HER RESPONSES MAILY CONSISTED OF A NOUN, A VERB AND ENERGY IN ALASKA
In a year filled with political oddities, the Vice Presidential debate between Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del) and Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) may be one of the oddest. Biden is an old hand at this kind of thing, and Palin is a novice.
Joe Biden is known to be a bit loose at the lips, as is his Republican counterpart. He, however, generally has a command of the facts, and she does not. As a result, the expectations for Governor Palin were quite low. And that meant that any reasonable performance on the part of the Alaska Chief Executive would be considered a win by the Republican Party.
Palin’s performance proved to be interesting. Early on in the debate, she let it be known that she would answer only the questions she liked and would speak on another subject if she chose. As a result, Palin often spoke about her energy policies in her home state.
Former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, when he was running for President, used to describe the campaign of former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani as consisting of three things, a noun, a verb and 9/11. Apparently, Sarah Palin picked up her debating style from Mayor Giuliani.
There was only one time that she got caught. Moderator Gwen Ifell of PBS asked Palin what she thought the duties of the Vice President were, and she launched a diatribe as to how she intended to expand the work of the V.P. Biden, in turn, had his finest moment of the debate at that point when he pointed out that the Constitution clearly states in Article I that the only real duty of the Vice President is to preside over the Senate, and that that duty only involves casting tie breaking votes. Other than that, it is the job of the Vice President to run the country if the President is incapacitated (as George H.W. Bush may have done as Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimer’s disease progressed). Biden then went on to explain that the last thing Americans want now is another Vice President who wants to usurp the power of the President, one in the mold of Dick Cheney.
Sarah Palin was not as bad as she had been in her interviews with ABC’s Charles Gibson or CBS’ Katie Couric. She certainly made no major mistakes, and she scored no points. She never won a round, but she wasn’t KO’d either. The points she did score were largely based on her failure to really screw up badly. In short, she didn’t suck.
Biden could have been sharper, but he demonstrated a knowledge of the subjects on which he was being questioned. As I said, he scored one, perhaps two, potential knock-out blows. He should have done more, but I am certain he chose to go lightly on the intellectually questionable Governor of Alaska. He should probably have asked her if she had actually read the Constitution, but he didn’t. He never sucker punched or went for the knock out. In short, he played it cautious.
Ifell was equally cautious, but she was cautious for a different reason. She has just written a book “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.” . It is neither pro nor anti Obama. Rather, it is a serious examination of the role race has taken in American politics since the emergence of Barack Obama. The Republicans have defamed Ifell by claiming the book shows her liberal bias. As a result, she did not press Sarah Palin hard enough when she refused to answer questions or was out and out lying.
Republican lies are the stuff of which disputed elections are made, and Gwen Ifell fell for this one hook, line and sinker. She shouldn’t have. She should have been far tougher on Governor Palin when she chose to only answer the questions she liked. She didn’t. Rather she chose to be intimidated, and for most of the evening, she was.
And now the only debate between the Vice Presidential candidates has been held. Over! Finished! And we come out of it at approximately the same place we were when it began. It shouldn’t have been that way, but it was. As I said, it has been a political year filled with oddities.
HENRY A. HONIG