Nothing Special, Really

Friday, October 3, 2008

VP Debate Thoughts

I didn't post any thoughts about the first Pres. debate because I was at a loud bar drinking it up with friends. I couldn't really hear everything, and we were too busy playing drinking games. Among our rules were:

1. The "special" word. 1 drink anytime a particular word was mentioned. We started with Economy, moved to Iraq then Afghanistan before we stopped keeping track.
2. Moderator repeats. Anytime the moderator has to repeat a question, we up the drinks. 1st repeat is 1, 2nd an additional 2, and so on. At one point, we went to the bar for a refill. It took about 5 minutes to get our beers because it was so packed, and by the time we did, we were already down 10 drinks due to repeats.
3. Fist bumps. This never happened, but if Obama fist-bumped anyone, 2 drinks. McCain, 4 drinks. If Obama & McCain fist-bumped each other...automatic Jager shots.

In summary, like most others, I felt it was a fairly even debate. I felt both backed up their points, but I give the edge to Obama for debate style. Of course, Obama is a better public speaker than McCain, but I deducted points from McCain for failing to engage in a more conversational style like Obama did, and steadfastly refusing to look at his opponent during the rebuttals.

Tonight's debate, I had better seats. We went to a party hosted by one of Wac's coworkers, drank beer, ate pizza, and enjoyed the festivities. Obviously, of all the debates, this one I was the most biased about, considering my feelings for Palin. So it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that I give the edge to Biden in this one.

First off, I won't say Biden won hands down. There were a couple times that he stumbled, spouting off less than confident responses, and he wasn't as engaging as Palin. But overall, I felt he handled the debate much more remarkably than Palin did.

And, to Palin's credit, this wasn't a repeat of that atrocious Katie Couric interview. I don't think anyone expected that, but nevertheless, she was smart to stay away from soundbites that hurt her previously (i.e the whole Alaska-Russia proximity thing).

However, not only do I give Biden an edge, I give him a fairly significant one, for the following reasons:

1. The "ultimate bridge to nowhere" comment. Hands down, best line of the night. Whether or not the rest of his comments regarding McCain's health care plans are true, that was THE moment that made me say "Oh Snap!". Biden wins the "Oh Snap!" award.

2. Staying with the question. As frustrating as it is to watch the candidates dodge many of these questions with their rehearsed talking points, I accept that it's part of the debate, and I love that the moderators thus far are reasonably taking them to task for doing so (see Rule No.2 in drinking game). But tonight, overwhelmingly, I felt Biden did a much better job answering the questions & rebutting to the comments that Palin made than vice versa. And it's not that Biden necessarily did a great job, but because Palin did such a HORRIBLE job herself. For example:

IFILL: Governor, please if you want to respond to what he said about Senator McCain's comments about health care?

I would like to respond about the tax increases.

(a moment later)

BIDEN: He did support deregulation almost across the board. That's why we got into so much trouble.

IFILL: Would you like to have an opportunity to answer that before we move on?

PALIN: I'm still on the tax thing because I want to correct you on that again. And I want to let you know what I did as a mayor and as a governor.

(a couple questions later)

BIDEN: The bottom line here is that we are going to, in fact, eliminate those wasteful spending that exist in the budget right now, a number of things I don't have time, because the light is blinking, that I won't be able to mention, but one of which is the $100 billion tax dodge that, in fact, allows people to take their post office box off- shore, avoid taxes.

I call that unpatriotic. I call that unpatriotic.

IFILL: Governor?

PALIN: Well, the nice thing about running with John McCain is I can assure you he doesn't tell one thing to one group and then turns around and tells something else to another group, including his plans that will make this bailout plan, this rescue plan, even better.

I want to go back to the energy plan, though, because this is -- this is an important one that Barack Obama, he voted for in '05.

(and again)

BIDEN: (referring to a question about a bankruptcy bill; admittedly, this was one of his weaker answers)That would keep people in their homes, actually help banks by keeping it from going under. But John McCain, as I understand it -- I'm not sure of this, but I believe John McCain and the governor don't support that. There are ways to help people now. And there -- ways that we're offering are not being supported by -- by the Bush administration nor do I believe by John McCain and Governor Palin.

IFILL: Governor Palin, is that so?

PALIN: That is not so, but because that's just a quick answer, I want to talk about, again, my record on energy versus your ticket's energy ticket, also.

I think that this is important to come back to, with that energy policy plan again that was voted for in '05.

(regarding same-sex benefits)

IFILL: Governor, would you support expanding that beyond Alaska to the rest of the nation?

PALIN: Well, not if it goes closer and closer towards redefining the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman (um, Sarah, we're just talking about same-sex benefits, why do we have to turn this into a "gay marriage" question?)

Again, Biden stepped around some points as well, but in my opinion, it was nowhere near as blatant as Palin. Biden was debating and rebutting, Palin was busy cheering on McCain and making sure she hit all those rehearsed talking points she practiced over the last couple of days.

3. I felt a stronger connection with Biden. I know that Palin's trying to portray this "I'm just a hockey mom, I'm not part of the good ol' boy network" image. Palin definitely worked the camera better than Biden did, talking straight into the camera for most of the debate, trying to inject a little bit of personality into the speech, and I'm sure that many people in America bought it.

To me, it came across as rehearsed shtick. It didn't seem less than genuine, but it seemed acted. Whether or not that's the case, I connected more with Biden's straight-forward approach, both in language and style. I appreciate that Palin represents a new "image" of politics that we haven't seen before, but I'm not convinced that it's better. I prefer substance over style, and I felt that more with Biden.

4. Lastly, in my opinion, Biden got in the best attack of the night:

PALIN: Change is coming. And John McCain is the leader of that reform.

IFILL: Senator...

BIDEN: I'll be very brief. Can I respond to that?

Look, the maverick -- let's talk about the maverick John McCain is. And, again, I love him. He's been a maverick on some issues, but he has been no maverick on the things that matter to people's lives.

He voted four out of five times for George Bush's budget, which put us a half a trillion dollars in debt this year and over $3 trillion in debt since he's got there.

He has not been a maverick in providing health care for people. He has voted against -- he voted including another 3.6 million children in coverage of the existing health care plan, when he voted in the United States Senate.

He's not been a maverick when it comes to education. He has not supported tax cuts and significant changes for people being able to send their kids to college.

He's not been a maverick on the war. He's not been a maverick on virtually anything that genuinely affects the things that people really talk about around their kitchen table.

Can we send -- can we get Mom's MRI? Can we send Mary back to school next semester? We can't -- we can't make it. How are we going to heat the -- heat the house this winter?

He voted against even providing for what they call LIHEAP, for assistance to people, with oil prices going through the roof in the winter.

So maverick he is not on the important, critical issues that affect people at that kitchen table.

I can understand that John McCain may be more of a "maverick" than others in Congress, but this point from Biden addresses one of my main concerns about him. First of all, despite his claims of being a reformer, I don't find anything about his current platform that doesn't scream "conservative Republican". More importantly, the main things that he is known to be a maverick of (campaign-finance reform, pork barrel spending) aren't the biggest issue for me this year. Again, the truth behind what Biden said is another issue, but I felt this was a very strong counter-point that the Democratic campaign needed to make, and it'll be interesting to see if this carries over into the next Presidential debate.

I may or may not have more to say about this, but if I do, it'll be after I read the following two links, and I urge you to do the same:

A complete, unedited transcript of the VP debate's review of the truth behind Biden's & Palin's comments


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