02 October 2008

Debate Round-up

I did wind up watching all but the first minute or three of the debate in real time. Notes taken on the fly appear below.

General thoughts: Palin was well coached. She did not come across as dumb. She came across as holding the McCain neocon line firmly, but she did not drool on herself or fumble for answers. She did play what, thanks to my friend Teffan, I can call the Barbie card, putting on a bit of a giddy delivery in her manner--not her words, mind you, but her manner. Teffan and I are actually of opposite minds on this one. I think she's spent her life training herself to appear cute and harmless to win her way up in a male-dominated hierarchy. Teffan thinks she was coached to go after female sympathies. Either way, I think the Barbie-mode was my biggest disappointment. I didn't expect to agree with her, after all.

Biden spent a lot of the debate not sounding particularly excited or exciting. As the debate progressed, he got more animated. This was key. We need non-zombies, and for a moment I was wondering if his brains had been eaten. But no, he woke up eventually. He managed to avoid anger for the most part, though, which was really key. He was respectful, throughout, despite temptation. Post-debate the commentators on ABC noted that Biden even resisted the temptation to correct her on the name of the current commander in Iraq.

This was not, I repeat not, a slam dunk for Biden, not because he was bad, but because Palin was better than anyone expected. She held her own. Coached or not, she held her own. The whole debate was actually much better than anyone expected and, apparently, much better than last week's Presidental debate (which I didn't watch).

I will be surprised if McCain-Palin don't get a bounce off of this.

  • Palin looks downright smug. As she pimps McCain (which I suppose is part of her job) and make her ticket sound like superheroes, she has this smug, insulting smile on her face. Maybe that's just how her face looks naturally--I haven't paid enough attention--but it's not at all clear to me what she has to be smug about.
  • Palin has been well coached. Anyone who was hoping to watch her drool all over herself like she reportedly did on Couric's show will be disappointed.
  • Palin plays the "hockey mom" card almost as often as she mentions McCain.
  • Yes, I'm focusing on Palin, because for good or ill, her performance is the one that's interesting. That may be because she's the one I disagree with, of course. But I just don't find Biden all that remarkable. Not boring, just...expected. We really didn't really know what to expect from Palin.
  • Ah, the sectional interests card, whining about "east coast" lawmakers standing in the way of energy-producing states' ruining their environment....er...drilling for oil.
  • Climate change denial! Well, denial that humans are affecting climate. Of course, I do the same thing sometimes, so I can't blame her for that one, I suppose.
  • 30m in. The smug smile is gone. I wonder if she got coached at some point about that and remembered to moderate her expression.
  • 32m: Ooooo. Biden just suggested drumming up an industry we could export technology to clean up China. As someone who has seen first-hand what a disaster the Chinese environment is, that makes me happy.
  • 33m: Palin admits outright that she believes in "Drill, baby, drill!"
  • 34m: "Safe, environmentally friendly drilling offshore..." G-d, I wonder if she really believes that.
  • 36m: Biden clearly in favour of same-sex benefits, declares it will be federal policy as much as possible under Obama/Biden. Brave! 
  • 37m: Palin, of course, defends het marriage, but it is worth noting that Alaska provides same-sex benefits at the state level. 
  • Oh, G-d...the war...Palin defending the surge, of course.
  • "With all due respect, I didn't hear a plan". Bravo, Biden.
  • Also Bravo Biden: McCain also voted against the bill Obama was accused of voting against.
  • Palin plays the "surrender" card. Surprise (not).
  • Hate to say it: brava Palin: Biden just defended Obama voting against funding, but Biden voted FOR it. 
  • Biden stresses Pakistan's danger. Clearest case anyone's made in a while, but probably much too late.
  • Palin says 'nookyoolar'. Who's surprised?
  • Palin stresses Iran danger, pillories Obama for being willing to talk to Ahmedinijad. On the other hand, while she can't say nuclear, she can say Ahmedinijad.
  • Palin gets a chance to name-drop getting to talk to Kissinger.
  • Oh, dear. Israel. Of course someone had to mention Israel.
  • Palin pushing two-state, of course, defending Rice's efforts. Wants embassy in Jerusalem.
  • Biden also defends Rice(!) Not the administration, but Rice, particularly her recent efforts. But pillories the administration otherwise, pointing out Hamas' success in Palestine, Hizbollah in Lebanon.
  • Oh, G-d, she said "maverick" again. But she's got Biden on the whole "looking back" thing.
  • OK, now Biden's getting energetic. Good. Now he's interesting. Stressing how McCain won't change policies, won't bring real reform.
  • ZING: McCain voted against the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Forgot about that. 
  • Biden gets a chance to shine in favour of intervention in Darfur &c.
  • Palin gets Biden on the flip-flop on voting for the war authorization but now opposing the war. Claims having led plans to divest Alaska's investment in Sudan.
  • "John McCain, who knows how to win a war..." He does? We lost Viet Nam, remember?
  • Nothing really interesting from either candidate on the question, "What would you do differently if you wind up as President?"
  • Smug smile's back. 
  • Whoa...did Sarah just diss No Child Left Behind? Wow.
  • Those can't be Biden's real teeth.
  • Palin pushing for a stronger role as VP. 
  • Biden: "Vice President Cheney has been possibly the most dangerous Vice President in history..."
  • Biden's getting tired, slurring a bit. He's also actually wrong about the VPs role. John Adams, for example, was much more active in the Senate than most modern VPs.
  • Palin goes Barbie and pulls the just-plain-folks card again. And she's wandered off topic and partially off planet. Either she's getting tired, too, or she knows she only has 10 minutes yet and needs to pimp the ticket more. She completely avoided the question about what her Achilles' Heel might be.
  • Biden just choked up a bit when referring obliquely to Palin's challenge with her Down's Syndrome child. I'd like to believe that was for real. Unlike his teeth.
  • Sarah, STOP SAYING MAVERICK! G-d, where's an anvil when you need one...
  • Ooooo! Biden's saying what I just said! Well, not literally, but he's going after the "maverick" thing. Good. About time.
  • "Up there in Alaska..." see? See how much of an outsider I am? We do things differently up there! Yeah. Whatever.
  • Can someone help me verify Palin's claim to have appointed across party lines?
  • Second time Biden's called this the most important election of our lives. He may be right, at least, for anyone who couldn't vote in 1932.
  • Post-debate, they talk privately, off-mic. Looks amicable, probably even was. This was the first time they met.
  • Baby! Within minutes off the stage, she's got her baby in her arms. Almost certainly genuine, but also just looks good.


Anonymous said...

Well, she didn't face plant. Which is more than anyone was expecting, though right around the time Biden was seeming a little tired, she was also seeming more scattered.

And I'm certain when he got emotional that that was genuine. That and when he called Cheney dangerous, I was squeeing.

Helm said...

What bothers me about this debate tonight is that Biden had to perform well while all Palin had to do was simply pass by because her expectations were so low. Biden did so well tonight and it feels like his success is being overshadowed by "Palin didn't suck but wasn't awesome either, color us surprised."

Anonymous said...

I watched her, and I think her little gotcha's, betcha's, God bless ya's, etc drove me nuts after the first 15 minutes. That home grown, love America, Mom & Apple pie schtick is getting oooold (at least to me)

She did come off as qausi informed but any person with a whit of intelligence will know she was heavily coached not to sound like a total idiot up there.

I don't know if you noticed her body language but it seemed like she was terrified at first. I still don't like the twit and if they win I'll lose what little hope I have for our future.

Uncle Mikey said...

@effloresense: I think they were BOTH pretty tired by the end. He slurred, she got rambly.

@Helm: Both of them came into this debate being seen as their own worst enemy. Both of them only had to beat their own past performance to be considered successful. In Palin's case, it was general competence; in Biden's, a tendency to ramble and occasionally to say dumb things in the heat of the moment.

@tanyad: As I said yesterday, folksy sells. Folksy got Clinton elected, and it got W elected. Neither Obama nor McCain is really all that folksy, but Palin's drenched in it. McCain's campaign is counting on that as much as on her gender.

She had a couple of moments when the camera was on her when she was not quite so poised, when she looked unhappy or terrified. But when it was her turn to talk, she didn't choke. I can disagree with almost everything she said and still respect her for holding her own, which, coached or not, she did.

Anonymous said...

To clarify, I don't exactly think she was "coached to go after female sympathies" so much as she was encouraged to be as "feminine" as possible in order to connect with female voters (who are afraid of aggressive, non-sterotypical women like Hillary). It's hard to explain... I agree that she had all that Barbie-ness in her already from years of her own training, but her coaches encouraged her to use it at every possible opportunity instead of just coming across as looking intelligent/informed.

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