The Joe Biden/Sarah Palin debate is over and history. The verdict: Biden held his own, scored particularly well in areas of foreign policy, and, I believe, won the debate. Palin, after a spate of blundered interviews and disingenuous flubbed questions from “Katie” (Couric) and “Charlie” (Gibson), did better than expected but still managed at best a break even score, up from her previous level — which was sounding ridiculous.
Watching the man/woman voter scrolling scoreboard at the bottom of the TV screen, a tally of sorts based on Ohio voters, both candidates managed to find sharp and prolonged spikes of interest, catching the attention of listeners not by political affiliation but rather by the issues that were being discussed. What were those topics: the economy, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy, the economy and the economy. The Economy encompassed middle class tax relief, health care/insurance, jobs, gas prices, and the high cost of higher education.
BIDEN: Yes, well, you know, until two weeks ago — it was two Mondays ago John McCain said at 9 o’clock in the morning that the fundamentals of the economy were strong. Two weeks before that, he said George — we’ve made great economic progress under George Bush’s policies.
Nine o’clock, the economy was strong. Eleven o’clock that same day, two Mondays ago, John McCain said that we have an economic crisis.
That doesn’t make John McCain a bad guy, but it does point out he’s out of touch. Those folks on the sidelines knew that two months ago.
Palin did her “I am one of you sitting around the kitchen table” complete with incorrect grammar, slang (“betcha” was the most irritating by far), and mispronounced words (can any Republican say “nuclear” instead of “nucular”? Please? Most notable, though, was Palin’s inability to stay on course and simply answer the darned question. All domestic roads, or in her case, questions, led back to taxes. Many of her foreign policy responses led back to taxes.The problem is, while I want a United States President and Vice President to have a real sense of what the average American wants and needs, I want that leader to sound, well, intelligent and functioning at a level commensurate with interaction on a global scale. “Betcha” doesn’t quite do it. By the time she spurt out the “six pack American” cliche she was, in my book, more than done. Nothing has offended me more in this campaign than that reference. Except the sappy “Charlie’s” and “Katie’s” in those CBS and ABC interviews. Maybe “six pack American” or “Joe six pack” was just my tipping point. Just how condescending can she get, I wonder.
PALIN: My experience as an executive will be put to good use as a mayor and business owner and oil and gas regulator and then as governor of a huge state, a huge energy producing state that is accounting for much progress towards getting our nation energy independence and that’s extremely important.
But it wasn’t just that experience tapped into, it was my connection to the heartland of America. Being a mom, one very concerned about a son in the war, about a special needs child, about kids heading off to college, how are we going to pay those tuition bills? About times and Todd and our marriage in our past where we didn’t have health insurance and we know what other Americans are going through as they sit around the kitchen table and try to figure out how are they going to pay out-of-pocket for health care? We’ve been there also so that connection was important.
But even more important is that world view that I share with John McCain. That world view that says that America is a nation of exceptionalism. And we are to be that shining city on a hill, as President Reagan so beautifully said, that we are a beacon of hope and that we are unapologetic here. We are not perfect as a nation. But together, we represent a perfect ideal. And that is democracy and tolerance and freedom and equal rights. Those things that we stand for that can be put to good use as a force for good in this world. (Palin’s tolerance and freedom and equal rights did not extend to gay marriag or the choice issue).
Biden stumbled on words and names from time to time, and it seemed as if his mind had more to present but not enough time to dish it out. At times he almost seemed to be playing a game for which Palin remained ignorant of the rules, the first and most important being “Answer the question”. Biden zero’d in on detail and stayed on task; Palin, well, didn’t. Palin frequently responded with statements that became lost in a maze of topics, ending nowhere near an actual answer to the original question.
BIDEN: Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history. The idea he doesn’t realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that’s the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.
And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there’s a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.
The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he’s part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.
As the debate drew to a close, Biden summed up the state of the nation under President Bush:
BIDEN: I’ll be very brief. Can I respond to that?
Look, the maverick — let’s talk about the maverick John McCain is. And, again, I love him. He’s been a maverick on some issues, but he has been no maverick on the things that matter to people’s lives.
He voted four out of five times for George Bush’s budget, which put us a half a trillion dollars in debt this year and over $3 trillion in debt since he’s got there.
He has not been a maverick in providing health care for people. He has voted against — he voted including another 3.6 million children in coverage of the existing health care plan, when he voted in the United States Senate.
He’s not been a maverick when it comes to education. He has not supported tax cuts and significant changes for people being able to send their kids to college.
He’s not been a maverick on the war. He’s not been a maverick on virtually anything that genuinely affects the things that people really talk about around their kitchen table.
Can we send — can we get Mom’s MRI? Can we send Mary back to school next semester? We can’t — we can’t make it. How are we going to heat the — heat the house this winter?
He voted against even providing for what they call LIHEAP, for assistance to people, with oil prices going through the roof in the winter.
So maverick he is not on the important, critical issues that affect people at that kitchen table.
While both candidates were speaking into a dais-mounted microphone, at times it looked as if Palin was wearing a wire, possibly with an earpiece tucked beneath her hair (hair that, I might add, is a messy semi-upswept style fit for a bad prom night circa 1968 — sorry, Sarah); at the end of the debate as she walked across the stage, she pulled a device out from the hem of her suitcoat. We might almost suspect she was being prompted as each question arose.
The vice-presidential debate only served to affirm my choices in leadership for the next four years.