VP Debate analysis: Palin hits home run

posted at 7:54 am on October 3, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Normally, I would have written this post last night, but as it turns out, it was almost impossible to do any writing at The Patriot’s event last night at Trocadero’s.  In a way, that turned out to be a blessing, as it got my head out from behind the laptop screen and allowed a greater focus on the debate itself, as well as the crowd of hundreds that came to Trocadero’s to watch it with the Northern Alliance Radio Network.  And I can tell you that the crowd had a great time watching this debate.

VP debates usually feature two people attacking two other people who aren’t on stage.  In this case, we could make that three people.  Joe Biden did a good job in carrying the Democratic talking points last night, attacking both George Bush and John McCain and making the case that they’re one and the same.  Biden actually did a much better job staying on point in this regard than did Barack Obama in his first debate, sticking with it all evening long.  Biden delivered a good performance in the debate, sounding authoritative even while telling whoppers, such as the claim that NATO had driven Hezbollah from Lebanon, a flabbergasting moment from someone whose strength is supposed to be foreign policy.  Overall, though, Biden delivered a competent performance, as he almost always does in debates.

However, that simply wasn’t enough.  Sarah Palin demonstrated both the wisdom of adding her to the ticket and the folly of the McCain campaign’s press bubble for the last four weeks.  Palin was confident, assertive to the point of aggressive, knowledgeable, and open.  She repeatedly went after Biden, which is not usually a tactic seen much in VP debates (candidates usually attack the presidential nominees), and Biden had no answer for Palin.  On foreign policy, she offered good answers, made only a couple of rhetorical stumbles in segues when she wanted to change the subject, and delivered an exceptionally fine performance.

In fact, Palin had an answer ready for the entire Democratic strategy of tying McCain to Bush, exposing it as a tiresome and empty allegation:

PALIN: Say it ain’t so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again. You preferenced your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now doggone it, let’s look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future. …

No, in fact, when we talk about the Bush administration, there’s a time, too, when Americans are going to say, “Enough is enough with your ticket,” on constantly looking backwards, and pointing fingers, and doing the blame game. …

But for a ticket that wants to talk about change and looking into the future, there’s just too much finger-pointing backwards to ever make us believe that that’s where you’re going.

Biden then attempted to bluster his way through a response, using a “past is prologue” excuse, but essentially proving her point.  The Democrats have run their 2004 campaign all over again as the anti-Bush ticket, this time with a less-offputting nominee.  Palin has been the only person in this campaign to effectively make that point.

Moreover, thanks to the media reaction to Palin on the basis of her interviews with Katie Couric and Charles Gibson, expectations had been set rather low.  Biden and the Democrats talked about her experience at debates as a way of raising that bar, but one has to doubt whether Biden really believed she could play on his level.  He seemed flustered at times — at one point tugging on his collar as she attacked him, to the delight of the Trocadero’s crowd.  Even without those low expectations, she beat Biden — and the nation got a look at the real Sarah Palin.

Will this boost McCain’s standing in this race?  I think it will, and I thought that even before I saw the Frank Luntz focus group.  McCain needed this debate victory tonight, and it may restart the Palin phenomenon, just in time for the final stretch of the election.  This time, though, the McCain campaign has to get Palin out in press conferences, interviews, and contact with the people.  She’s sharp, able, and energetic, and she could win this election for McCain if he would just let her.

Update: I want to thank Jazz Shaw for moderating last night’s chat room, and his take on the debate is here.  Bottom line:

Point to Palin for the race from me. The pundits will tear the individual statements apart for weeks, but Governor Palin not only beat expectations, but beat Biden fair and square.

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McCain tried this in the first presidential debate, and Obama did a good job of pointing out the inherent BS of his statement.

Tom_Shipley on October 3, 2008 at 12:33 PM

As usual you are wrong…McCain voted against the timeline, not the funds…check the record, he voted for the funds, and against the timeline. Obama voted against the funds, without the timeline and with the timeline. If you support the troops in a war it is simple. Have two votes, one for support, and then one for the timeline…but Obama voted agaisnt the one without the timeline, he loses.
Show me any evidence from any respectable vet or military organization that does not think McCain is 100% for the military, to think or argue otherwise is foolish.

right2bright on October 3, 2008 at 9:32 PM

I thought Palin was strong! She makes McCain’s arguement for him, he needs to do better for himself. Even Bush did better for McCain than McCain does.

Where Palin can be credible is using Obama’s words against him. Her mannerisms are stronger when she does that.

Where Biden did well, was well mostly making things up and as a father I have to give him credit for talking about raising his children alone.

Sarah could have been more effective here (Since Biden wanted to split Iraq in three Partions) I was extremely happy with her hitting Obama’s quote on “air raiding villages and killing civilians” =)

OriginalPechangas_son on October 3, 2008 at 10:23 PM

Good point right2bright. But, it’s up to McCain to drive home that point. If he wants to be POTUS he needs to ramp up the real John. Get angry!

Mojave Mark on October 3, 2008 at 10:26 PM

She set Joe up and took him down and he didn’t even realize it. When she asked for permission to call him Joe that gave her the opening to use the “Say it ain’t so Joe” line. All she did was wait for an opening and he gave it to her, she walked him back on his heels. What else did she have up her sleeves?

His statement about Hamas and the West Bank, was a total gimme that she just let it slide. It wasn’t because of any geopolitical ignorance on her part. If she is as big a fan of Israel as she says I believe she has more than a clue of who the players in the middle east are and the challenges facing Israel.

Some of Joe’s statements/falsehoods were to far inside baseball for most of the public’s understanding and would’ve taken her off message. But she stated that the pundit’s would be analyzing both debater’s statements and again she was right.

If you ever get a chance watch her gubernatorial debates she more than holds her own.

sanclemman on October 4, 2008 at 1:37 AM

Below, you’ll find a list of 14 “lies” Biden told last night, distributed by the McCain campaign. I’d just note two observations: first, when you tell stories of things that didn’t happen with the frequency of Joe Biden, coupled with his fervent belief of these untrue and inaccurate statements, I don’t think “lie” is the appropriate term. “Hallucinations” seems more accurate, I think. Second, they missed a bunch, so Biden’s list of li- er, hallucinations is well beyond 14.

THE CONSTITUTION: Biden: “Vice President Cheney’s been the most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history. He has — he has — the idea he doesn’t realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that’s the executive — he works in the executive branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.”

As noted by the McCain Camp, Article I of the Constitution does not, in fact, define the role of the Vice President of the United States. It defines the role of the legislative branch, otherwise known as the branch in which Joe Biden has served for the last 36 years.

[A reader writes in noting that Article I does mention the veep at one point — “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.” However, by describing the veep’s role in the legislature, it doesn’t really help Biden’s claim that it “defines the role, that’s the executive, he works in the executive branch.”]

IRAQ-AFGHANISTAN SPENDING: Biden said that the U.S. spends more in Iraq in one month than it has in Afghanistan in six or seven years.

That figure is off by 2000 percent.

‘KICKED HEZBOLLAH OUT OF LEBANON’: Biden: When we kicked — along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said, and Barack said, ‘Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don’t know — if you don’t, Hezbollah will control it.”

Reuters thinks he meant to refer to Syria, but I still don’t think it would be accurate to say the U.S. kicked Syria out of Lebanon. The Lebanese kicked Syria out of Lebanon.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT: Biden’s statement that McCain voted against the Violence Against Women Act is accurate. But as Robert Byers notes, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Morrison, the Court ruled that much of Biden’s law was an unconstitutional power grab by Congress of rights reserved to the states. Nobody voted against the WAWA because they support violence against women; they objected over constiutional concerns that a Supreme Court majority validated.

The McCain camp’s list fourteen lies/hallucinations can be found here.

UPDATE: As I suspected, there are others.

RESTAURANT: “Look, all you have to do is go down Union Street with me in Wilmington or go to Katie’s Restaurant or walk into Home Depot with me where I spend a lot of time and you ask anybody in there whether or not the economic and foreign policy of this administration has made them better off in the last eight years.”

According to this Delaware site, Katie’s Restaurant is no longer in business; locals remember it on Union Street 25 to 30 years ago.

ARMS CONTROL TREATY: Biden: “Number two, with regard to arms control and weapons, nuclear weapons require a nuclear arms control regime. John McCain voted against a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty that every Republican has supported.”

I have no idea where Biden gets this “every Republican has supported” claim, as 49 other Republican senators voted ‘no’ with McCain.

When the roll was finally called on October 13, the resolution to ratify the CTBT (including the six safeguards that Daschle had submitted as an amendment) was defeated by a 51-48 vote with one abstention. (See the voting record.) Forty-four Democrats voted for ratification as did four Republicans: John Chafee (R-RI), James Jeffords (R-VT), Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Arlen Specter (R-PA). Fifty Republican senators and one independent (Robert Smith of New Hampshire) voted against ratification, and Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) voted “present.” The treaty fell 19 votes short of achieving the necessary two-thirds majority necessary for ratification.

WEST BANK ELECTIONS: Biden: President Bush insisted on elections in the West Bank, when I said, and others said, and Barack Obama said, ‘Big mistake. Hamas will win. You’ll legitimize them.'”

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler notes that “Obama had been a senator for only a few days when the election took place, but if he made such statements, they did not appear in news reports or transcripts that are contained in the Nexis or Factiva databases.”

PAKISTANI WEAPONS: “Pakistan already has nuclear weapons. Pakistan already has deployed nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s weapons can already hit Israel and the Mediterranean.”

I won’t quite chalk this up as a lie/hallucination, but Biden is on shaky ground here. (See below.) The distance between Israel and Pakistan is 2,085 miles, or 3355 kilometers. The longest-range existing strategic missile in the Pakistani arsenal has a range of 3000 kilometers, but it might have longer range with a lighter payload. (But how much can you lighten a nuclear payload?) They are working on developing longer-range missiles; maybe Biden knows of some development that public sources do not yet know about. Theoretically, the Pakistanis could put the weapon on a boat and then sail it to the target, but by that standard, any site on a coast in the world is within their range.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This site indicates that the top range of Pakistani missile that can carry a nuclear warhead is 1000 miles. By being off by 1,000 or so, I’m now upgrading this to full lie/error/hallucination status.

Care to explain this Shipley? How does a guy who has been in Congress for decades, be this stupid?

Keemo on October 4, 2008 at 7:53 AM

Tonight, Sarah Palin drove another stake in the heart of those fuddy-duddy reactionaries that constitute our mainstream media. Going toe-to-toe with a senator with decades of experience, she more than held her own, giving lie to the media constructed narrative that she was an inexperienced hick from nowheresville Alaska. It demonstrates once again why the media is held in such contempt. For economic and ego reasons, they consider themselves to be our gatekeepers, but frankly they are not that smart. They are not rocket scientists – figuratively or literally. They are certainly no smarter than Sarah Palin. I would be willing to bet that in a free debate with Katie Couric, Palin would come out the victor. (Frank Luntz’s focus group saw her winning literally by acclamation over Biden.)

I actually had some sympathy for Joe Biden tonight (who we all know thinks John McCain is better than Obama anyway – he’s said so, as Palin was correct to point out). He was an aging fellow (like me) forced to debate a young and much more charismatic woman who was easily his equal. You could see in his body language that he knew it.

But if McCain-Palin actually pull this one out, it is the MSM that will be the big losers here. They have put heart and soul behind Obama without really knowing him. For shame.

(BTW, was I missing something or did that aspiring author Gwen Ifill give Biden both the first and last words? Is that legal?) (Roger L. Simon)

Keemo on October 4, 2008 at 8:11 AM


Love to hear Shipley explain this one away…

Keemo on October 4, 2008 at 8:26 AM

For those of you who are currently major league bummed out by the MSM polling data:

Daily Kos: Get Out There and Spam Every Poll

Looking around the web this morning, we see a whole lot of silly, meaningless Internet polls asking who won last night’s debate—and in quite a few of them, Joe Biden seems to be doing quite well, even coming out ahead of Sarah Palin.

Curious, isn’t it? Why would Biden be ahead of Palin in so many Internet polls? Were we just imagining that she crushed his hair-plugged head in ways it has never been crushed before?

No. The answer is simple, and it’s the same reason why Ron Paul did so well in online polls while totally failing to reach the general public. The “progressives” and the Kos Kids are going around the web and stacking every poll they can find, in an organized effort to skew the perception of the debate as much as their little blank hearts can manage.

Keemo on October 4, 2008 at 8:30 AM

I like the looks of her handshake. Agressive. I like it. She’s a fireball and we need it.

johnnyU on October 4, 2008 at 10:40 AM

correction. “Aggressive”

johnnyU on October 4, 2008 at 10:41 AM

Sarah Palin won the debate. She didn’t have most technical answers, but she had the most believable answers. Believing what somebody is telling you. Is that not important? I don’t believe Joe Biden. I believe Sarah Palin. And you better hope she remains a little rough around the edges in her interviews. The day she turns into a polished politician like Biden is the day she becomes no longer useful serving this country.

apacalyps on October 4, 2008 at 3:03 PM

Hit it out of the ballpark. Are you talking a little league stadium?

Captain, your a smart guy, what happened here? No one agrees that Palin won ANYTHING during the interview, are you sure you were watching it with the sound up?

Monkei on October 4, 2008 at 6:55 PM

Ok, the Sa’cuda has, by going on offense, prepared the approach for McC. Now, going to guns, as the old fighter pilot he is, he needs to strafe the hell out of all targets in this(his best arena)Town Hall atmosphere.


And thank you Sa’cuda.

Benjamin9 on October 5, 2008 at 4:51 PM