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A Palin Loss, a Confidence Boost?
The vice-presidential debate and beyond
Michael Solis (msolis)     Print Article 
Published 2008-10-06 13:22 (KST)   
"We would like to remind our audience that due to the historically low expectations for Governor Palin, were she simply to do an adequate job tonight, and, at no point cry, faint, run out of the building, or vomit, you should consider the debate a tie."

Such were the prolific words of Queen Latifah, who on the Oct. 4 airing of Saturday Night Live (SNL) played moderator Gwen Ifill in the vice-presidential debate between Sarah Palin (Tina Fey) and Joe Biden (Jason Sudeikis). The humorous sketch captures the quirks of both candidates and their debating styles. Sudeikis highlighted Biden's simultaneous declarations of admiration for John McCain with attacks against his preparedness as a leader, poor judgment, and even psychotic tendencies. As Palin, Fey performs a third remarkable impersonation that characterizes the governor's strategy of refusing to answer questions, insistent reliance on the word 'maverick' to define herself and McCain, and inserting of hokey, country-bumpkin vocabulary to make herself seem like she is just your average, working-class mom.

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With her assets topping one million dollars, Palin's oratorical efforts to link herself to the middle and working classes are tenuous at best. They also bring to mind the botched sentences and Bushisms of abonitions (abominations), chillrens (children), nekewlers (nuclear), and tearists (terrorists) that convinced so many that even someone from a family as wealthy as the Bush's could be perceived as one of the ordinary, Joe Sixpacks.

Given the political and economic aftermath of the two-time imposition of electoral faith in such an image, Biden logically decided to tie McCain's policies with those of Bush throughout debate. He went in swinging but treated Palin cordially, even though she twice referred to the commander general in Afghanistan McKiernan as "McClellan," often sounded as though she were regurgitating memorized sound-bites, and refused to answer several of the questions directly.

At least Palin warned the audience of this ahead of time when she said: "I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also." This was evident when Ms. Ifill asked Palin to respond to Biden's argument that McCain planned to tackle the healthcare crisis with a similar deregulation strategy that he backed for years on Wall Street. Failing to defend, or even mention, the healthcare plan, Palin answered: "I would like to respond about the tax increases."

According to a CNN poll of uncommitted voters, Biden surfaced as the clear victor in a debate that was his to lose: 51 percent felt that he had won as opposed to the 36 percent favoring Palin. Despite the significant difference, both parties remain convinced that their candidates fulfilled what was required of them. Biden had to defeat the novice but in a manner that did not make him appear too arrogant or condescending. He also had to instill increased voter confidence on his half of the Democratic ticket by presenting a more humanized face to the American people. When Palin tried to differentiate herself from Biden by arguing that she understands the problems facing American families, for instance, Biden responded emotionally, choking up when reflecting on his father's struggles with unemployment as well as the death of his wife and daughter and injury of his sons after a car accident in 1972.

Biden also chipped away at the "maverick" image of the McCain persona, a word that has become central to the Republican ticket. Biden used effective parallelism to indicate that he has not yet heard how McCain's policies on Iran, Israel, Afghanistan, or Pakistan differ from those of George Bush. Palin responded by highlighting the need for a surge in Afghanistan similar to the one undertaken in Iraq, which Biden refuted with evidence from General McKiernan saying that a surge strategy would not be successful if implemented in an entirely different context.

As for Palin, Republicans lauded her performance for the very reason that Queen Latifah insinuated at on SNL: the governor did not fall flat on her face. In light of her two highly-criticized interviews with ABC and CBS, nearly 70 million viewers tuned into the vice-presidential debate to see if Palin would buckle live under the watchful lenses of the camera. Overall, she performed much better during the debate than she did in the interviews. She remained poised and confident throughout, though she noticeably lacked the fluency and debating prowess of a seasoned professional like Biden.

On the only civil rights issue that came up in the debate, neither side fielded the question in a way that would satisfy the question's targeted constituency of LGBT voters. When asked if he supported granting same-sex benefits, Biden answered "Absolutely positively." But when asked if he supported same sex marriage, his answer could best be paraphrased by Sudeikis's Biden on SNL: "Absolutely not!" Palin agreed but even less tactfully, claiming to be "tolerant" of adults who choose their partners but emphasizing that she does not want to redefine the definition of marriage as anything but between one man and one woman.

With the vice-presidential debate over, the McCain camp has lost no time in resuming with its questionable offensive. Even in light of her loss, Palin felt confident enough on Oct. 5 to attack Obama's character and patriotic merits, accusing him of harboring close personal ties with the former anti-Vietnam war radical William Ayers.

"We see America as the greatest force for good in this world," said Palin at a fundraising event in Colorado. "Our opponent though, is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country."

Ayers, who founded an underground group that bombed several Washington D.C. buildings in protest against the Vietnam War, lives in the same Chicago neighborhood as Obama. Beginning in 1995 the two collaborated on a large-scale, non-profit schooling improvement project, and from 1999 to 2001 they both served as board members of the charitable Woods Fund. According to a CNN fact check, Obama and Ayers share no ties that would link Obama to any terrorist activity.

The Obama campaign has dismissed Palin's remarks as "offensive" and "not surprising given the McCain campaign's statement...that they would be launching Swift Boat-like attacks in hopes of deflecting attention from the nation's economic ills." Previously, Obama has already had to address the alleged link to terrorism, arguing that "the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago -- when I was 8 years old -- somehow reflects on me and my values doesn't make much sense."

But October marks the homestretch of the elections, and for the McCain camp the rules are no holds barred. As far things to come, the list is extensive: more twisted tales associating Obama with terrorism, efforts to turn race against the first African-American to ever come so close to the Presidency, and an ever crotchety attitude of a 72-year-old on edge are just a few. Fortunately for Obama and Biden, the future of the McCain-Palin ticket is what McCain's entire campaign has tacitly professed to be: old news.

Do you think Sarah Palin is a good VP selection for McCain?  (2008-09-03 ~ 2008-10-31)
I don't know
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Michael Solis

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