Friday, October 3, 2008

Sarah Lives To Gaffe Another Day

As usual, post-debate bloviating wandered aimlessly through the night with assessments ranging from “she did better than we thought she would,” which is what parents say when their kid doesn’t strike out at a Little League game, to the thoroughly puzzling “America must be surprised.”

As usual, debate viewers are much more decisive, the first round of snap polls giving the debate to Joe Biden by sizable margins.

CNN's sampling said Biden took the clash by 51% to 36%, basically a trouncing.

And here’s the revealing number from CNN. While 84% said Palin did better than expected – well, the bar was set awfully low – she still doesn’t clear a basic hurdle: Watching the would-be vice president for 90 minutes left only 46% saying she’s qualified to be president, up a mere four points from before the debate. And a clear majority, 53%, continue to say she is not qualified for the job.

Meanwhile, CBS’ polling of 473 uncommitted debate-watchers found that 46% gave the evening to Biden, 21% say Palin won, and 33% say it was a tie. Splitting the tie votes between the two, 62.5% said Biden came out on top while fewer than half thought Palin took the night.

While both candidates saw their images improve, 98% ended up declaring Biden as “knowledgeable” after the debate, while only 66% saw Palin as knowledgeable. Admittedly, that’s a higher number than what folks thought of her before the debate but the McCain camp can take small comfort from the figure because Biden essentially ran the table of undecideds.

At Campaign Headquarters …

In the Virginia headquarters of the McCain campaign, the post-debate relief is palpable.

“We could have been blown out of the water,” one of my two sources inside the camp tells me this morning. “She didn’t make any horrid mistakes and she did what she had to do: Keep the base support firm.”

What about reaching the undecideds, the independents, the Reagan Democrats? I ask, citing the snap poll tallies from right after the broadcast.

“That’s John’s job,” comes the reply. “All we wanted Sarah to do was keep us close enough to fight another day.”

So, essentially, Palin’s only task last night was to not screw up, not give the base a reason to flee in horror.

I ask about the moment when Palin actually suffers her much-anticipated Couric-like moment that escaped most commentators. Looking square in the camera, Palin actually proclaims the financial crisis “a toxic mess, really, on Main Street that’s affecting Wall Street.” The gaffe comes at about 53-seconds:

“I saw that, too,” he says, adding with relief, “I’m glad not too many people caught it. I’m glad Biden didn’t pounce all over that.”

Some eight hundred miles away in Chicago, one of my sources on Obama’s staff says everyone is happy with Biden’s job, especially after the first half-hour.

“Once Joe decided he had to swat at the gnat, he really came into his own,” is the assessment. “He kept his answers short, he stayed on point, he spoke to the audience in words they understood, and that moment when he choked up mentioning how he felt as his son lay dying in a hospital (after the car accident killed Biden’s wife and daughter and gravely injured his sons) we saw Joe being Joe. America saw it, as well.

“I wonder why she didn’t react act all,” I’m asked. “Didn’t it seem odd that the world’s greatest hockey mom had no reaction to someone fighting back tears when he talks about losing a child? Where were her ‘family values’”?

Explaining The Obvious

People tuning in to the debate were already expressing deep concerns about Palin's understanding of issues and solutions. As a result, Palin's folksiness was far less effective than when she strode the stage in St. Paul six weeks ago to unveil her “ya’ know” and “ya’ betcha” lines. People aren't worried that she "isn't one of us," so her aw-shucks shuffling didn't help last night. On the other hand, people are concerned that she doesn't understand the issues of the day, and she did nothing to reassure them.

Biden jumped on her disjointed mish-mash of foreign policy non-sequiturs and talking points to spell out a clear difference between what the audience was hearing from Palin, and the real world in which Biden and Obama live:

On one front, Palin did not disappoint: She remains a habitual liar, a flip-flopper and someone who has no idea what she’s saying.

In the debate, she espoused strong support for equal benefits for same sex couples. But Palin told the Anchorage Daily News, “I believe spousal benefits are reserved for married citizens on (sic) our Constitution,”

Palin sidestepped Biden’s claim that McCain argued against greater regulation on Wall Street, contributing to the debt crisis. Palin’s claim is that McCain supported the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, which would have created a new government agency to oversee Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other federal housing programs. In fact, the bill would have done nothing to stop the rash of predatory subprime lending that preceded the housing bubble. It only provided oversight for Fannie and Freddie – but it said nothing at all about the companies that issued subprime mortgages. So while Palin brought it up as an example of how McCain is the “re-regulator,” she avoided Biden’s straight rebuttal.

Oh. And Palin called the commander of the NATO force in Afghanistan "McClellan" instead of using his name, General David McKiernan. Maybe she confused McKiernan with George McClellan, an awful Civil War general who was so reluctant to fight the Confederate Army Pres. Lincoln finally fired him. The only thing reassuring about this possibility is it shows Palin remembers something from her time at, what?, five universities in six years.


Anonymous said...


The simple fact of the matter is she is an empty-headed "barbie doll" whose only socially deeming value is her ability to memorize her lines. She cannot answer direct questions because she has no idea of what to say other than "it's god's will" or to be too cute by a quarter and figure that will get her by. She is nothing more than 30% of the entire married white women class in America today.

I have a friend who is a 50-year-old airlines pilot with a 46-year-old wife who has never worked in her life and thinks Sarah Palin walks on water. Why? I asked. "Because," the answer came back, "she won't allow 'the minorities' to take over the country".

There you have it.

No secrets here.

Pete in FL

Anonymous said...

frankly i can't believe that even 46% of people think that she is qualified to be president. what are those people smoking? i want some.

i won't even comment on the debate, other than to say she avoided a few questions entirely, and when she did answer, she delivered 'canned' one-liners that were basically vacuous.

like Charley, i live in Canada and am watching this race from a distance, but god help us all if mccain wins this thing. just the thought of that makes me speechless (and afraid, very afraid).

Anonymous said...

Why does everyone think she was referencing an obscure civil war general she probably is clueless about? I think she was thinking Scott McClellan.

Tim Weaver said...

Now I don’t know if I’d call me a flip-flopper or anything like the John Kerrys of 2004 and the yesteryear who ran in 2004 against George Bush now because you know, really, by golly, I represent some real change and me and my running mate John Mccain are really running mates and we’re Mavericks, both of us, he’s from the Senate and I’m from the governor of Alaska and I just think that calling me a flip-flopper is just not making any sense at all, because I answered every question and I had my little cards out that my kids spilled some peanut butter on but I still think I could read them fine, with the answers and everything because I am ready to be the Vice President if my name should be called by the Americans when they vote for the President in November for the Presidential election.