If any of you managed to get through the entire Vice Presidential debate without (1) throwing your television out the window, (2) inflicting violence on the first person you saw, or (3) inciting a riot; congratulations are in order. You’re a well disciplined person.

For starters, let me just say that Gwen Ifill did her thing. Despite facing accusations (including from Sen. Straight Talk) that her moderating the event provided a conflict of interest considering her new book with Obama included, she was straight down the line with her facilitating. If anything, I think she avoiding doing additional probing; lest she be accused of favoritism. Good job Gwen. I’m convinced that she and Jim Leher are the best moderators in the biz.

Moving on to Gov. Palin. Sarah, Sarah. What happened to you and I?  At one point, I had an obsessive crush on the Governor from Alaska. Now she just makes me want to go to sleep. Nothing bothered me more in the debate than informality of Palin’s “hillbilliness.” This wasn’t a hockey game or a PTA meeting. This was a freakin’ VICE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE! She was trying to connect with the middle class. I get that. But her vernacular was nothing short of offensive and patronizing. Perhaps she had to rely on her ‘good ‘ole country roots’ to make herself feel more at ease, but it annoyed me immensely. Most of the audience with whom I was watching the debate felt the same; evidenced by the scoffs, laughs, and moans that came for each time she said “You betcha”, “Doggone it”, or any derivatives. When she also gave a “shout out” to some kids (note to my white brothers and sisters, this is one of the only urban expressions you can use that won’t get black people in an uproar. :)), it was over for me. Each time she said something ridiculous to that effect, I thought to myself: “Had Palin been black…”

OK, now that I got that off my chest (I’ve been holding that in since last night), I was equally annoyed by Palin’s attempts to deviate from the line of questioning that had already been set for the debate. At one point in the debate, she explicitly noted to both Sen. Biden and Gwen Ifill that she was not going to answer the questions as laid out and will instead “talk to the American people.” Wha…? This moved show clear contempt and disrespect toward the debate process, her opponent, the moderator, and the country. Nobody came to the debate to watch Palin pick and choose what questions she wanted to answer or how she wanted to answer them. They came to hear discussion on where the candidates stand on specific issues.  Using questions about the bailout to promote McCain as a maverick or using questions about foreign affairs to tout Alaska’s energy policy was (1) weird and (2) an indication of her sheer ignorance of the topics.

*Side note: Apparently, Palin also agrees with Darth Cheney in that VEEPs should have the power to take over the universe:

I suppose Palin’s performance represents a much larger issue: the tolerance we seem to have with mediocrity. In this wave to prove that “anybody can be President”, we’ve decided to use a pretty sad and pathetic Sarah Palin to prove the point. But even when she flops, somebody is there to bail her out. At one point, I actually heard Pat Buchanan (a hardcore conservative, so consider the source) state that Palin actually won this debate? Won? Really? Just because Palin didn’t get completely annihilated by Biden doesn’t mean that she necessarily did a good job. Memorizing the names of world leaders makes a person an expert on foreign affair as much as putting on a pair of Speedos makes a person the next Michael Phelps. She might be good at remembering and regurgitating talking points, but that’s not a criteria to lead. The woman is clearly out of her league. Yet, people keep patting her head and giving her treats just for trying.

I can go on and on about Gov. Palin, but I think you get the point. On to Sen. Biden. Let me just say that I have a newfound appreciation for this guy. Everybody who’s been following my writing over the past few months know that I was not a fan of his as the VP. For instance, to date I’m still interested in hearing how he’s gone from skewering Obama during the primaries to now being his main squeeze.

Nevertheless, I was impressed by his performance. Now I’ll admit, I’m laced with bias. You already know that. But I think I was able to look passed the bias to see a guy who “gets it.” He convinced me that being a seasoned Washington Insider – while not without its share of problems – also makes for a great candidate. Not only is his political experience and knowledge unmatched by his opponent, but Biden’s debating skills were also demostrated last night. He managed to keep himself together while the Governor threw her ‘Palin Punches’; while somebody less refined (like me perhaps) would have likely gone off the deep end. Biden knew that if he had even lifted a finger to attack, the GOP talking heads would’ve been all over the airwaves citing sexism. He was smart not to be too agressive. I liken his performance to the big brother allowing his younger brother to score in a game of basketball and restraining himself as the younger brother tries to talk trash. 

Perhaps what was most impressive to me was that – minus the moment he teared up (which I really don’t think was staged) – he didn’t need to act like “one of us” to get his message across. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times: I DON’T WANT MY PRESIDENT TO JUST BE ONE OF THE GUYS! I need the President to be better than me. The last eight years have showed us what can happen when we elect a “beer buddy” to the highest office in the land.

Though neither candidate necessarily hit one out the park, I think they both managed to secure their followings. But when it comes to ever-so-valuable group of Independent and Undecided voters, I think Biden may have been more effective.

Your thoughts?

– ACL

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