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The Veep Debate -- First Impressions

I'm a morning person, so I watched last night's debate, threw together some notes and thoughts and observations, and then went to bed. I'm going to pull them together now, and then later I'll write a more detailed analysis of things.

First up, I have to say that I saw exactly what I'd hoped I wouldn't see. Palin came across, especially at the beginning, as too nice, too conciliatory, too eager to please and be liked -- in one word, wimpy.

Biden, on the other hand, was level, in control, knowledgeable, sincere, confident, and solid. The problem with that, though, is that Biden is exactly like that in two circumstances -- when he's 100% right on something, and when he's completely talking out of his ass. It's only after you fact-check him that you can determine which it is, and that's almost impossible to do on the fly in a debate.

Palin's line about "talking to the American people" and talking past Biden and Ifill came across as rejecting the whole notion of a debate -- the reason all three of them were there. It could have been a successful strategy, but to me she didn't quite pull it off.

Biden's line about "the ultimate 'bridge to nowhere' was a good bite, but runs the risk of reminding folks that both he and Obama voted for it -- twice.

When Palin got serious -- a little edge to her voice, no smiling, looking straight into the camera, firm, resolute-- she was at her best. She came across as honest and sincere and serious and all too credible.

Biden had a real challenge, keeping his inner bullshitter reined in enough to not let out any flagrantly bogus claims -- and nothing leaped out at me. I'll check in later to see what other folks find that he sneaked under the radar.

When Palin came across as folksy, I didn't buy it. I've lived in small towns, and I live in a very small state, and the folksy speech pattern is dying out except in the movies and on TV. We're getting homogenized in accents. I was once told by a speech therapist I met that I have absolutely no perceivable accent, no regional speech patterns, that I talk almost perfectly like a generic American, and I've lived in New Hampshire my whole life. Maybe Palin really does speak like that in her normal life, but it didn't convince me.

Biden is very carefully toeing the line in not attacking her too strongly, not coming across as condescending or dismissive.

Oh, great. Palin just blew a perfect opportunity. When Biden talked about how Obama had warned about the looming subprime mortgage crisis and how McCain said he was "surprised" by it, she should have come back and said "yes, and then John McCain fought to pass new regulations on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but was blocked by Democrats. What did Obama do besides talk about it?" That would have summed up one of the two key differences between Obama and McCain -- Obama's all talk, McCain actually tries to achieve things.

Gosh, Biden sure does love to hear himself talk, doesn't he?

Palin's using every question to talk about energy policy. It's too transparent -- everyone knows that is one of her strengths, but it doesn't relate to everything. She'll get a chance to talk about energy later, I'm sure.

Whoops, my bad. Ifill just brought up energy policy -- and immediately turned it into a question of whether or not they agree that global warming is entirely a man-made problem, or if they are a heretic and should be burned at the stake. Palin gave a thoughtful, analytical, detailed response -- we've certainly contributed to it, but there are a lot of other factors over which we have no control that have also played a role. Biden, on the other hand, couldn't swear his eternal loyalty to Saint Al Gore and put all the blame on us sinful humans.

Palin has a beautiful smile. And I wish she wasn't using it so much tonight. She's far more convincing when she's somber.

Hey, Biden just said "I've always supported (clean coal). That's a fact." Whoop! Whoop! Bullshit alert! Bullshit alert! I've learned that when Biden asserts something as an absolute fact, he's most likely talking out of his ass. I'll make a point of checking on that one later.

Oh, good grief. Palin says "nuculer." That is one of my biggest pet peeves. I HATE that. HATE HATE HATE it. It's small consolation that the very first major political figure I heard say it was Jimmy Carter, a genuine nuculer scientist. It still comes across as ignorant and grates on my ears.

Whoops --- Biden just came out against gay marriage, both on his own behalf and for Barack Obama. Someone put Andrew Sullivan on suicide watch. Watch for numerous gay rights advocates to start saying that they're just saying that for the rubes, that they're really for gay marriage.

And now Biden is unloading his prepared sound bite for the evening -- the "I haven't heard how McCain would be different from Bush" litany. Watch for that one to be posted all over the left side of the blogosphere.

Hey, did Biden just invent a new ethnic group? "Serbs, Croats, and Bosniacs?" Oh, great, yet ANOTHER group that'll be seeking Equal Opportunity status.

Now the question is about Biden's position on interventionism. In all the list of times Biden has supported the US intervening around the world, she didn't mention one glaring time he opposed it -- the first Iraq war. And when it comes to the current Iraq war, Biden voted for it. How will he spin that?

OK, he's trying the Hillary Clinton defense -- "I voted for us to threaten war, I never expected that Bush would actually take the 'Authorization For The Use Of Military Force' and actually use military force." Sorry, Joe, that one simply doesn't hold water.

Palin, on the other hand, points out that she, as governor of Alaska, has done more to actually do something about Darfur than Biden, as senator has -- and she's absolutely right.

Now Palin's unloaded her prepared sound bite -- "Say it ain't so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again." Again, her folksy speech grates on me. Maybe she really does say things like "doggone it" in real life -- I'm sure SOMEONE does. But to me, it was a bit too transparent -- the "say it ain't so, Joe" line calling back the classic line from the Black Sox scandal, coupled with the all-too-deliberate echoing of Reagan's devastating "there you go again" rebuttal to President Carter in 1980. As the saying goes, "too cute by half."

It was much like the McCain-Obama debate: no clear winner, but no real loser, either.

All in all, I'd have to say that Biden came out slightly ahead in the debate. Palin was nervous at the start, but as it went on she relaxed and grew more confident and improved as it went on. Biden, on the other hand, started out cool and competent and in control, but slowly started reverting to type and started blustering and improvising and asserting facts that just weren't so -- the man's inner bullshitter simply cannot be contained.

I'll give more thoughts after I poke around and see what points others have noted, then reconsider the whole matter. But that's my thoughts, collected on the fly and composed after a few hours' sleep.


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Comments (39)

In reading various blogs an... (Below threshold)

In reading various blogs and reports, I see a common thread.

Biden conveyed a more "presidential" image - while telling some of the biggest whoppers told in a long time.

Personally, I hope that people listen closely to Obama and Biden on the war. Based on what they have said in the debates so far, they will increase the military involvement in the world once they get out of Iraq. Our troops won't be coming home - they will just be heading to a new theater.

Are the liberals who want u... (Below threshold)
just me:

Are the liberals who want us out of Iraq wanting war with the Sudan?

I actually thought Biden seemed grumpy and at times bored.

I say doggone it (but I am not one to do much swearing), although I don't know that I would say it during a debate.

I thought Biden told quite a few whoppers-the clean coal one is one of the worst and the MSM probably won't cover it.

He said Obama reached across the aisle and brought Lugar on board to fight nuclear proliferation-when in fact he just joined Lugar's bill that was at one time the Lugar/Nunn bill and from what I have read was pretty much passed in its original form. Obama just added his name to it.

He denied Obama's statement about talking with Iran without preconditions.

And it appears that Bosniak is an acceptable reference, except the Bosnians that live here (and we have a large Bosnian community in our very small town) have never called themselves Bosniaks.

I am confused, what debate ... (Below threshold)

I am confused, what debate did you watch? To think Biden came out ahead is beyond me. I agree there were softballs she should have slammed but the second half of that debate she won hands down.
If you add in the weird smiling, neck scratching and the constant look of just sucking on an ass. Joe did not by any measure win this debate. Let's see Joe has 35 years in the Senate and still could not manage to make her look inexperienced and foolish.

This was about 'style'...<b... (Below threshold)

This was about 'style'...
Biden was clearly more comfortable there... and comfortable enough to lie with a straight face.

Palin was rehearsed. In fact, Palin and Obama remind me of each other in that aspect. Contrast Palin and Obama to McCain and Biden. The latter pair is much more comfortable in the debate setting. The former are more comfortable giving speeches.

It was supposed to be a debate. Palin should have gone after Biden... on several points where he was clearly 'just making shit up'. I think it would have benefited her to come across as more aggressive and less 'folksy' and nice.

Palin was clearly pl... (Below threshold)
dr lava:

Palin was clearly playing to the uniformed voter and the misinformed voter. Palin clearly believes that each vote in the Senate is a singular vote, one issue at a time, no additions, no amendments. Each time she cited one of Obamas votes I saw the smile come to Bidens face because each citation was easily refuted. To the average low information voter this kind of stuff must sound pretty convincing and that is a very sad thing for America.

"No nation is permitted to live in ignorance with impunity."

If you don't know who said that you are a part of the problem.

JT, I love you, but when yo... (Below threshold)

JT, I love you, but when you get your notes together and further post about the debate in detail, I hope you reconsider your analysis.

Biden has spent the better part of two and one half decades in the senate. He has spoken publicly on hte national scene many, many time. Palin comes in and not only holds her own, but in my opinion pointed out clearly why entrenced go along DC politicians are untrustworthy. Everything in McCain/Palin campaign was riding on this debate. I was hoping for her to just hold her own, but she did more then that.

On the folksy attitude, you are from the North East. Come down South to Texas and other states and you will here phrases that have been around for centuries and used everyday. I reckon, over yonder, well looky there, etc. I guess I am saying, buy it. People do still have regional accents and saying. ww

I watched the first few min... (Below threshold)

I watched the first few minutes of the debate and then listened to the rest of the first hour after my internet connection when south. I went to bed after that.

Biden whipped her like a red headed stepchild.

If I were the average uninformed voter, I'd vote for Biden in a minuite.

The reason that I say Biden won is because like Obama, he is extremely smooth. He spouts off statistics and facts effortlessly. The problem is, as Jay pointed out, it doesn't make any difference to him if the facts are true or not. He gave the preception that he knew what he was talking about. And Palin missed some golden opportunities to capitalize on Biden's statements (especially the health plan and judges renegotiating loan principles).

I did see a couple minutes later when the internet connection was working again, and if I'd have seen his gestures and such throughout the debate, I probably wouldn't have though he beat her. He had the "you're out of your league against a genius like me honey" aura about him. Plus my wife said Palin did much better towards the end of the debate.

When the fact checking comes in, I think we'll find that a lot of what Biden says is quite untrue, but the average voter will never hear that.

Just wanted to add, I also ... (Below threshold)

Just wanted to add, I also say "doggone" and "dagnabit", but I don't swear. And, here in rural NC, there are plenty of people that are as folksy as Palin comes across. To me it didn't sound "transparent", but I'm used to speech like that from a lot of people I know.

JayPalin won that ... (Below threshold)


Palin won that debate. She got off to a slow start, but by the end she was just killing Biden and Joe knew it. You could see him getting angry.

I can't provide a point by point yet, but I was left with the clear impression that Palin connected with voters and and came across as better.

I think it took Palin more ... (Below threshold)

I think it took Palin more time to form answers than it took Biden. He's been at this game a lot longer, so that is somewhat expected. I disliked how both of them referred to the principals as John and Barack. If you need to reference the man many times in one answer, I can understand. But Senator McCain and Senator Obama should be the first rule, then John McCain and finally Obama. Maybe being a senators aide in a past career has left a mark on me.
One thing I did not like about Biden... like John Kerry in '04, he huffed and inhaled, loudly and rudely as if exasperated while his opponent spoke. His self control and condescension issues were showing by the end.

You have a problem with her... (Below threshold)

You have a problem with her 'folksy' tone and western accent? LOL. I love it, here in Colorado it is playing genuine. Because, it is genuine. Barry and his Chi-Town gibber and Teddy K with his Bostonian drool are annoying.
You did very well and if you will research the 'errors' that Karl Rove pointed out on the post debate analysis, you could have a few columns.

JT,"Folksy" talk m... (Below threshold)


"Folksy" talk may be fading in the NorthEast, but it's alive and well in a large part of the rest of the world. You may be getting homogenized in NH, but the country doesn't look to NH for leading the way in cultural change or as even an indicator.

If you speak to many Southerner's or mid-Westerners the general view of the NE is as a block--and you suffer from being thrown in with NYC and Boston.

Did we watch the same debat... (Below threshold)
Dan Patterson:

Did we watch the same debate?

Maybe I misunderstood the purpose of the function: Was this a high school tournament scored by old hippies, or was it a televised campaign event intended to reinforce impressions of candidates on the minds of likely voters?

Old hippies are not reliable voters. They make a lot of noise about it, and they smell funny, but the connection to the voter was nicely made by Palin; less so by Biden.

Biden made a horrible but common Marxist remark about changing the terms of home loans, interest and principle, for owners in distress. And Palin missed a GRAND opportunity to call attention to the mess made by the democrat overseers of the mortgage meltdown. Good fodder for campaign ads, though.

We had one Carter administration and we cannot afford another.

Dan Patterson
Arrogant Infidel

Remember that Biden defende... (Below threshold)

Remember that Biden defended income redistribution as a matter of 'fairness'.

So Biden and Obama think that its 'fair' that I be taxed far more after I spend years working hard and making a decent life for myself?

Joe expected to win ... (Below threshold)

Joe expected to win hands down.

And he didn't and he knew it. Watch his body language as the debate progressed. Toward the end, he attempted to steal style points from Palin with the Home Depot remark. One characteristic of Biden is that he tends to go into baloney mode with absolute conviction whenever he cannot dominate a situation. And he clearly did not dominate Palin.

Palin played to the mood of the country.

If she had known and called Biden on all of his made up stuff, she would have been seen as just another debater. It was a good thing she didn't have a clue how much Biden was stretching the truth or just flat making stuff up. She did not allow the debate to get into "No he didn't, yes he did," teenager stuff.

What really impressed me is how far she has come in just a few short weeks. Sarah Palin will lose some of the folksy stuff as time goes on and her natural gift of communication is going to make her a formidable force in the Republican Party in years ahead irrespective of how this election turns out.

Match her with Bobby Jindal's near equal in the arena of communication and the Repubs do have a back bench developing.

Obama is a gifted orator. Palin is a gifted communicator. That is a huge difference and an important one. The subliminal message from Palin is that she is one of us; from Obama, only if you consider yourself as one of the elite. This is an emotional appeal and one I hate when I know it is crafted. This is another essential difference between Obama and Palin; Sarah Palin talks to people from who she is and Obama does so by telling people what they want to hear.

Luntz did one of his deals on Fox. Unless he stacked the deck, Palin won the hearts and minds of many undecideds on style points if not on substance. And much of Joe Biden's substance will prove to be hot air for those who take the time to check it out.

If this were an ordinary election, the McCain/Palin ticket would be out front by near double digits.

"When Palin came across as ... (Below threshold)

"When Palin came across as folksy, I didn't buy it. I've lived in small towns, and I live in a very small state, and the folksy speech pattern is dying out except in the movies and on TV."

She sounds Canadian, unsurprisingly. At least that's how it hits my ears, not 'folksy' or 'small town'.

And I'm pretty sure Palin said both 'nuculer' and 'nuclear'. I dunno, I hear both all the time from people. It's not like someone that always pronounces tomAto, tomAHto or something. And I think we heard "Iraq" pronounced about 14 different ways between the 3 of them last night.

I think anyone declaring a 'winner' or 'loser' in the debate is simply being partisan, there was no debate so there's no way to find a 'winner'. Biden attacked McCain all night, Palin gave a McCain/Palin ticket stump speech. That's all I heard from the two of them. And Ifill's questions were often so garbled that I didn't even know what she had asked, let alone know if they answered them.

I have to agree with cowtip... (Below threshold)

I have to agree with cowtipper and Dan. Jay might have to re-watch the debate again and erase the pre-concieved notions.

McCain's campaign was on the line last night thanks in part to Gibson and Couric's attempt to parse out the weak points of their interviews. The MSM, (including Fox) have ran her Supreme Court "blanked out" moment for three solid days leading up to this debate.

Was the bar lowered by all the media has thrown at Palin over the past three weeks? Certainly. But last night Palin took on a veteran politician and not only held her own, she constantly used Biden's own primary remarks to point out Obama's not qualified to lead this nation. And Biden flat out lied numerous times that will come out with the fact-checkers. Palin's "folksy" attitude was a hit with middle America who are sick of Washington's partisan bickering and lack of ability to get the peoples business done. While Palin's address was well rehearsed, she delivered her answers with confidence. Her best was pointing out the surrender policies of Obama and Biden, both who could never use the word "VICTORY" or "SUCCESS" in the war on terrorism. Governor Palin saved McCains candidacy last night----now it's up to McCain to go on the attack in the next debate with a mindset that he takes no prisoners.

The drumbeat of the Left is... (Below threshold)

The drumbeat of the Left is that our country is broken, our families are dysfunctional and we are weak, fragile sheep who can't survive without government management of all aspects of our lives. Just swallow the Liberal magic medicine and all will be better. Remember the Halcyon days of the Clintons? Terrorists were an occasional inconvenience, social engineering was the solution to the country's numerous ills and the Internet was a sure win investment. Did you enjoy that lie(f)? Take the blue pill and Barack Obama will plug you back into the Liberal matrix.

Palin certainly did better ... (Below threshold)
rick kennerly:

Palin certainly did better than I expected, but I found her knowledge about half a mile wide but only half an inch deep and was particularly annoyed when she kept dropping back to energy, despite the question. I'll probably get beaten up for this, but I also found her voice tiring and irritating to listen to.

Watched on CNN, where they had the audience meter. Just a couple of observations:

1. Generally women really liked Biden, a lot
2. any phrase containing "Maverick" tanked every time
3. Biden floated the meter higher and longer on almost every question
4. Discontent with the war, given everything else going on, was particularly strong.

Wish I had the streaming data sets for the debate for each question. It would be fun to mine for actual numbers, particularly if they were actually keeping by individual.

And the best part of it all... (Below threshold)

And the best part of it all is Biden looks so old and tired next to Palin.

I also think it is amusing that everyone on both sides said this is a make or break moment for McCains campaign. She made it and then some. The bar was not lowered. The questions were not dumbed down. Only an idiot would think that. I thought they were tough questions and very current. ww

One other point. I think S... (Below threshold)

One other point. I think Sarah Palin handed the liberal national media their lunch last night. If you skipped around the channels last night and this morning, everyone of these hacks are stammering to come up with substantial criticisms of Palin's performance.

The only regret I have is that Palin will never have the opportunity to debate the empty suit himself. She'd probably put Obama where he belongs; back in Chigago as a community organizer.

Caribou Barbie memorized a ... (Below threshold)

Caribou Barbie memorized a bunch of gobbleygook and spouted it like a fourth grader reciting a poem in the front of the class. Words, no sense, no coherence, nothing but words. She had her list of mini-speeches and was going give them in the order she remembered them, regardless of the question or the topic. And never mind the gosh darn mainstream media. You bethca.

wbgone, your guy lost last ... (Below threshold)

wbgone, your guy lost last night and you just can't come back with anything of substance except lame name calling. Are you a teenager? I think you are. ww

Did anyone understand what ... (Below threshold)

Did anyone understand what Palin was talking about when she said
"I'm thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president's policies..."

Does she want to a regular vote? A seat on committees? A job as minority whip?

The constitution seems to me to be fairly clear on what the VP's job is in regard to the Senate.

Rance: "The constitution... (Below threshold)

Rance: "The constitution seems to me to be fairly clear on what the VP's job is in regard to the Senate."

yes, Rance, it IS clear (not just "fairly clear")...and it is now equally clear that Joe Biden doesn't know what it says!

The Constitution makes the Vice President the President of the Senate at ALL TIMES. The only time the Vice President gets to VOTE is when there is a TIE.

When the Veep is NOT in the chamber then a President Pro Tempore is named to temporarily fill the role!

here endeth the lesson

JustrandSo where d... (Below threshold)


So where does the "more authority given to the vice president" part come in???

Too bad old Joe with his 30... (Below threshold)

Too bad old Joe with his 30+ years in the Senate, still doesn't fully understand the role of the Vice President in the Constitution.

You'd think that he'd know the job description by now.

rance, the Vice President i... (Below threshold)

rance, the Vice President in acting in the role of President of the Senate has pretty broad procedural powers...and can use the parliamentary rules to steer debate to some extent. Beyond that, however, is the link between the Executive and Legislative branches that this role establishs. In the past several Veeps HAVE chosen to use this link to stay connected to what is happening. The Executive Branch has NO role in the House of Representatives.

I think wbgonne had his Oba... (Below threshold)

I think wbgonne had his Obama beermuffs on again last night.

She did good. Of course she sounded a little rehearsed. They all do at times. Even McCain and Obama fall back into campaign speech mode sometimes. How can they help it when they recite the same information of their plans a thousand times from out on the campaign. Some facts just don't dress up nice no matter who speaks them.

Both of them came across as what they are. Biden is a tired old washington politician.He is willing to bluff and spread the BS. Listeneing to him talk is like reading what Hooson writes. Biden is trying to fool people into believing he is okay not being the top of the ticket. Like Robin having Batman as a sidekick.

Palin was Palin. She is new and definitely not a product of washington. She is a little light on the foriegn policy,but is obviously a quick learner. She has a greater grasp of the american family and what their concerns are day to day. She comes across as what everyone wishes a poitician would be for once,one of us.

Folksy talk, Jay, or real A... (Below threshold)

Folksy talk, Jay, or real America? Palin is right about Biden when she said he was pointing backwards. And "Bosniacs?" was explained in the open debate thread by a commenter. Bosniacs are actually Muslim Bosnians. I didn't know this either and suggested maybe he used the wrong word because not a lot of people are aware there is such a thing. I hate nuc u lar too, but as long as it's a word in the dictionary. She did terrific and held her own up there. If anyone says otherwise, they are just in denial.

Caribou Barbie mem... (Below threshold)
Caribou Barbie memorized a bunch of gobbleygook and spouted it like a fourth grader reciting a poem in the front of the class.

Heh, and I'll bet you remember those school days like it was just last year. wbgonne, you got nuthin'.

Did anyone else notice the ... (Below threshold)
steve m:

Did anyone else notice the the VEEP for "Change" stated: "Everyone knows Joe Biben, knows I won't change" So there you have it folks, right from the horses mouth, (it least I think it was his mouth): same old crap, same old wrapper. Hope for change? Change for hope? I'm so confused.

LMedusa is right. The probl... (Below threshold)
Frank Davis:

LMedusa is right. The problem with you pol junkies Jay is you get caught up in your own world. Yes, she sounds folksy and says "nucular" but so do a lot of voters. I'm a communications guy and I love her. She resonates with people, while Joe reminds everybody of Senator Blowhard - pompous, blustery, and full of shit. Why don't you take a sabbatical for a while out of the political realm, it will readjust you to reality.

"Watched on CNN,"T... (Below threshold)
Frank Davis:

"Watched on CNN,"

That is your problem right there. I give no credibility to ANY of their "focus groups" or their responses.

I sure saw a different deba... (Below threshold)

I sure saw a different debate than you. Joe lied a lot and Palin got under his skin at times. He also said he was not going to change. Huh? What about hope and change?

I thought Gwen didn't always give either of them time to argue some of the points you said were missed opportunities.

As for Palin being folksy, it was great. Those of us not from the NE relate. I like her accent as it reflects how diverse this country is. We don't all talk the same.

Palin spoke to the undecided voters and Biden spoke to his base. I feel speaking to the undecided folks was a much better strategy.

For me, Palin won the debate.

I watched a different debat... (Below threshold)
La Mano:

I watched a different debate then you. Read Peggy Noonan's column. That's the debate I watched.

JOE BIDEN'S BIGGEST MISTAKE... (Below threshold)


At some point during the debate (and there were opportunities) Senator Biden should have declared: "Yes, we know Governor Palin that you're striving oh so hard to establish yourself as a belligerent badass worthy of being Dick Cheney's heir, all in order to impress the Republican Base. I've even heard comments from your supporters that when Sarah Palin shoots you in the face, she was aiming for it, as if to say Dick Cheney wasn't. How utterly pathetic! Well, governor, for decades I've known Dick Cheney, Dick Cheney's an enemy of mine, and, governor,


"Get that? Got that? Good."

Herman, even Joe Biden has ... (Below threshold)

Herman, even Joe Biden has more sense, and more class than you possess.
Thanks for reminding us that he really does have a ways to go before hitting the bottom.

I was happy to see that t... (Below threshold)

I was happy to see that the candidates were cordial with each other, and Ms. Palin did well.
Sure Mr. Biden told several inaccurate items as facts (convincing if one doesnt verify what was said) and she was nervous at first (who wouldnt be 5 weeks in)? winner? I didnt see a winner.
I was just glad that Ms. Palin did well and Mr. Biden had a good closing. I think they were trying to appeal to the undecided voters.
You think that the Dems now wish they had Mr. Biden as the Pres running mate because of his experience and Obama as the VP?






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