Like most anyone who gives a shit about this election, members of the GLONO crew gathered in Chicago last night to watch the Vice Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. We had drinks, we had TV, we had nervous expectations. Would Sarah Palin completely short circuit on live television? Would Biden say something crazy or condescending? Would Dick Cheney pop up through a trap door and gun them both down? Anything is possible in American politics and we were ready for whatever they threw our way.
The night opened cordially enough. Sarah Palin looked great, as expected, and greeted Joe Biden warmly and with more than a bit of the charm that has propelled her political career asking her advesary, "can I call you Joe? Ok, thanks."
"He should have said "you can call me Senator Biden, you little jackass,'" GLONO founder Jake Brown bellowed out. It was going to be one of those nights.
Sarah Palin had a massive broach on that distracted slightly from the fact that a large shock of her hair was stuck in her eye all night. How could she concentrate with that going on? Oh, she doesn't need to. Her answers were predictably formulaic GOP talking points, replete with all the appropriate dog whistles and slogans that rile "the base" in events like these. What was more annoying though were the "you betcha" and "yer darn right" folk-isms that sounded more like a screen test for Mayberry 2012 than a reasoned debate on the issues. But some folks are just happy she didn't bomb.
The spin today will be that Palin beat expectations, but given what a shit show her Katie Couric interviews were (and how painfully slow they were released, day after day), that is a pretty low bar to hurdle and probably doesn't do much to stem the bleeding the McCain camp is suffering right now. That she didn't piss her pants or call moderator Gwen Ifill a derogatory name shouldn't be applauded as some sort of triumph. We're talking about the Vice President of the United States here. I won't remind you with the clichés of how important this job really is.
It's well documented here how much of a fan I am of Joe Biden. I think he's smart as a whip and isn't at all afraid to take on tough issues. Yes, he shoots his mouth off from time to time and that puts Democrats on the edge of their seats whenever he's in an unscripted moment, but what he brings to the ticket far outweighs any of that nonsense. So I was a little (just a little) disappointed that he let so many opportunities slide by. The spin from the Democrats is that was by design and I guess I believe them because as we saw in the primary debates Joe Biden likes making people look stupid. He's only out zinged by the reverend Al Sharpton, who is a Mozart in the fine art of one-liners. So, I guess I'll take their word that Biden was consciously restrained in his approach to Palin and her many, many evasive and sometimes nonsensical responses.
I have to take this moment to give Joe a good lashing though. He completely mishandled the whole "Barack voted against funding the troops" tack. Biden's response was "McCain voted the same way; he voted against funding the troops!" That is utter nonsense. Nobody—fucking NOBODY—voted against funding the troops. Both candidates voted against shitty bills that included funding for equipment and operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but a 26-year veteran of the Senate knows that to say anyone voted against the troops in citing those instances is a lie. And there's no way you can score points on John McCain on that front. Never, never, never. We can point out all the ways he's voted against increased pay, education benefits, health care, etc. for veterans until we're blue in the face and it's never going to change the perception that this bona fide war hero is anything but a soldier's friend. So, please, Joe, if that ever comes up again point out that it's a bald faced lie and that anyone claiming otherwise should be ashamed of themselves.
Overall though Biden did well. He came prepared with the facts and even humanized himself when he choked up talking about the accident that killed his wife and daughter and sent his sons to hospital beds right as he was launching his Senate career. Most people don't know that he had to balance life as a freshman senator with being a single dad while mourning his wife and daughter. We see this guy who is the image of a US politician (right down to his George Washington hair) and forget that he's a guy who also fought and scraped to get where he is. I think that brief moment touched a lot of people and I thought he presented it in a way that wasn't cheap or political, but human and endearing.
These nights are usually about the soundbite and we have two contenders:
Palin: "There you go Joe, there you go again...now doggone it."
Biden: "Now that's what I call the ultimate Bridge to Nowhere."
We'll see which one the media picks up on.
A lot of people out there think Palin probably did herself some good by not completely fucking up but I think she actually needed a solid win to undo the damage from last week. Just holding her own doesn't help since people were quickly coming to the realization that she's an empty pantsuit. The winking and "aw shucks" mannerisms did nothing to deflect a growing negative image of the GOP's first female VP nominee and while that will play in some parts of the country, I am hoping (nay, praying) the rest of us are a little tired of another sloganeering blank slate upon which neocon academics can project their bizarre world view. I'm not convinced of this yet, but one can hope