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You’re No Harry Truman, Governor

Posted on Oct 2, 2008
Palin and Biden
AP photo / Don Emmert, pool

Republican Sarah Palin and Democrat Joe Biden respond to questions from moderator Gwen Ifill of PBS during their vice presidential debate Thursday in St. Louis.

By Bill Boyarsky

He was boring. She was vapid. They were a perfect couple for the one and only 2008 vice presidential debate.

Gov. Sarah Palin survived, much to the disappointment of Democrats who hoped she would crumble as she did in her interview with CBS anchor Katie Couric. But she ducked tough questions, gave canned answers, tried to smile her way out of tough spots and cheerfully distorted Sen. Barack Obama’s record.

Sen. Joseph Biden was, of course, better prepared. All those years in the Senate taught him something. What a creature of the Senate he was, working his way through the details of his legislative record, even invoking the name of a long departed hero, Sen. Mike Mansfield, who gave him advice he never forgot. Even if it was hard for listeners to concentrate on everything he said, the man knew what he was talking about.

In the contest for who was best qualified to be president, Biden won by a landside. In the contest for who won the debate, Palin illustrated a lesson that Willy Loman learned in Arthur Miller’s old play, “Death of a Salesman”: It takes more than a smile and a shoeshine to be successful.

She couldn’t smile her way out of trying to explain what Sen. John McCain would do about the financial crisis that is dragging the country down.


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Instead, she relied on anecdotes and folksy examples. She described how she and her husband, Todd (the “First Dude” of Alaska), would sit around and talk about how government is not the solution for the troubles of the middle class. She blamed “corruption and greed and Wall Street” for the nation’s troubles and wrapped herself in the mantle of First Mom. “I think a good barometer here, as we try to figure out, ‘Has this been a good time or a bad time in America’s economy?’ is go to a kids’ soccer game on Saturday and turn to any parent there on the sideline and ask them, ‘How are you feeling about the economy?’ ” Palin said. “And I’ll betcha you’re going to hear some fear in that parent’s voice.”

That’s not a helpful answer, Governor, and by the way we all noticed the lakefront house you and Todd have up in Alaska when Charlie Gibson interviewed you there. Pretty nice, especially with Todd’s airplane parked out back.

Palin was a total wild card. Nothing Biden said had any impact on her. She treated him graciously, as if he were an odd but pleasant newcomer to Wasilla, having just moved there from the lower 48. He showed she was often factually wrong, but she ignored him with a smile. Finally, he was reduced to repeating his points. “Let me say it again,” he said on a couple of occasions.

She was a difficult opponent for Biden, who rose through Delaware politics and the Senate, where discussion and debate are conducted in the back-and-forth manner of traditional politics.

Biden seemed to practice the art of brevity Thursday night. In an effort to tone down his sometimes ungovernable enthusiasm, he was often plodding. But he was loaded with facts.

In response to Palin’s touting of alternative energy, Biden said McCain had voted 10 times against such proposals. Biden went into a lengthy explanation of Obama’s votes on Iraq. “Your plan is a white flag,” Palin said.

After a while, though, smiles and cutting lines annoy or even bore an audience.

Biden slogged along, one fact after another, treating his foe with congenial respect. He knew more than she did but didn’t make a big thing of it. That was all he had to do.

The main purpose of the debate was to show the American people who would be best qualified to take over if the president died.

Palin likes to cite the example of Harry Truman, who was a farmer and an unsuccessful haberdasher before going into politics and becoming president after Franklin Roosevelt’s death. But Truman was an accomplished senator before Roosevelt chose him to be vice president. He was the nationally known chairman of a committee which unearthed corruption by World War II contractors.

Palin showed she could get through a debate without being rattled, after days of preparation in McCain’s house in Arizona. That’s all she showed. Aside from sharing small-town roots, Sarah Palin is no Harry Truman.

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thebeerdoctor's avatar

By thebeerdoctor, October 3, 2008 at 3:09 am Link to this comment

My reaction to the debate? Damn it, the Cubs are now down 2 games to the Dodgers.

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By Marc Schlee, October 3, 2008 at 2:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Starting with the deliberate mispronunciation of “nuclear”. Ummmmmmmmm, we’ve seen that show. Saying it wrong once is down home. Saying it wrong over and over is ersatz down home, created by the same folks at Rove/Hughes who brought us eight years of Bush.

Also, Palin refused to answer the question on several occasions. The moderator would ask the question and she’d either say, “No, I want to talk about…” or just wander off like a little kid in a department store.

The Schmooze Off over Israel and the fact that McCain, Obama and Biden all voted for the bailout proves that the differences between the candidates are both superficial and temporary.

Sarah Palin kind of woman American men would like to have a few shots of tequila with. Joe Biden is the kind of guy who would borrow your lawn mower, fuck it up and try to lie his way out of paying for repairs.

If this it the best representative democracy can do, maybe that whole approach is tapped, used up.

We are change.



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By oldhip, October 3, 2008 at 1:33 am Link to this comment

It Doesn’t Matter What Anyone Says - Except FOX - It’s Reality.
by The Old Hippie Because You Still Don’t Get It, the Senate Passed The ‘Bailout’.

What Fox’s ‘Forum’ is saying about the V.P. Debate.  Since it’s a fact that the majority of the American voters don’t read/watch/listen/believe any other media, except for maybe the occasional other corporatistly controlled ‘MSM,’ nothing that is said by any expert, commentator, or reality-based reporter really matters - Now does it?

One has to keep in mind - 1/2 of any population - has a below average I.Q. - The majority of that half, in America today, has been emotionally manipulated into voting their own self-destruction, to the benefit of the sneering sociopathic manipulators.  That’s not to say that a significant number in the other half of the Bell Curve haven’t fooled also.

What they, ‘the-very-few,’ (and their profiting sycophants,) have successfully gotten away with in the last eight years, without real protest, without in-the-streets revolt after all the exposure of the facts of their crimes, which simply all centered around the transfer of wealth, and the control of that transferred wealth’s power… is more than ample proof of the above stated single fact of our shared political reality today.

If you allow them their open sneering crimes without stopping them, without punishing them, without sustained revolt - You have already lost.  And that is our situation in America today.

To paraphrase…  It’s the unfathomable and ongoing “Allowing,” stupid.

“Can’t Say We Weren’t Warned”

Oh, by the way - You did noticed they passed the ‘bailout’ in the Senate - Right?

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By outraged2, October 3, 2008 at 12:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yup, absolutely staged!

I think the Independents should hold their own and invite the whole world to watch :D

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By Outraged, October 3, 2008 at 12:04 am Link to this comment

George Farah, founder and CEO of on Democracy Now regarding the debates. had this to say:

“The Presidential debates—the single most important electoral event in the process of selecting a President—should provide voters with an opportunity to see the popular candidates discussing important issues in an unscripted manner. But the Presidential debates fail to do so, because the major party candidates secretly control them.”

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