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.)
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?”
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.