Saturday, October 04, 2008

She had us at hello

Well, at this point everyone and their mother has weighed in about the Veep debate last night in St. Louis.

I don't have anything particularly special to add to what's already been said.

Even so, that ain't stop me from sharing my general impression of the debate, i.e., blabbing away with my big ol' mouth about it!

Of course, everyone knows the focus was almost entirely on Palin, for better or for worse. Everyone was at the edge of their seats, anxious to see how she'd do. America tuned in to see her either crash and burn big time or salvage something of herself. To either make it or break it, once and for all. Nearly 70 million viewers, too! That in itself is extraordinary.

But few expected her to have come away as she did. How did she come away then?

I think you could say the following:

At worst, Palin held her ground against the far more experienced, informed, and usually tough-as-nails Biden. The punchy statesman whom many expected to wipe the floor with her...well...he simply didn't. Some might say it ain't so, but she stood toe-to-toe with Joe and did just fine. In any case, at the very least she put her vacuous interviews (particularly with Katie Couric) behind her and perhaps breathed some new life back into the GOP campaign, thereby saving a bit of face for herself and more importantly for the McCain campaign.

At best, Palin was the main act and Biden her prop. She played off of him, and then she played him with a couple of well-aimed quips. All eyes were on her, and she didn't disappoint. While Biden droned on and on about what Biden has done and what Biden has accomplished, and Biden this and Biden that, she cleared the way for McCain and held him up more than she did herself. She didn't talk too much about herself but rather pointed Americans to McCain, and tried to give us a sense of their vision together as a team.

Thus, my take is that, while it's perhaps arguable Biden may have won on substantive grounds (although the day-after fact-checking is taking a heavy toll on his alleged facts and figures; and neither am I suggesting Palin was a slouch in this regard), Palin won hands-down on stylistic grounds, in terms of presentation and sheer personality. And that's what's more persuasive to voters in this sort of debate, to be frank.

Biden was polished and articulate in his speech and delivery whereas Palin's syntax was quaint. She used down-home phrases like, "you betcha," "heckuva lot," "doggone it," and "darn right." What's more, she kept smiling at the camera virtually the entire time. She also interspersed knowing winks and other little gestures here and there with viewers, which made her seem familiar, and even endearing, just like she was one of us. Overall, I thought Palin came off far more upbeat and confident, and simply more sincere and real than Biden did.

Understandably, given his background, and perhaps the Obama/Biden lead in the polls immediately prior to the debate, Biden probably tried to play it safe. And that he did. Overall, he came across as decent but nothing to write home about. He seemed knowledgeable and informed (he'd have to be after so many years in public service) but also dull and dry.

However, as others have rightly described, Palin really hit home in a folksy, down-to-earth, homespun kind of way. She was your next door neighbor, an average American mom, someone you could relate to right off the bat. You might even say she connected like Bill Clinton often did and does with common folks -- except that she was the real deal, genuine and transparent, which Clinton never truly was. Clinton could talk the talk but he never walked the walk. Hence, she positively connected with folks -- she sparkled and beamed from start to finish, and, as it's been said of Reagan, I believe, made us as Americans begin to feel good and certain about ourselves again. She was fresh, energetic, and lively -- a marked contrast to Biden, the settled, and even somewhat stuffy, Washingtonian.

Speaking of which, I found Palin was plain-spoken and clear in addressing topics such as economics and especially energy (no doubt her expertise). I always understood what she said and where she was going, whereas I thought Biden made things more difficult and complicated than they needed to be -- at least for the average American like me. Then again, Biden has been a senator for a number of years. Maybe he can't help speaking "above" folks rather than "to" folks, because it's what he's now accustomed to doing on the floor of the Senate. If so, it's a telling point.

Palin set much of the tone and (to a lesser extent, obviously) direction of the debate more or less from the get-go. At one point, near the beginning, she even said quite directly that her answers might not be what the moderator or others expect to hear from her. Something like this could come off as avoiding the question, but in my view Palin instead somehow managed to come off sounding strong and independent, a maverick if you will, by making this move.

Of course, Palin had a couple of incorrect facts and figures (e.g. Gen. McClellan?!). But, whether or not it's right, the bar here was far lower for her; and despite her mistakes and missteps, she more than cleared it.

In short, to paraphrase Jerry Maguire, Palin had us at, "Hey, can I call ya Joe?"


  1. McCain and Palin have both participated in sending their sons to Iraq.

    And it is known that McCain wants the draft back.

    So what do you think they will do with yours? Do you think that will give a DAMN?

    But heres the deal, John and ain't getting my kids.

    My family has been there and done that, and if you get hurt, the VA will NOT back you up.

    So, my kids are NOT going. There are ways to keep them out, so, no offense, but we will be skipping the next round.


    “McCain and Palin have both participated in sending their sons to Iraq. “

    No, they didn’t send their sons to Iraq. We have a volunteer army. Also, I seriously doubt that Palin is responsible for troop deployments. She’s not the Secretary of Defense.

    “And it is known that McCain wants the draft back.”

    How is that known? Can you quote McCain on that? Do you have a link to a speech of his?

    And it doesn’t matter if he wants the draft back. It’s not politically feasible for him to unilaterally reinstate the draft—even if he were president.

    “So what do you think they will do with yours? Do you think that will give a DAMN?”

    Yes, I think a veteran and POW like McCain does give a damn.

    “There are ways to keep them out.”

    Like what? Moving to Canada?