The Vice Presidential Debate: A Review

Since this is a media blog, and the vice-presidential debate is a media event, I feel like I should make some comment about tonight’s VP broadcast.  Each candidate has their strengths and weaknesses.  Palin is a novice when it comes to international affairs and Washington politics.  But the media’s irrational and scathing criticism has been totally out of line, and there is no question there’s a double standard here.  She’s proven herself in local and state arenas, but when you’re running for “the heartbeat away” position, you need a better grip on the issues that presidents face.  Although she’s electrified a
certain part of the GOP, and I like the fact that she’s been a maverick in Alaska politics and from a family point of view, she walks the walk, but her interviews so far have been less than impressive.  There’s no question that a sizable audience is concerned about her ability to rise to the occasion.

On the other hand, I’ve never been a Biden fan.  He’s been in politics for 30 years – so why in the world did Obama pick him when “change” is supposed to be his mantra?  He has a legendary record of plagiarism, and really wacky statements.  He’s exaggerated claims that he had been “shot at” during a visit to Iraq, as well as wacky slips including a statement that Franklin Roosevelt “got on the television” in 1929 to address the nation during the economic crisis, although television had not been invented and Roosevelt wasn’t president then. He’s a loose canon and therefore a scary choice when it comes to speaking for our nation.  (At a political event, he once asked a paraplegic to stand up and be recognized.)  It’s like he too often disengages his brain when he speaks.

In watching the debate, both did a good job looking at the camera.  They directed their comments to the viewer, which John McCain had trouble with during his debate.  Early on, both were confident and had their facts in order.  Overall, Biden seemed to be a little more relaxed and spontaneous.  I attribute that to his being in government for three decades.  Palin was awkward, and was looking at her notes more, but that’s typical of a newcomer to the national stage.

I’m growing a bit weary about the fear the Democrats are tossing out regarding the McCain tax breaks.  They hammer on how terrible big business is – but who do they think is employing all these workers?  The truth is, hurting business hurts workers, but Biden doesn’t seem to get that connection.  The host also called Biden on his Senate vote to make bankruptcy more difficult – even though Obama voted the other way.  In truth, there have been an interesting number of issues that Biden and Obama voted on differently.  Which makes me wonder who actually believes what.

Palin did a good job reminding the audience of her experience as the governor of a energy producing state.  Whatever you think of her, she’s dealt for years with energy issues and knows that world – a world we’re facing right now.

Biden did a better job on international issues – which is to be expected, considering his being Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.  “Context” has a lot to do with debates like this.  Making statements in a vacuum doesn’t help the discussion, and that’s one of the great shortcomings of the debate format.

She made no real mistakes except that she doesn’t appear to know a great deal on certain subjects.  She comes back well on Afghanistan – with a good answer. She challenges his interpretation of what the general said about the concept of a surge in Afghanistan. And Biden appears surprised.  She then nails Biden on the war – accusing him of being for the war before he was against it.   It’s an issue that still hurts Democrats.

Although Biden finally started to gain momentum toward the end, the question is:  Did Biden’s 30+ years in politics show?  Did more than 3 decades in Washington completely blow this newcomer away?

I don’t think so.

The debate rule is “do no harm.”  Don’t take risks that make your running mate look bad, or embarrass you in the national media.  Hopefully, the other guy will make that mistake.

However, perhaps because of that principle, both debates – Presidential and Vice-Presidential were rather bland.  No real fireworks.  No real controversy.  No humor.  No surprising insight.  In my opinion that’s the biggest downer about this race.  Two good  people are running, but neither are really innovative, insightful, or brilliant.  Obama surrounds himself with packaging, and McCain with experience.  But when it comes to actual issues or political philosophy, I’m not blown away by anyone.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I agree Phil, The debates needed a spark of life, some humor.

    When Palin was repeatedly asked, Would she have to renege on anything promised during her campaign if she was elected, She might have said, "Well, yes.  I have taken the criticism to heart that I am a yokel, so I'd have to promise as vice president… No More lipstick jokes.  In fact, I'd make them against the law.  Humor is so politically incorrect and I think I get it!"

  • AmeriKan

    Biden gave a lengthy explanation on the benefits he would give to same sex unions…then, when questioned about his approval of same sex marriage and what constituted the definition of marriage…he flipped the other direction and tried to imply that he agreed with Palin's definition of "marriage."  You can't have it both ways, which I believe showed how Biden was misleading on the subject of gay marriage and what he would offer to same sex unions.

    Biden came across as the Washington "good ole boy"….his "facts" not always correct.  Carl Rove indicated there were 10 things he was wrong on or were out right lies and 6 things that were debatable.   Moderators said it would take some time to sort out "all his facts."  Because of Biden's history, his presentation was too smooth, rehearsed and boring.

    Palin was obviously nervous at times but was genuine and in command of herself and the issues…nailing Biden on several.

  • Biden said. “Do I support granting same-sex benefits? Absolutely, positively. Look, in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.

    When Gwen Ifill asked Biden: “Senator, do you support gay marriage?”

    Biden said. “No. Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage. We do not support that,”.

    Why is this a flip? and Is Carl Rove a credible source? 

  • Anthony Peterson

    I thought the "Achilles Heel" question was interesting.

    Palin didnt appear to understand the expression. I dont know whether that was just:

    1. Nerves,

    2. Lack of reading, or

    3. A short attention span.

    I think a good VP should have mastered at least two out of three.

  • Jackson Frederickson

    She wisely chose to pivot. That particular question was an attempt to plant a "roadside bomb" that had she answered in what you might consider a transparent way, mentioning some weakness she thinks she has, the mainstream media would smear that across every headline from now until the election.  They are looking for weapons to use against her. Same thing with the Couric interview. She knows a predatory animal when she sees it. She knows how to deal with one when it is looking for a weakness. You don't show weakness. You go in for the kill… "Hey, can I call you 'Joe'?"…. as she sweetly met her prey, then later in a beautiful swipe,  "Say it isn't so, Joe…"    Matt Damon should be afraid. Very afraid.

  • Nate

    Yeah, this bugged me a bit, too.  Until I remembered that it is actually more common in debates like this for the debater to NOT answer questions.  I thought it was a missed opportunity, however.  I thought it would have been a good chance for her to confront the whole lack of experience issue head on.  But, I think there is a very good chance that she just didn't hear the question – and once she started answering she just went into bullet point mode.