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The Biden versus Palin Debate: Summary Evaluation
The Thursday night debate was won by Democratic candidate Barack Obama's running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, who was crisp, professional, and on-point with virtually all of his answers. Little more needs to be said about his performance: he ignored his debate opponent, GOP candidate John McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Biden clearly understood that attacking Palin would be an exercise in futility: first, she has no record as a national leader, and quibbling about her credentials, claims, and failings as a small-town mayor and then governor could easily have earned him the label of verbal woman-beater; second, the election is about Obama and McCain, not about Sarah Palin, despite some indications during the debate that she believes, as a general motive force of her ego, that it really is all about her. Biden punched right through Palin and hit McCain on everything from the war we are losing in Afghanistan that McCain said two years ago we had won to taxing employer-provided health insurance benefits, a McCain plan that will be as popular as pay toilets in a hospital diarrhea ward.
Without diminishing Biden's performance, Palin did make his work somewhat easier in that she repeatedly used her time to proffer scripted messages, which meant that Biden was already prepared to counter. To Palin's credit, on several occasions after her original script had been shot down, she simply denied that the counter-argument was true. One example of this was when Biden took apart her weak defense of Sen. McCain's vague plans for Afghanistan by noting that military commanders, themselves, had just declared that an Iraq-style surge in Afghanistan would not work; Palin rebutted by brazenly claiming the commanders had not said a troop-level increase would fail. In her rebuttal, she skillfully avoided using the word surge, meaning she was bright enough to know very well that she was doing semantic parsing on a thin ledge below which was a dungeon of morning-after fact check flogging.
As a side note, a continuing frustration I have with both Obama and Biden is their willingness to concede the Bush Administration/mainstream media notion that the "surge" was, indeed, successful. They really need to stop letting this matter go. To the extent that violence in Iraq has been reduced, thereby leading to a significant reduction in the number of American casualties, the greatest contributing factor was not that massive spike in the number of U.S. soldiers committed to Baghdad and other hot spots; it was, in fact, principally the result of the United States paying staggering amounts of money to potential adversaries to stop killing each other and, more importantly, to knock it off with shooting our GIs. Those "Sunni Awakening Councils" and other misfit organizations of bearded men with guns were the beneficiaries of what were literally pallets of money we shipped over there for the expressed purpose of buying their peace.
Now, let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with bribing enemies to be nice (provided, of course, that when we stop paying them, they'll remain nice, something that did not happen when we stopped paying the religious maniacs in Afghanistan once we no longer needed them to kill Soviet occupation troops). What is
wrong is for both Barack Obama and Joe Biden to allow the Bush Administration and its lousy commander, Gen. David Petraeus, to look like military geniuses when all they really did was spend American taxpayer money to bribe unsavory killers.
Moving back to the matter of the debate between Sen. Biden and Gov. Palin, I shall not mince words about the latter. Speaking as a college professor, were Sarah Palin a student of mine, I would have flunked her the second time she completely avoided answering a question put directly to her:
Moderator Gwen Ifill asked Palin to describe the circumstance she considered the "trigger" for the use nuclear weapons, and the frozen-smile governor immediately went on a scripted speech about other countries' alleged nuclear weapons programs.
Palin was asked about her "Achilles heel," and she immediately went into a long-winded advertisement about how great she is, going so far as to let everyone know how very close to genuine, honest-to-goodness trailer trash she is by droppin' her "g" on every present participle like a Country & Western singer cuttin' loose with the good ol' boys.
When asked point-blank whether Iran or Pakistan represents the more significant threat to U.S. interests, Palin twinkle-toed like a ballet dancer wearing helium in her tights.
And, as if to forewarn of her own planned surge of Forrest Gumption, at one point early on, she proudly and defiantly declared that she was not going to let any debate moderatoror anyone else, for that matterdeter her from using the debate forum as she gosh-darned well pleased.
Fortunately for Ms. Palin, she is not my student, so I will have no opportunity other than the Websites of Dark Wraith Publishing in which to issue her a failing grade. It took that woman five small colleges to work her way to a fluff degree for people who cannot cut it in real, hard-core college courses, which are the kind I teach. Palin is the type of student who would have been in my class just long enough to suddenly stand up and blurt out, "Um, this isn't Art Appreciation for Imbeciles 101, is it?"
No, Ms. Palin, this is Hell, otherwise known as preparation for the real world of responsibilities that range from rearing your children properly to being one old man away from the most powerful office on the entire planet.
Although I support neither McCain nor Obama, given that neither candidate is willing to face the depth and scope of the multi-faceted, looming economic crises bearing down on this nation, to the extent that this debate between the dueling seconds mattered at all, it was definitely won by Senator Joe Biden.
Given his opponent, however, that isn't saying much for Mr. Biden.
Given that this race is really between Barack Obama and John McCain, though, regardless of who won, the American people are still faced with the unenviable responsibility for deciding which of two men is best able to deceive voters into believing that we can get our degree in prosperity without making it through Hell, first.
The Dark Wraith will be waiting to hand out the class syllabus for anyone interested in early registration.
You are a veddy bad man, Mr. Wraith. Veddy bad. To make me picture Ms. Palin, her toes just off the floor, twitching. Yes, a veddy bad man, indeed.
Yeah, that's the flavor I got from assessments elsewhere, though now I'm relieved that you backed them up. I don't know what that whole instant scoring system is all about, but it's kinda freaky to me, hearing about how each answer and rebuttal was decided on by Joe Blow and the Mrs.
Sounds like the RNC and McCain will have to bring out the big guns (They already tried the Bigguns.) for the surprise in October.
As I dropped my boys off at school this morning I noticed little groups of moms standing around discussing the debate. They are all enamored with Ms. Palin. I immediately felt ill. Did we watch the same debate? It was nice to visit this morning, DW, and read your debate analysis. Your thoughts mirror my own. For a moment there, I felt as if I was losing my mind.
Of course, I do not know Ms. Palin personally, but I have a theory. She has moved up the political ladder mainly on her looks and charm. But at some point you have to show your smarts. She has come to that point in her life. Unfortunately, there are many voters out there who cannot see beyond the winks and the smiles.
We could look on the bright side of things. According to the Mayans, we'll have disappeared some time in 2012. And should Ms. Palin run for the presidency -- we won't feel a thing. ;-)
Good Morning Dark Wraith:
spot on analysis. as usual. concur on the failing grade. it wasn't even a reaganesque "i paid for this microphone" moment. she just babbled on and on.
it's looking as i peruse the net before heading off to a business meeting (where we are going to sit down with partners and tenants in a commercial property venture and try to figure out how to get out of this fucking economic mess with our asses intact) that while the base voters for either candidate were unmoved, the independants and new voters were very swayed toward obama.
i'm not a cheery sort lately. i've taken some very murderous hits. sometimes, when i look at what has happened to people who invest like i did, conservative and cautious, only to watch the degradation of values accomplished by the flippers, speculators, and loan bundlers, it sometimes makes me feel like a chump. they looked at the rules, disregarded or broke them, and the rest of us are now expected to take our losses with good grace and bail the high flyers out.
were i more into the conspiracy angle of things i would suspect that the taking of property and wealth from smaller, more independant investors was all part of the plan.
i tend to discount thoughts like that. when plain old crooked practices and greedy self-interest will suffice for explanation i try not to look into things like conspiracy.
still, it becomes very hard to argue with such stunning results.
I thought I'd die of the constant fluttery cuteness last night. I had to have a strong smoky martini when she started in about the powers of the vice president.
Good Morning, Dark Wraith:
I agree, Joe Biden was spectacular last night. His responses were crisp and well thought out. He even cited the correct Article of the Constitution when prompted. I must admit that even I had to look up the Vice President's powers with regard to the Senate to see where it appeared. Perhaps I didn't know it off the top of my head because I find the marginal returns to learning the nuances of the Constitution are less than the marginal returns of learning the nuances of, say, the securities laws...
Unfortunately, we are not voting for Joe Biden, and as you said neither presidential candidate is willing to do what is necessary to face this economic crisis. I actually can't believe I wasted a large chunk of time watching this debate. I thought my time was more valuable than that, and my time is not very valuable.
Lawyerkid1 is moving to China to avoid the next administration.
Good morning, Labrys.
Yes, that comment Palin made about the expansive powers of the Vice Presidency made the blood in my veins run a little cold.
I am unclear, however, on her principal motive for holding the belief she doeswith regard to the matter: on the one hand, she might be utterly ignorant of the unconstitutionality of Dick Cheney's position on and actions in the OVP; but, on the other hand, she might have briefly revealed that within her own self she possesses the same power hunger that animates our current Vice President.
I am unsure of which explanation for her perverse opinion of the powers of the Vice President would bode worse.
The Dark Wraith does, of course, wish Cheney had been punished as a deterrent to future misuse of the OVP.
Good morning, LawyerKid1.
Stay here in the United States. The next few years will be pretty interesting, here.
Both China and the U.S. are in for some pretty interesting times. Given that SCOTUS has recently affirmed that the Second Amendment recognizes an individual right as opposed to a group right, we—unlike the Chinese—will have the opportunity to make for a rather more colorful running battle into the darkling future of authoritarianism.
If we so choose, that is.
Not that we will, but as most of you know I'm quite a romantic: Kevin Costner's movie adaptation of the book, The Postman, still brings a tear to my sentimental eye.
Then again, so does Blade Runner.
But that's just me, I suppose.
The Dark Wraith really does have a soft, lovable side, you see.
Good morning, Minstrel Boy.
Allow me to quote from your comment:
were i more into the conspiracy angle of things i would suspect that the taking of property and wealth from smaller, more independent investors was all part of the plan.
i tend to discount thoughts like that. when plain old crooked practices and greedy self-interest will suffice for explanation i try not to look into things like conspiracy.
Here's the thing. The plain old crooked practices and greedy self-interest have a bias in effect (if not application) in favor of wealth and power provided those of wealth and power know how to direct their heavy tools properly. In its most refined form, strategic business operations have the mandate to ensure that the field of long-term positioning is cleared of all but the other large players. I teach this in the theory of oligopoly: the goal in such industries is never to destroy your equals, but rather to pursue a business model in which both you and they price, plan, and position strategically.
To this end, then, tactics are reserved for maintaining the quality and character of the strategic business landscape. This, of necessity, means ensuring the removal of any players of significance that might emerge to disrupt long-term pricing, planning, and positioning. (This was why DeLorean had to be taken out year ago.)
In and of itself, this indicates nothing whatsoever with respect to extremely small players on the strategic battlefield: in general, they are entirely irrelevant.
Unless, that is, their existence in the aggregate begins to constitute a force of its own. Terminologically, one might want to call this a "second-tier" market or something else of the kind; but whatever the name, at a sufficient level of density, activity, and durability, it becomes a player of sufficient note that the strategic landscape of the oligopolists begins to be altered, and this cannot be allowed by the oligopolies, whose strategic pricing, planning, and positioning are wholly dependent upon long-term stabilities of parameters, certainties in projections, and predictabilities in market dynamics. (As a side point, this is why the old CEOs of big oil companies just roll their eyes and grin at talk of "Peak Oil.")
At some point, then, the "small-time" players (having no power individually or even in this or that coalition) become not merely a market force (entirely separate from and only vaguely, if at all, evident to the individuals comprising it), but a market force that must be removed or possibly absorbed if there is anything of true, long-term value.
No conspiracy theory needed, Minstrel Boy, just a little theory of oligopoly, which is nothing but a variation on the theory of statecraft.
The Dark Wraith should probably post this comment as a minor article one of these days.
Wraith, to be sure Joe Biden did well in both mastery of the issues and overall demeanor, and can easily be said to have "won." However, I agree with Patrick Buchanan (a first!) that Republicans everywhere are undoubtedly breathing a sigh of relief. The difference between Sarah Palin 2.0 with Katie Couric and Sarah Palin 3.0 last night was, well, night and day.
One thing that intrigued me was the fairly long one-on-one she and Joe had during the family cluster after the debate -- maybe a minute of what looked like friendly yet intense conversation. Whatever might they have been talking about?
Good afternoon, rm hitchens.
One thing I can tell you is that both Biden and Palin are from American sub-cultures of conversationalism. Biden's from a part of the country where people will talk your ear off, and Palin's from a socio-economic class where someone new you meet is someone you can talk to as a bonding ritual.
Both McCain and Obama are entirely different. Aside from the fact that the two do not like each other at all (and I would say that McCain's dislike of Obama rises to the level of disgusted scorn), neither of them is from one of America's many sub-cultures of hail-and-glad-hand-a-possible-new-friend. Obama is extremely insular and has been for much of his life. This makes him a powerful orator because he can connect with any audience without any need to actually, empathetically hook himself to them: he, like some other powerful rhetoricians, lets his audiences do all the work.
McCain is ritualistically old-school military family: you're in or you're out. If you're out, you're almost less than worth talking to; and when you must talk to your lessers, you do so through the thin veneer of civility that just drips with condescension and disdain. I've met other veterans less connected to family history in the military who are like this: you're either one of them, or you're not, and that applies even to other veterans in a lot of cases.
But, yes, Biden and Palin and their whole families were up on that stage hanging around like it was Old Home Week. It sort of weirded me out a little, thinking about how people from seemingly different worlds and different world views can connect because of similarities that just aren't captured in quick sound bite profiles.
What bothers me even more is that, although I like to chew the fat with almost anyone, I cannot imagine lasting more than ten seconds with either Palin or Biden before wandering away.
Ditto for McCain and Obama.
Unless, of course, they're paying for dinner and dessert.
The Dark Wraith would probably make it through an hour with any of them for a couple of cheeseburgers.
good afternoon dark wraith:
indeed, you make valid points. one of the things that has really amazed me watching the unbridled surging of wall street, agribusiness, and such is that those folks have little or no interest in a "free" market. what they want is monopoly. or at least, as you say, oligopoly where the insiders set the rates. we saw that happen to the airwaves with radio. deregulation was instituted and now we have four, co-operating entities who decide what and what doesn't get played.
even the internet has been tamed harshly. where the oldwest style anarchy used to reign we see napster, iTunes, and the other "pay and play" downloaders buying the same lists from the same four labels and selling them all for the same price.
who's left out? well, let's us see, at 99cents a tune, with little or no overhead, the tunehawkers are cleaning the fuck up, the labels are making more off of that than they did with 78s and 45s, and the public is still at the mercy and tastes of Sony, Warners, ClearChannel, and my personal favorite, Turner.
talking about internet music i used to say "the genie is out of the bottle" now "they beat the fuck outta him and crammed his ass back in."
if a camel is a horse designed by committee, internet commerce is a horse gang raped by committee and told to shut the fuck up.
"Where's yer horse?"
"Died, 'bout 15, 20 miles from here. Man, I shore did love that horse...'til the flys got ta swarmin'..."
I do like your take on the debate, Wraith.
Lots of other good stuff to read here on this thread, too. Thanks, to all.
Good Evening Dark Wraith
(As a side point, this is why the old CEOs of big oil companies just roll their eyes and grin at talk of "Peak Oil.")
Pardon my impudence, but would you care to elucidate further on this statement?
Great analysis, Dark Wraith.
As for myself, I had a good old-fashioned meltdown on Thursday night. A little too much tequila coupled with excessive references to hockey moms and Joe Sixpacks, along with a smattering of "darns" and "you betchas" really took a toll.
Ironically, it was Biden himself who was speaking when I went completely over the edge.
We need to get this damn election over with asap.
As for myself, I had a good old-fashioned meltdown on Thursday night.[SNIP] A little too much tequila coupled with excessive references to hockey moms and Joe Sixpacks, along with a smattering of "darns" and "you betchas" really[/SNIP]Mebbe I shoulda took a toke or three.
Ahhh, that's better.
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