Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 2, 2008

The Debate Gap

Think about this: Joe Biden debated more than a dozen times last year, admittedly in a crowd of ten. McCain participated in 15 debates, I think, and Obama 20. Sarah Palin debated a few times in 2006.

Think about this: Joe Biden debated more than a dozen times last year, admittedly in a crowd of ten. McCain participated in 15 debates, I think, and Obama 20. Sarah Palin debated a few times in 2006.

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There Is Some Uniformity Here

Dick Morris on FOX: “A superstar.” Biden, says Morris, “Looked like he was on downers.” From Chris Matthews, if you can believe it: “I think she’s an extremely appealing politician. Her energy level was much better than Biden’s. I think Biden lost a little speed there during the evening. I think she came across terrific in terms of presentation.”  And Tom Brokaw (over at the grown up part of NBC) was kvelling about them “whooping it up in Alaska.” And AP? Well read it yourself.

Joe Lieberman on FOX liked the “magical moment” when she “did the backward looking” and took Biden to task for harping on the Bush administration. Even the New York Times gave her good marks. Enough said.

Dick Morris on FOX: “A superstar.” Biden, says Morris, “Looked like he was on downers.” From Chris Matthews, if you can believe it: “I think she’s an extremely appealing politician. Her energy level was much better than Biden’s. I think Biden lost a little speed there during the evening. I think she came across terrific in terms of presentation.”  And Tom Brokaw (over at the grown up part of NBC) was kvelling about them “whooping it up in Alaska.” And AP? Well read it yourself.

Joe Lieberman on FOX liked the “magical moment” when she “did the backward looking” and took Biden to task for harping on the Bush administration. Even the New York Times gave her good marks. Enough said.

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What About Ifill?

I agree with John that she was weak, in the sense that she spent insufficient time on the economy, chose at key moments to interrupt Sarah Palin and never really got the two contenders to mix it up. Having sullied her reputation by not disclosing her conflict of interest, she further compromised it by a weak and ineffective job. That said, was she unfair? No. Will she regret her conduct before the debate in failing to reveal a conflict and then decrying “racism” when questioned about it? Doubtful.

I agree with John that she was weak, in the sense that she spent insufficient time on the economy, chose at key moments to interrupt Sarah Palin and never really got the two contenders to mix it up. Having sullied her reputation by not disclosing her conflict of interest, she further compromised it by a weak and ineffective job. That said, was she unfair? No. Will she regret her conduct before the debate in failing to reveal a conflict and then decrying “racism” when questioned about it? Doubtful.

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Biden’s Strongest Moments

Were his recitation of the ways in which McCain does not differ with George Bush. But more so, his obvious emotion at recollecting his son’s near death. He did however forget he was supposed to relate to average people and get regular voters to like him.

Were his recitation of the ways in which McCain does not differ with George Bush. But more so, his obvious emotion at recollecting his son’s near death. He did however forget he was supposed to relate to average people and get regular voters to like him.

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Re: What Does This Mean?

Earlier in the day at a rally in Michigan, Barack Obama said, “If I’m president — ” before the audience started barking, “When! When!” “I’m superstitious, folks,” Obama said and went back to speaking about a possible turn as president. But even Obama’s purely superstitious objection to his presidency being a fait accompli speaks to an overconfidence. The Obama camp had thought they were running virtually unopposed because of a financial crisis and one strange and terrible interview Sarah Palin did with Katie Couric. People had finally stopped saying, “it’s a long way until November.” Well, it’s once again a long way until November.

Earlier in the day at a rally in Michigan, Barack Obama said, “If I’m president — ” before the audience started barking, “When! When!” “I’m superstitious, folks,” Obama said and went back to speaking about a possible turn as president. But even Obama’s purely superstitious objection to his presidency being a fait accompli speaks to an overconfidence. The Obama camp had thought they were running virtually unopposed because of a financial crisis and one strange and terrible interview Sarah Palin did with Katie Couric. People had finally stopped saying, “it’s a long way until November.” Well, it’s once again a long way until November.

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CNN’s Problematic Poll

CNN’s post-debate poll, taken solely of debate watchers, has Biden winning 51-36. It’s worth noting that in that sample, whatever it might be, 54 percent believed before the debate that Palin was not an acceptable choice for vice president. That needle moved 5 points in her direction among those polled, 81 percent of whom said she did better than they expected.

CNN’s post-debate poll, taken solely of debate watchers, has Biden winning 51-36. It’s worth noting that in that sample, whatever it might be, 54 percent believed before the debate that Palin was not an acceptable choice for vice president. That needle moved 5 points in her direction among those polled, 81 percent of whom said she did better than they expected.

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Ed Rollins Says It

“She is going out a star.” That’s I think the real take away. The McCain camp will win or lose in month. But Palin’s career and future are now back on track.

“She is going out a star.” That’s I think the real take away. The McCain camp will win or lose in month. But Palin’s career and future are now back on track.

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She Didn’t Help at All!

Paul Begala says it. Howard Fineman says it. She did no good for McCain. She did well for herself, but not for McCain! Which is absurd, since given what has been going on with her in the past week, the best thing she could possibly have done for McCain is to do well for herself.

Paul Begala says it. Howard Fineman says it. She did no good for McCain. She did well for herself, but not for McCain! Which is absurd, since given what has been going on with her in the past week, the best thing she could possibly have done for McCain is to do well for herself.

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What CNN Says

John King says if you look at her job as reinvigorating the base she met and exceeded those expectations. He acknowledges that she is important beyond the normal role of a VP because “she is like them.” Campbell Brown now wonders how John McCain is going to be helped. When they are down to quibbling over whether the map is changed or not, you know it was a clear win. David Gergen intones that Palin was “threatening to become an embarrassment” and notes that “she erases that.” But Gergen also observes that Biden was really, really, really good. (Okay, I suppose those who love Senate-speak and don’t mind the weird grin loved it.)

John King says if you look at her job as reinvigorating the base she met and exceeded those expectations. He acknowledges that she is important beyond the normal role of a VP because “she is like them.” Campbell Brown now wonders how John McCain is going to be helped. When they are down to quibbling over whether the map is changed or not, you know it was a clear win. David Gergen intones that Palin was “threatening to become an embarrassment” and notes that “she erases that.” But Gergen also observes that Biden was really, really, really good. (Okay, I suppose those who love Senate-speak and don’t mind the weird grin loved it.)

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A Bizarre Moderating Failure

How many minutes in the debate were devoted to the current economic crisis? Ten at most? That is the fault of Gwen Ifill, the moderator, who must be entirely unable to ask any question that hasn’t been asked on “Washington Week In Review.” Even her question about the crisis was framed entirely as a political one, about the debate in Washington. What about asking about easing up mark-t0-market rules? Or the pricing of bad commercial paper? These are the sorts of potential “gotcha” questions whose answers are actually extraordinarily important, as opposed to the inanity of asking about when it would be acceptable to use nuclear weapons. Maybe the least-qualified person on the stage wasn’t Palin, but Ifill…

How many minutes in the debate were devoted to the current economic crisis? Ten at most? That is the fault of Gwen Ifill, the moderator, who must be entirely unable to ask any question that hasn’t been asked on “Washington Week In Review.” Even her question about the crisis was framed entirely as a political one, about the debate in Washington. What about asking about easing up mark-t0-market rules? Or the pricing of bad commercial paper? These are the sorts of potential “gotcha” questions whose answers are actually extraordinarily important, as opposed to the inanity of asking about when it would be acceptable to use nuclear weapons. Maybe the least-qualified person on the stage wasn’t Palin, but Ifill…

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What Does This Mean?

The debate was remarkable — for the stunning upset of expectations and for the excellence of Palin’s performance. But that raises lots of questions. What had they done to her these last few weeks? And how much time and how many votes were lost by what appears now to be a glaring instance of political malpractice? That doesn’t necessarily speak well of the McCain camp, of course. But it does vindicate his original decision to select her and it does breath life into the campaign. It certainly will encourage grouchy conservatives.

The debate was remarkable — for the stunning upset of expectations and for the excellence of Palin’s performance. But that raises lots of questions. What had they done to her these last few weeks? And how much time and how many votes were lost by what appears now to be a glaring instance of political malpractice? That doesn’t necessarily speak well of the McCain camp, of course. But it does vindicate his original decision to select her and it does breath life into the campaign. It certainly will encourage grouchy conservatives.

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Second guessing

I’ve spent the last few days second-guessing my initial reaction to Sarah Palin.  Maybe she really wasn’t up to the challenge, I worried (to myself, unlike some of my fellow conservatives).  But I thought she did very well tonight.   She’s a quick study, and even if she isn’t steeped in the intracacies of policy, she has the right framework and approach to issues: she favors a muscular foreign policy, believes in American exceptionalism,  smaller government and lower taxes, and has faith in the American people.  And she’s an optimist.  Sounds a lot like someone I used to work for, another Western governor who became president and whose intelligence was often derided.  Liberals always underestimated Ronald Reagan, but the people loved him.

I’ve spent the last few days second-guessing my initial reaction to Sarah Palin.  Maybe she really wasn’t up to the challenge, I worried (to myself, unlike some of my fellow conservatives).  But I thought she did very well tonight.   She’s a quick study, and even if she isn’t steeped in the intracacies of policy, she has the right framework and approach to issues: she favors a muscular foreign policy, believes in American exceptionalism,  smaller government and lower taxes, and has faith in the American people.  And she’s an optimist.  Sounds a lot like someone I used to work for, another Western governor who became president and whose intelligence was often derided.  Liberals always underestimated Ronald Reagan, but the people loved him.

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Luntz Predicts

that this debate will shift votes to Palin, based on his focus group of Missouri voters.  Most of the people in the room thought she won the debate hands down.  She was not answering Gwen Ifill’s questions or paying attention to Biden’s sniggers. She was talking to voters like those in Luntz’s focus group.  And if he’s right, she won big.

that this debate will shift votes to Palin, based on his focus group of Missouri voters.  Most of the people in the room thought she won the debate hands down.  She was not answering Gwen Ifill’s questions or paying attention to Biden’s sniggers. She was talking to voters like those in Luntz’s focus group.  And if he’s right, she won big.

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Another Question

The MSM decided that Obama won his debate with McCain because to win, all he had to do was plausibly appear capable of being president, whereas McCain had to turn in a “game-changer” performance. So even though McCain seemed the stronger performer, Obama was credited with the win.

Well, tonight the situation is the reverse. Everyone thought Palin would be a stammering, nonsensical mess and Biden would easily cruise to victory. But nothing of the sort happened. The expectations vs. performance ratio between Palin and Biden was vastly more disproportionate than the same ratio was between Obama and McCain.

So the MSM will declare Palin the unequivocal winner, right?

The MSM decided that Obama won his debate with McCain because to win, all he had to do was plausibly appear capable of being president, whereas McCain had to turn in a “game-changer” performance. So even though McCain seemed the stronger performer, Obama was credited with the win.

Well, tonight the situation is the reverse. Everyone thought Palin would be a stammering, nonsensical mess and Biden would easily cruise to victory. But nothing of the sort happened. The expectations vs. performance ratio between Palin and Biden was vastly more disproportionate than the same ratio was between Obama and McCain.

So the MSM will declare Palin the unequivocal winner, right?

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CNN Vs. FOX

Two focus groups: Luntz’s focus group on Fox in St. Louis has Palin winning 20-4. CNN’s focus group in Ohio has Biden 20-12.

Two focus groups: Luntz’s focus group on Fox in St. Louis has Palin winning 20-4. CNN’s focus group in Ohio has Biden 20-12.

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The Question of the Night

Sarah Palin exceeded expectations tonight — and not by a little bit, but by a mile. At times her presentation was hurried and garbled, but she showed herself to be quick on her feet, charming, and able to speak commandingly on a range of issues. A lot of people thought her performance would be a barely-contained disaster. At this moment such worries seem like a distant memory.

The question now is whether the media will allow Palin’s performance to reach those who did not see the debate themselves, and whether the media will try to convince people who did see the debate that they shouldn’t believe their eyes and ears. I suspect there will be a serious undertaking in this regard, and McCain/Palin’s challenge in the coming days will be to defeat what has become the most outrageous and debilitating obstacle to the Republican ticket in this campaign: the MSM in-the-tank factor.

Sarah Palin exceeded expectations tonight — and not by a little bit, but by a mile. At times her presentation was hurried and garbled, but she showed herself to be quick on her feet, charming, and able to speak commandingly on a range of issues. A lot of people thought her performance would be a barely-contained disaster. At this moment such worries seem like a distant memory.

The question now is whether the media will allow Palin’s performance to reach those who did not see the debate themselves, and whether the media will try to convince people who did see the debate that they shouldn’t believe their eyes and ears. I suspect there will be a serious undertaking in this regard, and McCain/Palin’s challenge in the coming days will be to defeat what has become the most outrageous and debilitating obstacle to the Republican ticket in this campaign: the MSM in-the-tank factor.

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Closing Statements

Palin was utterly fluent and compelling as a statement of conservative values and patriotism. She hit high notes, and left voters with a positive message. Biden went the nitty-gritty route. While not uplifting, he was relentlessly on “middle class” message. And of course everyone is getting knocked down in his world view.

Palin was utterly fluent and compelling as a statement of conservative values and patriotism. She hit high notes, and left voters with a positive message. Biden went the nitty-gritty route. While not uplifting, he was relentlessly on “middle class” message. And of course everyone is getting knocked down in his world view.

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Andrea Mitchell and Gloria Borger…

…on MSNBC and CNN respectively, are annoyed that Sarah Palin didn’t answer Gwen Ifill’s questions like a good little girl. If one needed evidence that Palin did well, this was it.

…on MSNBC and CNN respectively, are annoyed that Sarah Palin didn’t answer Gwen Ifill’s questions like a good little girl. If one needed evidence that Palin did well, this was it.

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CNN

The talking heads are giving by and large positive reviews, though Campbell Brown has pointed out that Palin sounded “out of her depth” on foreign policy.  Gergen says that there is every reason for conservatives to be happy with Palin, but that Biden gave the best debate performance of his life.  I think that’s about right.

The talking heads are giving by and large positive reviews, though Campbell Brown has pointed out that Palin sounded “out of her depth” on foreign policy.  Gergen says that there is every reason for conservatives to be happy with Palin, but that Biden gave the best debate performance of his life.  I think that’s about right.

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What Will Tina Fey Do?

What a disappointment for Saturday Night Live writers! Palin not only avoided gaffes, but held her own, put Biden on the ropes on occasion, and gave voice to ordinary Americans. Her closing statement, with a Reaganesque reference to “our sunset years,” made her very appealing, patriotic, and serious. Biden was well-prepared, but was so intent on getting his “facts” out that he seemed to suck the life out of the evening. His efforts to discredit McCain as just a Bush clone seemed inauthentic. But he knows his stuff and didn’t make any errors. Her performance glowed at times. At other times she seemed to stumble. But by refusing to fall into the traps that Biden and Ifill set for her, she did much more than survive. It was no convention performance, but it may have given more than a handful of people, skeptical of media, worried about the future of the country, a reason to vote for McCain.

What a disappointment for Saturday Night Live writers! Palin not only avoided gaffes, but held her own, put Biden on the ropes on occasion, and gave voice to ordinary Americans. Her closing statement, with a Reaganesque reference to “our sunset years,” made her very appealing, patriotic, and serious. Biden was well-prepared, but was so intent on getting his “facts” out that he seemed to suck the life out of the evening. His efforts to discredit McCain as just a Bush clone seemed inauthentic. But he knows his stuff and didn’t make any errors. Her performance glowed at times. At other times she seemed to stumble. But by refusing to fall into the traps that Biden and Ifill set for her, she did much more than survive. It was no convention performance, but it may have given more than a handful of people, skeptical of media, worried about the future of the country, a reason to vote for McCain.

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