Friday, October 3, 2008

The Great Debate

They both screwed up, but
Biden came through at the end

Joe Biden muffed it. For more than half the time, he forgot to look into the camera and failed to talk directly to Middle America in straight and simple terms. Even so, he came closer to answering questions and – at the end – gave everyone a rare gift: A glimpse of his soul.

In the epic science fiction novel “Dune,” the desert-dwellers are stunned when the young exiled prince “gives water to the dead” by crying.

In American politics, tears don’t always play well in election campaigns. Hillary Clinton’s tears helped her, but only briefly, in this year’s Democratic presidential primary battle. In 1972, supposed tears in New Hampshire helped short-circuit Edmund Muskie’s quest.

Thursday night, near the end of his debate with Sarah Palin, Biden welled up emotionally, fighting back the tears as he recalled the tragic highway deaths decades ago of his first wife and their daughter and the ordeals of his injured sons. It was all there for America to see.

Palin was ice cold by comparison, after being sequestered and rehearsed for a week in mystical Sedona, Ariz.

She learned her lines very well: “Wall Street greed” was hammered on half a dozen times, although once she mixed up Main Street and Wall Street, and she looked like a pleased schoolgirl at her successful pronunciation of “Ahmadinejad” (learned so nice, she said it twice).

While Palin was short on substance and avoided answering questions as she returned to her repetitions and obviously concentrated on the talking points she had been taught, Biden spoke too often away from and above his audience.

Biden failed to challenge Palin’s qualifications for the vice presidency. Some observers had expressed the opinion that directly confronting her lack of knowledge and her inexperience beyond the borders of one of America’s least-populated states would backfire, but to my eyes, Palin’s embarrassing answer about “only being here five weeks” could have been repeated by Biden. He was far too deferential, instead giving toothy smile after toothy smile.

When Palin went on the attack, she did it with a smarmy smile, cloying winks, and folksy “aw, shucks” manner sure to distract many voters from any misinformation, mistakes and lack of knowledge. She was back to being good old Hockey Mom, and she’s carrying the Republicans’ big stick.

Who won? That's a matter of, well... debate.


Anonymous said...

Palin's wink was my favorite.

Vernon Maher said...

Palin wins Nicest Legs.

Rosemary Armao said...

Excellent posting David, but it's Hillary. Two L's. Oh, how fun to correct a master.

David Ettlin said...

OK, Rosemary the journalism professor, I fixed her.
The L, you say.