If the vice presidential debate was a game of expectations then Sarah Palin did well. However, how well she did is based solely on the fact that she did not literally collapse on the floor.
Expectations of Palin were so low that if she just stood there for 90 minutes, recited a stump speech and threw in a couple of “maverick” lines, she would have outdone most people’s assumptions. This is not, however, how we grade vice presidential debates. The sitting senator from Delaware, Joeseph Biden, clearly had a greater grasp of the facts and presidential policy details, which are what Americans are looking for.
For most of the debate, Palin gave general answers to Gwen Ifill’s questions. This was not, as it seemed, entirely Palin’s fault, since Ifill’s questions were lacking in specificity.
In the past, it was specific questions and follow-ups that had stumped Palin. One can only recall the Katie Couric interview when Palin was asked to name a specific Supreme Court ruling other than Roe v. Wade that she disagreed with, and Palin was unable to name any other case. I personally thought she was going to start saying that we need more maps in this country and recite Miss South Carolina’s, “I believe that our, uh, education like such as, uh, South Africa and, uh, the Iraq and everywhere like such as …” speech.
When Ifill did push Palin to answer some of her questions, Palin retorted, “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.”
Oh really? How can Americans know where you stand if you don’t answer questions with any details?
On the other hand, Sen. Biden was crisp with the facts. If need be, he seemed more than capable of taking over the presidency, an opinion shared by most Americans. A CNN poll taken after the debate showed that 87 percent of people believe Biden is qualified to take over the presidency, while only 42 percent believe the same about Palin. When it came to who could deliver change, Biden was once again ahead at 53 percent while Palin registered 42 percent.
Also, remember that Biden is the old guy who is part of the Washington establishment while Palin is the “maverick” who is “going to ruffle some feathers.” Clearly, the American people see through the right-wing talking points. Asked who performed better during the debate, 51 percent of people polled believed that Biden was better than Palin while 36 percent believed the opposite.
It is easy to see why the American people sided with Biden. Palin kept repeating the same old lines about the government being the problem and that the Democrats were looking too much to the past. Excuse me, but didn’t we end up in this economic mess by removing the government from the banking and housing industries?
More government regulation is the solution. If you don’t recognize the mistakes of the past, then you’ll repeat the same mistakes over and over again (such as electing Republicans).
When it came to foreign policy, Palin did not distinguish herself or her running mate from George Bush. All she could say was that she “loves Israel,” even though she’s never been there. In fact, Palin has only been to Canada and Mexico. Biden’s position on Israel mirrored Palin’s, but he at least seemed to know that diplomacy is needed to achieve a two-state solution.
The best line of the night came from Sen. Biden when he was talking about Sen. McCain’s health care policy by calling it the “Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere.” This debate was about substance, not style. McCain cannot be serious when he says that we live in dangerous times and then picks a vice presidential candidate who has such a poor grasp of the issues.
The Clinton-Gore Administration, with its great “peace and prosperity,” brought us the “bridge into the 21st century.” Biden’s quip sums up a McCain-Palin administration quite nicely: They are the “ultimate bridge to nowhere.”
Jaye Estrada is a third-year biology major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filed Under: Opinion