A stream-of-consciousness post in which I give my thoughts on the VP debate.
- His overall performance was very good. He didn’t ramble much or say anything embarrassing, which are dangers for him. When he got fired up he managed it well. He certainly didn’t do anything to hurt the ticket.
- He did an especially good job of interacting with Palin. He was kind but not condescending, and he treated her as an equal. Note especially that he consistently referred to her as “Governor,” which was respectful and appropriate (remember Obama constantly saying “John” to McCain’s “Senator”?).
- It was smart to acknowledge that he’s not middle class anymore. That let him empathize with the middle class without being open to the charge that he’s passing himself off as something he’s not. (I mean, he’s done that plenty in the campaign, but he avoided it last night.)
- The deer in the headlights was nowhere to be seen. She spoke very well and knew where she was going- other than a couple of pauses before starting an answer she never lost track.
- She demonstrated real knowledge and understanding of just about everything she talked about. People who hated her still aren’t going to like her, but the idea that she’s clueless about the world took a sound thrashing last night.
- Like Biden, she did a good job interacting with her opponent. She connected directly with him (unlike McCain with Obama), acknowledged points of agreement, gave credit where it was due, but consistently stood her ground. She looked tough but not mean.
- She said some things that rarely get said but are really important, like emphasizing (repeatedly!) that when Democrats talk about raising taxes on people who make over $250K a year, it includes a lot of small businesses– and that taxation seriously impacts the sacred middle class.
- Best moment: “Unless you’re pleased with the way the federal government has been running anything lately, I don’t think that it’s going to be real pleasing for Americans to consider health care being taken over by the feds.” Said with a smile.
- Definitely oriented toward her talking points. Really, everybody does this in the debates: a vague, one-sentence answer to the question, then a “But really, Jim…” followed by a stump speech. I just don’t think Palin does it as smoothly yet. She had some things she was going to hammer on, regardless of the topic.
- If I hear the word “maverick” one more time I’m going to punch myself in the throat. “Maverick” is the new “Change.”
- Some missed opportunities. One example: she could have pointed out that Democratic pressure to lend to people who were bad credit risks helped create the Fannie/Freddie meltdown, that Democrats in the Clinton years called people who warned about the dangers racist, and that Obama was one of their top campaign money recipients. There were a few of these.
- Obama did say that he, as President, would sit down and summit with dictators like Ahmadinejad. This is very different from pursuing diplomatic solutions at lower levels. When Biden said that now all those former Secretaries of State agree with Obama, he was comparing apples and oranges. They did not say the President should sit down one-on-one with guys like that without preconditions. That is what Obama said.
- He said an Obama administration would “reject the Bush Doctrine of preemption and regime change and replace it with a doctrine of prevention.” This is stupid, cheap armchair quarterbacking. First of all, it costs nothing to say “we would prevent X from happening” without saying how you’d do it. Second, preemption is prevention. Regardless of where Sadaam was in production of WMD (and 97 Senators, including Biden, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, believed he had them), he had designs against the United States, and he supported groups like Al Qaeda (including Al Qaeda). He no longer poses a threat. He is dead. He’s dead because we preemptively invaded his country, took him out of power, delivered him to Iraqi authorities, and they executed him. That’s prevention.
- His closing punch– his last line— was about how much America sucks now. Obama did the same thing. Their entire campaign is based on the premise that America is in the trash heap, and only by coronating The One can we get out. He said we’re “in a hole”– but his definition of being “in a hole” has to do with us being unpopular overseas. You know what? I don’t think we’re in a hole. We’re in an economic crunch that Democratic policies (sometimes aided by Republicans) helped create, and we’re winning in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are indeed unpopular overseas, and I’m OK with that. If we’re the ones making the tough calls and defending the free world and people hate us, whatever. Lincoln and Churchill were both very unpopular at times.
But my big point is that it’s sick for them to run a campaign based on the idea that our country is falling apart, that “we’re not what we once were.” It betrays their messianic complex, and it’s just not true. It’s dishonorable, unseemly, and unpatriotic. And I don’t think it’s very effective.
Bottom line: I don’t think there was a clear winner if we’re going just on technique and performance. Probably Biden by a few, but definitely not a blowout. Going on ideas and issues, I think Palin did very well, and probably pushed things in McCain’s favor. People like me were definitely encouraged, if only by the contrast between the two platforms. After last night, my distaste for Obama/Biden is even stronger. But I only get one vote, and they already had it. We’ll have to see what happens with all those coveted and mysterious swing voters.