Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Sarah Palin Show (aka The Veep Debate)

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on October 9th in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

As I did last week for the first of the three Presidential debates, in this weeks column I will share my impressions regarding the performance of the Republican and Democratic Vice Presidential candidates in their one and only joint appearance at the Vice Presidents debate in St. Louis Missouri. I should also note that unlike the site of the first Presidential debate in Oxford Mississippi, the state of Missouri is considered a key battleground state in the upcoming election with Senator John McCain clinging to a narrow lead over our next President, Barack Obama, in the most recent polls taken there.
Having said that, I will now turn my attention to the two parties respective Vice Presidential nominee’s performances in the debates, beginning with the Republican candidate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. For her overall performance I gave Sarah Palin a higher passing grade of B than I gave her running mate John McCain (C+) based on style rather than substance. In fact it was Mrs. Palin lack of substance which brought her overall debate mark down because I gave her an A for the style she displayed during the course of her 90 minute tete a tete with Senator Joe Biden.
Unlike her prospective new boss, Senator John McCain, Sarah Palin displayed the camera savvy and delivery style Senator McCain lacks, which makes her come across as a more appealing and attractive candidate to watch and listen to on the TV tube than John McCain. Throughout the debate Governor Palin spoke to the audience watching on TV rather than those in attendance in the auditorium, rarely acknowledging them or looking at her opponent, Joe Biden, or the moderator, Gwen Ifill. It was obvious that Palin hasn’t lost the stage skills she first developed competing in beauty pageants. I actually would have given her an A+ for her performance had it not been for her annoying tendency to avoid answering questions by veering off in another direction with her responses.
As for the substance of Mrs. Palin’s remarks and her responses to the questions, I gave her a barely passing grade of C- largely because she only made a couple of minor mistakes when she made reference to the names of other people, such as referring to the US Commander in Afghanistan as General “McClellan” instead of saying his real name, General David McKiernan. She also explained to the TV audience why she wasn’t answering the questions posed to her by the moderator saying at one point “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.”
But the fact that Sarah Palin couldn’t muster substantive answers to many of the questions posed to her was not really surprising given her rather dismal performances in prior one on one interviews with TV news reporters like Katie Couric of CBS. It was already obvious from those interviews that Governor Palin didn’t have command of any national issues that went beyond those of oil and gas drilling that she had dealt with as a Governor, so the expectations for her performance in this debate were already quite low.
As a result, I am sure most of my Republican cohorts were very pleased with Mrs. Palin’s debate performance on national television given their dismay at her previous performance in unscripted television interviews. Unlike Sarah Palin’s most recent TV interviews, her responses to the questions posed to her in the debate were steady even though she avoided answering many of the questions. Instead of stumbling pauses while trying to answer tough questions which went beyond her limited knowledge of national and international issues, Sarah reverted to McCain’s Presidential campaign talking points.
I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times she referred to herself and Senator McCain as “mavericks” or as a “team of mavericks” but suffice to say it was a “heck of a lot” (another phrase Palin repeatedly used). But while Governor Palin didn’t make a fool of herself on the debate stage, she also did little to dispel the concerns of many voters about her lack of experience and knowledge about national issues. But I think the main objective here was for Palin to at least do no further harm to the McCain presidential campaign and I think she accomplished that.
As for Senator Joe Biden’s debate performance I gave him a grade of B+, which is the same grade I gave his boss, Barack Obama, in the previous week’s first presidential debate. But Senator Biden earned this mark based more on the substance of his responses to the questions, which got him an A grade, than the style he displayed on this nationally televised debate stage, which earned him a still positive grade of B.
I actually though Senator Biden improved on some of his past presidential debate performances because he didn’t revert to the long winded answers to questions or attacks by his opponent that he has been known for. In fact he rarely lost patience with Mrs. Palin’s repeated forays away from the questions being asked of her by remaining forceful and poised in responding to an opponent who was difficult to attack because she was a woman and he was a man.
While this is not fair, it is the reality of how much of the viewing public would have interpreted any attacks on Sarah Palin and her spotty record as a small town mayor and Governor in Alaska that Biden might have attempted. Trust me, Biden had many opportunities to attack Sarah Palin, but he instead stuck to his game plan and focused his attacks on McCain’s record of supporting George Bush saying “The issue is how different is John McCain’s policy going to be than George Bush’s.”
I seriously doubt Palin’s performance will help the McCain campaign in the final month, but at least she didn’t do any further damage to his campaign.

No comments: