More Palin Criticism
I took some heat in the comments over my criticism of Sarah Palin’s debate performance. First, it might be worth reminding everyone that there wasn’t anyone rooting for Palin more than I was—I really, really wanted her to do well. And I’m not sure why I was so down on her—even the most anti-Palin pieces always seem to begin with “well, you all might have thought she did well, but she didn’t, and here’s why.” I can’t imagine (literally, can’t imagine) how anyone could think she won the debate, or even came close to winning.
Evidently, I was wrong—everyone else though her performance was very strong at worst, and fantastic at best. Lines like “Obama’s plan is a white flag of surrender” sent chills up conservative spines—but I wasn’t impressed. Palin looked at her notes—where she had evidently reminded herself to use that line somewhere—smiled nervously, waited a beat, then blurted out her talking point. If that’s the standard for a knockout answer, then maybe we should reevaluate some of George Bush’s more awkward speeches, because they’re not half bad compared to Palin.
If Palin didn’t win the debate, it’s not because of anything Joe Biden did. Biden held his own—but he made a lot of mistakes, far too many mistakes for someone is his position. Some of his mistakes were inexcusable—he confused Article I and Article II of the Constitution, and invented an imaginary war in which the U.S. and France drove Hezbollah out of Lebanon. I don’t think he was being dishonest—worryingly, that’s just Joe being Joe. And that’s a bit scary.
Another point about Palin—like Bush, her language is sometimes simply incomprehensible. As I write this, Drudge’s main headline is that Palin expressed the notion that Obama isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief. I’m not quite sure what the news in that is—VP candidates rarely issue ringing endorsements of the other candidate’s ability to lead in times of crisis—but what is truly remarkable about her statement is its total incoherency.
“Some of his comments that he has made about the war that I think may — in my world– disqualifies someone from consideration as the next commander in chief.” That sentence might have the most awkward phrasing I’ve ever seen. The tenses aren’t right, she substitutes “that” for “which (I’m pretty sure that’s right), and her usage of “that” is confusing. And that, sadly, is a Palin soundbite—a line that the whole nation will hear.
One criticism that the few Palin detractors try to make is that Palin didn’t do what she needed to do, because she didn’t attack Obama. That’s absurd—attacking Obama was never on Palin’s to-do list, at any time. Her challenge from the beginning has been to present herself as an attractive, smart, competent running mate for John McCain—her role was never to hit Obama.
Much has been made of Palin’s winking at the audience. I didn’t notice—I was too busy cringing.
One thing Palin did very well—at the beginning and end of the debate, she kept her microphone on. Her “can I call you Joe” was pretty syrupy, but it seemed to work, and her interaction with her family at the conclusion—all caught on microphone—was pretty effective. Palin was strong in that respect—and she read her final speech splendidly. True, it was written before the debate—but then, so was Biden’s, and his speech wasn’t very memorable.
Even if we assume Palin won, the election isn’t over, not by a long shot. There are still two more presidential debates. The first one seemed to be a draw—McCain needs to win at least one of the next two. The next debate is Tuesday—McCain’s got to be ready.
[NOTE: Yeah, I’m being hard on Palin here. That doesn’t mean that I hate America, or am a closet liberal, or that I worship at the feet of the mainstream media. It just means that I didn’t happen to like one performance by a conservative. And it’s not like I heard Palin enunciating unshakably conservative views out there.]