in the tank!

So I get to live blog, I suppose to give my perspective as both a Young Person and as a debate expert. (I have 12-some years of experience with policy debate, as a participant, judge, and coach, most recently affiliated with the University of Massachusetts. See, once upon a time, people payed me to judge debate. I’m like Gwen Ifill. Only, you know, pastier.)

Last Friday, I watched the debate from the comfort of one of my favorite bars, and tonight, I’m at a small gathering of friends at an apartment in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn for extra Young People Cred. We’re eating fondue and drinking lambic (a Belgian beer brewed with fruit). My friend who’s hosting (Olga) just informed all assembled that there is plenty of alcohol, so this could get entertaining.

The pundits are all basically that if Sarah Palin doesn’t fall on her face, it’ll be a success. So, let’s get to it. Get out your bingo cards.

9:00: Blah blah pundits talking. Blah blah Ifill talking. No cheers from the audience which = no fun. The candidates walk out. “Can I call you Joe?” Yikes, Palin talks too much.

9:03: Bailout. Biden says bad economic policies. Excess of deregulation, etc. He brings up Obama’s plan. I can say this: Biden’s a pretty good speaker, but he loses the beauty contest to Palin. Do things like that matter? Palin responds by talking about going to a soccer games. “I betcha you’ll hear some fear.” Her point is basically that the economy sucks. Federal government hasn’t provided oversight. She says McCain is for reform (what?) (my friend Ali points out that he was largely absent during these votes) and she brings up the campaign suspension, like that wasn’t the most blatantly political move ever.

9:07: Biden reminds us that McCain thought the economy was strong 2 weeks ago. Bet McCain’s kicking himself for that now, eh? Palin says that the workforce is great. (My friend Jo says, “That wasn’t the question, bitch.” Also, she said “Maverick.” Drink!

9:09: Subprime mortgages. Demon lenders. Biden looks a little itchy, like he wants to say something while Palin is speaking. “Joe Six Pack, Hockey Moms.” Drink! Twice!! Ali says, “He’s trying to kill her with his brain.” “Don’t live outside our means,” is easy for her to say.

Okay, Joe. It’s interesting to me that he talks about Obama and not about himself so much. I guess we are worried about the presidential candidates, but this is the veep debate. Jo says that when you watch Biden, you can see the cogs in his brain turning. Palin’s dredging up buzz words.

Personal anecdote of a normal guy. Drink!

Taxes quack quack. Olga says, “So are you going to just keep cutting taxes until there’s none?” Biden luckily works out that McCain voted the same way Obama did on the bill Palin sites. It’s a bogus standard. Palin didn’t talk about deregulation. (The room here claps.) McCain supported dereg. Palin goes back to taxes. Admits to not answering the questions. Oh, my God. Biden needs to not laugh, though.

9:15: Ifill asks good questions. Biden: middle class is struggling. People who make under $150,000 a year get a tax break (yay). Fairness, fairness, fairness. (Jo says, “Good, I like you.”) Biden is the first to invoke Reagan.

Did you see the “distribution of wealth” jab that Palin made. And she said “patriotism.” Drink! Not to mention that her woodsy homey approach is getting really annoying.

Ali: “She reminds me of the homecoming queen who’s really annoying. God, is this the library? I thought it was a pep rally.” (It sounds funnier in the valley girl accent.)

So Palin thinks competition = better health care. Whatever. Biden caught the “redistribution of wealth” jab and calls it the nonsense that it is. Biden looks directly at the camera and addresses the people: more money for insurance companies. I can tell you, I work for a small company, I’m among those who would lose my health care when the McCain’s plan is instituted. I didn’t have health care for 8 months of last year. It’s not fun.

“Ultimate bridge to nowhere!” Applause!

9:22: We all agree that Biden at least sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. I think he’s a pretty good speaker. Palin changes the subject to energy plan instead of health care. (The tactic seems to be to change the subject when she’s losing a topic. My friend Alexis says, “That wasn’t the question!” with a lot of exasperation in her voice.)

Alaska! Drink!

Palin thinks she’s an expert on energy. She also wants to drill in ANWR, so whatever.

9:26: Ooh, I’m out of beer.

9:28: Biden is good enough to point out that he and Obama disagreed, but McCain was more delusional. And we were shouting at each other, so I missed a lot of that response.

Palin goes back to energy policy. Talking about not letting Alaska produce oil. Yeah, by drilling in ANWR. And KILLING POLAR BEARS! That’s right, Sarah Palin wants to do in the cute fuzzy animals in the wildlife refuge.

9:31: Climage change! Palin says that climate change is real, but activities of men are not all of the cause. Doesn’t want to argue causes, wants to talk about how we work to change the effects. She wants other nations to work with us (but Bush didn’t sign Kyoto, remember). How does drilling for oil in the US help the problem of oil-drilling countries polluting the environment?

Biden says climate change is man-made. Good times. McCain has voted against alternative energy. Biden advocates exporting clean technologies. And now Palin does the smug smile. Wanna bet she changes the subject?

9:34: Palin brings up the pipeline. Everyone voted against stuff that would help the environment.

She’s for off-shore drilling, says Biden et al called drilling off shore is like raping the environment. Well, yeah. How is supporting off-shore drilling the same as supporting alternative energy.

9:36: Biden is for benefits for same-sex couples. Yay! Says it’s constitutional. Palin doesn’t want to redefine marriage. Palin says she’s tolerant of people choosing partners. (Ali in the valley girl voice: “What? My best friend is gay!”) She doesn’t support defining marriage as anything but one man and one woman. But, alas, Obama/Biden do not support gay marriage. But no civil rights distinction.

And now we all frown and are sad.

9:40: Foreign policy now, suckas. Biden gives a “What? What?” face when Palin says he voted against supporting the troops. She says the plan is to win in Iraq.

Biden says, “I didn’t hear a plan. Obama has a clear plan.” Ha! The only odd man out is John McCain. And McCain voted against funding the troops. We covered this on Friday: the timeline nonsense. (It’s a valid point, though. The vote was against the timeline, not support for the troops.) Biden. “We will end this war. For John McCain there is no end in sight.”

Palin: “Your plan is a white flag of surrender.” Boo. It’s like she didn’t listen. We’re apparently getting closer to victory. She brings up a bunch of stuff that he said about McCain and Obama before he got put on the ticket.

Biden: McCain voted against a bill to fund the troops. He brings up everyone’s sons who are in the war. Drink!

Biden: “God love him, but he’s been dead wrong.”

9:45: Biggest threat. Biden says Pakistan is a bigger threat than nuclear Iran. Pakistan is already armed. And, by the way, bin Laden lives in Afghanistan.

Palin says that the bigger war is in Iraq. Whatevs. The choice was Iran or Pakistan, and she answered Iraq?

Nuke-you-lar! Drink! Stinky corpse! Drink!

And now we go back to the meeting without pre-conditions. Ifill points out the laundry list of people who advocate engagement.

“Our respect for women’s rights.” Aaahh!

9:50: This debate is long. But this wine is really good.

9:51: Biden is appalled that McCain wouldn’t meet with Spain. Ifill moves the debate on over to Israel. Two-state solution is what Palin endorses. Israel is our BFF in the middle-east. (Second Holocaust, she says.) Biden responds by saying Bush admin policy to Israel has been a big fat failure. Hezbollah.

Jo: “I can see Iran from my house!”

Palin is happy that everybody loves Israel. My friend Clarice says, “Wait, did she just say we’re going to ignore the past?”

Maverick! Drink!

Biden: “Past is prologue.” Biden also points out that he hasn’t heard how McCain’s policy will differ from George Bush’s. Obama/Biden will make significant change.

9:56: Nukes. Nuke-you-lar! Drink! Goes back to Afghanistan. Surge in Afghanistan?

Biden: Commanding general in Afghanistan says surge principles won’t work. So Palin acknowledges that there are differences in the two countries. Did she even say anything substantive?

10:01: Does the American public have a stomach for “boots on the ground.” Biden says America likes success. Sites Bosnia. He explains his vote on the war resolution. Also talks about imposing a no-fly zone on Darfur. Biden says he’s been to Chad, so we’re playing the, “I’ve been there so I know more!” game.

“Washington outsider.” Drink! She gets cutesy and says, “Voted for it before you voted against it.”

10:05: Biden puts McCain in the same box as Cheney. Heh.

Alexis: “I believe in the freedom to have wine.” We open a new bottle.

10:08: Biden administration: ends the way, creates jobs. Sadly, I got distracted. But Biden says this is the most important election since the 1930s! Wow.

“What do you expect? A team of mavericks! Of course we disagree!”
Olga: “A team of vomit.”

Wall Street vs. Main Street. Drink!

10:11: Biden spends a lot of time in Home Depot! We want to vote for him so he’ll build us a treehouse.

Palin says, “Dog-gone it!” Drink! Then she changes the subject to education. She winks at her dad in the audience.

Clarice: “How are there shout-outs in a debate?”

I mean, I’m all for education. But, to quote Biden, does she have a plan? Don’t get me started on NCLB.

10:13: Nobody gets the joke.

Biden changes the subject to education briefly to bash NCLB. Which, yeah, duh. But then the question was about the role of the VP. Biden would be encouraged to disagree as VP. Also “Change.” Drink! If you haven’t fallen on the floor yet!

Palin says there’s flexibility in the VP’s office as per the founders. Is that true? (Olga: “Olbermann will tell us if it’s true in about half an hour.” Okay. We’ll come back to that.)

Biden: “Vice President Cheney’s been about the most dangerous president in history.” VP should support the president. Only power VP has is as a vote in the senate in the event of a tie.

10:18: What’s your Achilles heel? Palin lists her fake experience. (That’s a classic interview question. What are your weaknesses? How do you overcome them?) She brings up St. Ronald. Drink! Also, the camera person was apparently laughing, since the camera shakes.

Biden falls into the same trap and talks about his experience. Talks about his first wife and daughter and gravely injured sons. And he gets choked up about his single parenthood. That’s… wow. His answer to the question is that he has weaknesses, so that’s something.

Palin says “maverick.” Clarice: “Do you know what ‘maverick’ means?” She steers wildly off course and starts summing up her position. It’s kind of like the waning minutes of the last rebuttal.

10:23: Biden finally points out that John McCain is no maverick.

10:24: Changing a long-held view. Biden says something about judicial nominees and his decision to oppose Judge Bork. (He has a fast answer, which is good.) Palin talks about voting for budgets she probably should have vetoed. She wanted to cut taxes, but on major things she’s never had to compromise. (This is Bad Interviewing 101. You never say you do everything perfectly.) So. She’s never changed her view on anything. So she’s stubborn, eh? Yeah, that’s who I want “a heartbeat away from the White House.”

10:27: Biden tells a story about Jesse Helms as a way to show he’d change the tone in Washington. He wouldn’t question motives. Palin says to appoint people from a variety of party affiliations.

10:29: Closing statements. Palin feels privileged to answer questions that she didn’t answer and to sum up her opinions like she already has six times. She says she’s from an average middle-class family. “Fight for our freedoms.” Drink! (Fight like back in the day when all men and women were free. What??)

Biden: He’s looking a little tired, but he reiterates that this is the most important election. He gets a little folksy in talking about life back home. Also, his dad used to call him “Champ.”

So! I think Biden hit it out of the park, frankly. And so ends the debate.

16 thoughts on “in the tank!

  1. Hey you kids! Hope none of you plan to drive home.

    Joe, Joe, make her say: WTF is “victory” in Iraq?

    Well, he is tickled by her. I hope he has a good answer for her BS.

    Erin, what are your thoughts on their wildly divergent styles, from an experienced debate perspective?

  2. We live in New York. Who has a car?

    I’d say Biden is doing pretty well. He’s answering the questions more on point, he’s a more articulate speaker. He’s answering with evidence. It’s all pretty good debate strategy. Palin’s debate strategy seems to be, “Look how cute I am!” She keeps changing the subject and not answering questions.

  3. Yeah, Nookular, Eye rak, and Eye ran. Gosh darn it!And they both LOVE Israel……
    I.m gonna barf………………
    Can they pleeeeze come back to America.
    She wants to “surge” in Afghanistan …
    She wants sanctions against NK, sanctions are acts of war.
    The chick is clueless, stupid beyond belief.
    She’s perfect for the next republican president!
    Now she’s a Washington outsider, deja vous, n’est Pas?

  4. #3 I’m with you! She really does seem to do the cutesy thing. I think Biden did great. Palin did better than I thought she would, but not as well as Biden. Obama and Biden have a better vision for the future though and we need their change!

    Those approval lines did seem to favor Biden too.

  5. Maddow on the MSNBC post-game said Palin was folksy in a frenetic, kind of gimmicky way. Excellent summation, IMHO.

    It was pretty clear that Palin came in with a checklist and was darned if she wasn’t going to leave with every single one of those boxes checked, even if it meant suddenly veering from one question to answer the one she had next on her list.

    It was almost like she was filling out her own bingo card!

    I doubt any votes were changed tonight, but Biden did come off more qualified to be President. But most sane people thought that already. But at least now Palin won’t have to resign from the campaign. (Sigh.)

  6. Oh, and BTW, Sarah got the name of the general in Afghanistan wrong, as well as his position on the effectiveness of surge tactics.

    McClellan was the Civil War guy, not the Afghanistan guy. Bzzzz.
    Thanks for playing. Have some lovely parting gifts.

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  8. What I never hear is a serious statement from McCain or his people on why McCain is running for president. All we hear is boilerplate about change and being an outsider which only creates ’tilt’ in my poor brain cells.

    So we have to judge McCain by his record…and his VP choice.

    The debate: Joe Biden was the real thing tonight.

    And Sarah? She was that irritating overly sweet saleslady who sticks her foot in the door trying to sell you something you don’t need. She’s got the script down pat and if you ask her anything not in the script, she just winks and smiles and repeats some of the script until you hand over the five dollars to get rid of her.

    McCain had many capable men and women he could have chosen from. I do not understand his choice.

    In the worst year yet of the American crisis that began in 2003, is this the best the Republicans can offer us? Do they even understand where we are and what their role was in it?

    Work hard. Work very hard to make sure Barack Obama wins.

  9. Palin is preformance, script, caribou barbie, miss wink and smile.
    Cutsey, “betcha” ad nauseum. It was offensive when Biden was speaking and she was smiling in a gotcha sort of way. She really thinks she is qualified, dumb yet cunning, like George Bush.At one point she wandered spouting phrases not sentences.
    Take away the script and you get the Couric clueless interviews.
    It is ashame so many people are taken in by a camera hog.

    Biden was Biden, but verbally restrained. He said what he needed to, hit his points , did not demean her, attack her, directed it all to McCain. He really did restrain himself not pointing out her gaffe etc

    Would someone please tell her that Alaska is not a microcosm of America? We don’t get payments from the state oil rich coffers every year

  10. The longer the so-called debate went on, the more revulsion I felt for McCain. Palin is really beside the point. She was brought on the ticket to serve a purpose.

    Her initial presence boosted his numbers for a while. Now, it would seem, she’s become a liability. In fact, she’s become a figure of ridicule. I don’t know how she feels right now, but I do know that McCain doesn’t give a shit how she feels.

    Palin may be an empty vessel but she’s still a human being.

  11. Just looked a fact check online= Palin lied her butt off

    Can’t wait for SNL, Tina Fey winking and smiling. Couric needs to ask Palin if she will wink and smile at Putin.

  12. Democrats will vote for the Democrat. Republicans will vote for the Republican. That’s how it has always been.
    John McCain and Joe Biden are politicians. They know their numbers, and they know Washington.
    What is different about this election is culture. Where is America going, culturally?
    This is where Barack Obama and Sarah Palin come in.
    Some say race is a factor against Obama, but I say it is the opposite: Obama has been propelled upwards by his skin color. The positive ‘racism’ (Black-Americans supporting him, White-Americans feeling guilty about the legacy of slavery) far outweighs the few remaining pockets of negative racism (traditional bigotry) that still exist in our country.
    Whereas Black-Americans account for 12 percent of America, women number about 51 percent.
    This is where America’s reaction to Sarah Palin gets interesting. It is not only sexism at play, but regionalism too. Keep in mind that America’s reaction could be vastly different from the media’s reaction, which tries to intervene in how America thinks and observes for itself.
    For the last decade, American women have been trying to become either the fifth ‘Manhattanite’ cast member of ‘Sex and the City’ or a ‘Desperate Housewife’ on Wisteria Lane. The White male executives who created, packaged and marketed these female stereotypes have made plenty of money as women across America spent time and money trying to become ‘Carrie Bradshaw’. But somehow, these wanna-be’s never lived it up as glamorously.
    Sarah Palin is all about God, Family, Country and Shot-Guns. She is a completely New American Woman. She was not constructed by a Public Relations agency in either New York City or Los Angeles. She is not a Hollywood creation. Sarah Palin is simply a product of American small-town wholesomeness: happy childhood, hard work, self-discipline and a bright, and almost chirpy, outlook on life.
    Sarah is not the high-maintenance, drama-seeking, bulimia-suffering fragile caricature of a working woman as peddled by TV.
    Her husband, Todd Palin, is not a neurotic metro-sexual obsessing over the price of organic arugula, or whining about his commitment phobias to his shrink. He is a man’s man, and frankly, a woman’s man: just your regular American guy—wholesome and uncomplicated.
    Sarah and Todd are American ‘retro’, but it is retro made cool all over again. They are a brand of Americana that has been tested and true—genuine, confident and mature.
    Something happened to the Obama brand on the way to the election. It is as if the fashion gods decided that “Didn’t you know? No one wears Obama after Labour Day.”
    Once exotic and different, the Obama brand has been turned into something weird and creepy. “Obama’s Witnesses,” “Obama’s Blue-Shirts,” “The Obama Youth Fraternity League”…Plus, after the initial swooning over him, most people still think that there’s something “off” about Obama; as if he’s hollow, or hiding something.
    Today, the Obama brand has become decidedly “uncool”. That’s why people tuned out from watching him debate McCain.
    On the other hand, Americans are discovering that they are intrigued by Sarah Palin. The TV pundits may want to spin things their way, but the surest measure of who won the Vice-Presidential Debate is that, at the end, the vast majority of viewers walked away from their TV sets and said to themselves, “I’d like to see more of Sarah Palin—unfiltered and uncut.”
    The Obama camp may be celebrating too early. There are still plenty of people out there that haven’t made up their mind, and Obama’s triumphalism may begin to sound like arrogance, and he’s already been accused of that.
    This is indeed a culturally interesting time to be an American.

  13. Sheesh Mike, did ya think she was winking at you? Obama’s the person that has the best chance for leading us into the future, with a brighter outlook than the bush=mccain ticket. I don’t want more of the McSame.

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