: I think that..." and "number two: John McCain said..."

9:23 pm: Palin seems unsure of herself duing the question about energy - a lot of pauses, convoluted phrasing, and difficult-to-follow arguments.

9:26 pm:Biden gets in a back-handed zinger, praising Palin for supporting a windfall profits tax on oil companies and simultaneously slamming McCain's support of tax breaks for oil companies.

9:29 pm: Biden's delivery is relaxed, smoother, and easier to follow than Palin's forced and tense answers. Still, Palin has held her own to this point, and there have been few moose-in-the-headlights moments.

9:31 pm:Hmmmm...maybe I spoke too soon. Palin's mangled answer on energy independence and global warming was her worst performance so far, like a Ju Ju Be stuck in the braces of a fourteen-year-old in gym class.

9:38 pm: Palin seemed awkward in the answer of same-sex benefits to couples, trying to switch the topic to gay marriage.

9:40 pm:Did Palin just say that al-Qaeda factions in Iraq are "Shi'a extremists," or did she just lump Shi'a extremists and al-Qaeda factions together as enemies of U.S. forces? BTW - I know it's just me, but Palin's pronounciation of Iraq as "eye-RACK" drives me batty. Palin did get in a good shot in about differences between Biden and Obama on troop funding.

9:46 pm: "Nookular," says Palin. Is this a conscious inflection, or has Palin always pronounced nuclear this way?

9:50 pm: Biden's rebuttal on the Iran-Pakistan question was very strong, and his attacks on McCain's refusal to sit down with Iranian or Spanish leaders was a bullseye.

9:54 pm: "Building our embassy in Jerusalem," said Palin. Odd statement - is this meant to provoke Iran?

9:55 pm:Biden: "the country to the north of Israel." Uh, Joe? That would be Lebanon. Still, an otherwise solid answer about the failures of the Bush administration on Hamas and Hezbollah.

9:56 pm: Palin's Middle East answer was too filled with "change is a-comin'" and "never again" fluff. Her "nookular" question was a meandering, choppy chuck of rhetoric that said nothing beyond the equivalent of "nukes are bad."

10:02 pm: Palin looks like she is smirking as Biden answers the question about interventionism. Is she planning something, or is that just a forced smile that just looks strange?

10:04 pm: Yes, it was an attack smirk. Palin gives Biden a sort of passive-aggressive, smiling-dagger haymaker about Biden changing positions on the war. However, her "I must not be a Washington insider" was too transparent. She would have been better off being folksy, but not being so obvious.

10:08 pm:The "hearbeat away" question was a little creepy, but it needed to be asked. Biden tossed off the perfunctory "tragedy of historic proportions" comment, and then moved to the talking points. Palin was much more polished on this answer, and she gave a coy wink during the "we're a team of mavericks" that did not seem rehearsed.

10:14 pm: An exchange during the education question in which Biden and Palin tried to out-middle class each other, with Joe thumping his chest about his Scranton roots and Sarah mixing in "gosh darns" and "near and dear to my heart." A draw.

10:16 pm: Palin's answer on the question of the constitutional duties of the vice president was rambling, while Biden went on the attack against Dick Cheney.

10:19 pm: On the Achilles heel question, Palin's answer was a bit strange, and she never answered what her "true" Achilles heel is. Lots of "this is a great country" and "John McCain and I are a great team" yawners. Biden came across as self-deprecating and human, and his oratorical skills far outclassed Palin. Whoa - Biden looked like he was going to bawl, and it looked, well, kind of real. Ed Muskie flashbacks for a millisecond.

10:27 pm: On the question asked about a time that the candidates have changed their positions, Biden spoke about judicial hearings, while Palin spoke about the Wasilla city council and the city budget. Unsure how this will play out - does she seem insignificant, or does she paint a real contrast between DC and Alaska?

10:30 pm: The closing statements of Biden and Palin were filled with down-home, folksy colloquialisms, and Biden edged out Palin in this last exchange.

Final assessment: No knockout punches or major gaffes by either candidate. Palin avoided making any of the sorts of groaners as in the earlier interviews, so she met party expectations. However, I doubt that Palin won over many undecided voters tonight, while Biden's polished presentation was more effective in reaching out to independents and soft Republicans.


Sue Edelman said...

It's not just you! Her pronunciation of EyeRack was making me scream until she moved on to nucular!

historymike said...

From the CNN transcripts on Palin's Shi'a comment:

"...al Qaeda and the Shia extremists who are still there, still fighting us, but we're getting closer and closer to victory. And it would be a travesty if we quit now in Iraq."

This could be interpreted either way: either that al-Qaeda is a Shi'a group (false), or that al-Qaeda AND Shi'a extremists are fighting (true).

Anonymous said...

a lot of posturing and a waste of time

Mad Jack said...

Q: After McCain is elected and keels over from a massive coronary, how will you deal with eye-rack, eye-ron and use of nookular whiz-bangs?

A: Take 'em out back and beat the shit out of 'em!

historymike said...

If you judge the debate strictly on its technical merits, Biden was the clear winner. He did a better job of answering the questions, making points, managing time, and showing a command of the issues. Palin evaded more questions, seemed more hesitant, and scored fewer points.

However, only debate geeks like me evaluate a debate in this way.

Viewers who tuned in to see a rhetorical train wreck from Palin were sorely disappointed, as she held her own and even got in a few zingers. Palin's solid-but-unspectacular performance will silence her critics on the right, and she defused what was becoming a runaway trend toward "Palin as Bad Political Joke." While I doubt that any partisan Democrats had a sudden desire to change their votes, with independents Palin significantly improved her image, and might have even snagged a few more undecided votes for McCain.

Biden's performance was everything it needed to be, as he stayed on message and even finished some answers early. His choking up as he discussed being a single parent after the death of his wife looked so real that even a cynical, jaded observer like me almost bought it. I still think it was an intentional affect, though the emotions behind it were undoubtedly real - like a great actor, Biden can submerse himself and deliver a powerful and emotive narrative. This stole some of the down-home, folksy persona that Palin cleverly mixed in, though Palin probably won the "Is This Politician Just Like Me" test.

Bottom line: Palin far exceeded expectations, while Biden adequately met his and simultaneously delivered one of the best technical debate performances in recent memory. Neither Plain nor Biden swayed many independents and undecideds, though Biden did a better job of attacking McCain than Palin did Obama. Slight edge to Biden in building a case for Obama, but only because Palin did not spend enough time on McCain beyond laudatory-but-superficial comments like "hero," "great American," and "maverick."

As an independent, the debate did a few things for me: my doubts about Palin being ready for the national spotlight were reduced, my opinion of Biden improved, but both candidates avoided talking specifics about how they would address the floundering US economy. While this is to be expected from politicians, I remain a discouraged citizen who is looking for leadership, not empty rhetoric like "we'll reform Washington" or "we'll reduce the tax burden on the middle class" or "we are mavericks."

dr-exmedic said...

Maybe Apple has a new product coming out, the iRack....Mad TV had a great skit about that a few years back.

Anonymous said...

Sarah Palin was so close to "coochie coochie" in this debate. Vote for her. I think not.

microdot said...

I watched the debate on CNN International and stayed up till 6 am because of the time difference.
Palin seemed to have lots of cards with her talking points and whenever she got in a corner, veered to her talking points and refused to answer the questions.
None the less, after listening and taking notes and reading a transcript, I was able to pick 18 obvious lies out of her sea of disconnected grammar and being adrift on her sea of syntax....

1. FANNIE MAE/FREDDIE MAC: Palin said “it was John McCain who pushed so hard with the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform measures,” but fact checkers say that’s “Quite A Stretch” And “Barely True,” and that McCain was a “latecomer” to the discussion.

2. FUNDAMENTALS ARE STRONG: Palin tried to say “John McCain saying our economy was strong” but McCain has used the phrase “The Fundamentals Of The Economy Are Strong” At Least 16 Times This Year.

3. PARTISAN POLITICS: Palin said McCain is “known for putting partisan politics aside to just get the job done,” but he has voted with Bush 90% of the time in the Senate and bragged about his support for Bush on important issues.

4. TAXES ATTACK: Palin repeated the attack that Obama voted for higher taxes 94 times, which the New York Times says is “false,” CNN says is “Misleading,” and FactCheck.org says is “inflated.”

5. TOBACCO REGULATION: Palin said to “look at the tobacco industry” as an example of McCain pushing for even harder and tougher regulations. But McCain opposed expanding the SCHIP children’s health insurance program for 5.8 million children because it would increase tobacco taxes.

6. SPENDING INCREASES: Palin said Obama is is proposing “nearly a trillion dollars in new spending,” but didn’t mention that he has also proposed cuts to balance it out, an attack CNN has already debunked as “misleading” and that ignores the far larger cost of McCain’s tax cuts and spending hikes.

7. HEALTH CARE: Palin claimed Obama’s health plan is “government run” which has been widely debunked as a “canard.”

8. HEALTH CARE. Palin says taxes wouldn’t go up under the McCain health care plan, a fact even his own campaign has acknowledged isn’t true.

9. TROOPS: Palin repeated what the AP called the “highly misleading” attack that Obama opposed funding for the troops, and Factcheck.org notes that the same methodology would lead to the same conclusion for McCain.

10. GLOBAL WARMING: Palin said “I don’t want to argue about the causes” for global warming, when she has clearly taken the position that she doesn’t not believe it is man-made.

11. MCCAIN IS CONSISTENT: Palin said McCain” doesn't tell one thing to one group and then turns around and tells something else to another group,” when that is exactly what he has done on immigration, telling Hispanic leaders he was for comprehensive reform instead of the enforcement focused approach he has taken with conservatives.

12. MCCLELLAN NOT MCKIERNAN: Palin referred to the US commander in Afghanistan, David McKiernan as “McClellan.”

13. MCKIERNAN ON “SURGE:” Palin said that [McKiernan] did not say a surge wouldn’t work in Afghanistan, when just yesterday he said “The word I don’t use for Afghanistan is ’surge,’ ” McKiernan stressed, saying that what is required is a “sustained commitment” to a counterinsurgency effort that could last many years and would ultimately require a political, not military, solution

14. KILLING CIVILIANS. Palin said “Obama had said that all we're doing in Afghanistan is air raiding villages and killing civilians and such a reckless, reckless comment and untrue comment again hurts our cause. That's not what we are doing there.” Unfortunately, the Associated Press says that Obama was right in discussing a critically important point about avoiding civilian casualties.

15. TEACHING: Palin said we need to make sure “that education in either one of our agendas, I think, absolute top of the line,” when McCain has repeatedly favored tax cuts for the wealthy over funds for more teachers and class size reduction.

16. PARTISAN APPOINTMENTS: Palin said “You do what I did as governor. And you appoint people regardless of party affiliation. Democrats, independents, Republicans, you walk the walk, don't just talk the talk” when she repeatedly appointed friends and supporters to positions for which they weren’t qualified.

17. FOCUS ON CLIMATE CHANGE: Palin falsely claimed that she was the first governor to form a climate change subcabinet, when at least 28 states had already taken action.

18. DARFUR DIVESTMENT: Palin claimed that “when I and others” found out that the state had money invested in Sudan that “we called for divestment,” when the reality is that Palin’s
appointees worked to kill a Dafur divestment plan.

With this, I bid adieu for the next 2 weeks. I am working on the Grape Harvest in Lalande Pomerol as I do every year.
Very late this year because of the cold weather...we actually had our first frost last night up here in La Sechere.
So, I will be slogging in the mud carrying tons of grapes and totally out of touch except for my radio...
a bientot!

Qaro said...

About the $300,000 houses: A few years ago I checked with a mortgage company and they calculated that we could afford a $280,000 house. Clearly ridiculous. Well, maybe... If we sat in the dark and didn't eat and got 2nd jobs.

Anonymous said...

From Engineer of Knowledge

Hello All,
When it comes to Sarah Palin, I see it as substance verses image. There are two thoughts on Sarah Palin. Those who like her because they feel she is a religious person with core convictions of being honest. The other camp are those who think she is a superstitious fundamentalist nut job as they watch and listen to video footage taken by her own church showing her Alaskan church congregation laying hands on her praying for protection from witches trying to derail her campaign. Those who see the Polly Anna view of Sarah, and those who really look and listen to what her campaign message truly is.

In closing I just have to ask, “Do you really want to keep on the Polly Anna rose colored glasses seeing what you so desperately want to see and desired in Sarah Palin, or would you just really take a cold hard look at the person you are trying to have as the person who would just be a heartbeat away from the Presidency of the United States.”

Anonymous said...

Perceptive and unbiased analysis of the so-called debate...first-rate job...you get an A+. Can I vote for you?