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The VP Debate: The Read-Only Version

Having just had the surreal experience of watching snippets of the Biden-Palin debate on a BlackBerry while sitting in a car traveling between Nagoyo and Kyoto (don't ask), I thought it worth pointing out, belatedly, how different the vice-presidential debate seems when watched and when read.

I saw the transcript first, before I'd seen those snippets or read much commentary, and I therefore thought Palin had had a disastrous night.

For one, she kept contradicting herself, not least about the role of "government." On the one hand, she declared that "we need to make sure that we demand from the federal government strict oversight of those entities in chage of our investments." A few minutes later, she declared that "government, you know, you're not always the solution. In fact too often you're the problem."

She did the same thing on climate change and carbon emissions, saying that "as governor, I was the first governor to form a climate change sub-cabinet to start dealing with the impacts. We've got to reduce emissions." A few minutes later, she called for drilling: "The chant is 'drill, baby, drill.' And that's what we hear all across this country in our rallies because people are so hungry for those domestic sources of energy to be tapped into."

In the transcript, Palin's "soundbites" stand out because she frequently repeats them, often with colloquial emphasis ("darn right it was the predator lenders…darn right we need tax relief"). Biden, by contrast, seems consistent and intelligent. You don't have to agree with everything he's saying to conclude that he appears to have thought through the issues he's discussing, and has come to the conclusions himself.

When watched, however -- even on a very, very small screen -- Palin is far more convincing. She looks bright and energetic, she speaks with enthusiasm, she sounds confident about what she is saying. Biden, though not awful, is simply less interesting to watch. One tends to forget his answers; one tends to remember hers.

To put it differently: She made better television, he made better arguments. Which is why, I suppose, most commentators are calling this a "draw."

By Anne Applebaum  | October 3, 2008; 8:43 PM ET
Categories:  Applebaum  | Tags:  Anne Applebaum  
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Next: The Town Hall Debate: Teeing Off


Wow, you should go back and re-watch the debate. Leaving aside that Palin didn't actually answer any of the questions posed to her, Biden was the obvious winner.. I have yet to find a single article claiming that Biden didn't win that wasn't from a wingnut or Fox News. How you got that it was a draw is beyond me.

Posted by: napalmgod | October 3, 2008 9:30 PM | Report abuse

yikes!! Please reconsider your response once you review the debate video and transcript. Be a journalist, not a stenographer.

Posted by: brooksie92 | October 3, 2008 9:34 PM | Report abuse

"...traveling between Nagoyo and Kyoto (don't ask)"

Ok... we won't ask - as long as your nothing-to-contribute self stays there.

"She made better television, he made better arguments."

As long as he can lie and get away with it, I guess you could say he made better arguments.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | October 3, 2008 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Biden was presidential; Pailin was jingoistic, winging it, and clearly out of her league.

Posted by: JohnDennis1 | October 3, 2008 9:57 PM | Report abuse

Anne, it is not a contradiction to acknowledge the need to reduce emissions while also acknowledging the immediate need to secure greater domestic oil supplies.

Any OTHER answer is idiotic.

Posted by: jd5024 | October 3, 2008 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Dear Anne:

I watched the debate on CNN, with a live ticker showing the reaction of some undecided voters. They didn't buy Palin's fake folksiness. Maybe from Japan Americans seem stupid. True, you can fool all of us some of the time and some of us all of the time (hi waterfrontproperty!)... But you can't fool all of us for eight years. Biden won, both on content and on connecting better. Every non-partisan poll says so.

Posted by: kalmoth | October 3, 2008 10:04 PM | Report abuse

To put it differently: She made better television, he made better arguments. Which is why, I suppose, most commentators are calling this a "draw."

This is one of the most depressing statements I've ever read, and is one of the best examples of why both print and TV journalism is dying a slow but well deserved death. The simple-mindedness of this analysis defies logic.

These are embarrassing times to be an American who interacts with people beyond our borders. I can no longer explain the simplest things about my country.

Posted by: BwanaDik | October 3, 2008 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Any person with intelligence can see that Palin was horrible. In my life which is long, I have never seen a more dangerous and limited duo than McCain-Palin. She makes Bush look like a genius. Thank goodness they have no chance at winning.
Incompetence is not a qualification for President or VP. She'll be back in Alaska, cooking moose steaks, looking for Putin to rear up and winking at every darn voter up there, you betcha, and old, old, old, angry John can try to figure which of his houses to look for. Mute the Mavericks.

Posted by: tuttlegroup | October 3, 2008 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Gosh darn it, Anne, do you hate our freedom, too? ; )

Posted by: SageThrasher | October 3, 2008 10:50 PM | Report abuse

"She made better television, he made better arguments."

Great. Let's give her a job at Fox and him one in the White House.

She does, after all, have a degree in journalism. And she worked as a sportscaster. She is eminently qualified for a television position.

Vice President? Well, how about we leave that job to those who have been in training for more than "five weeks" (wink and smile).

Posted by: tsawyer_mv | October 3, 2008 10:52 PM | Report abuse

I have to totally disagree with Applebaum's trite comment on Biden. I FORGET PALIN'S shallow ANSWERS. And do remember Biden's.
His answers had substance and hit the mark.

Posted by: ddarker1 | October 3, 2008 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Applebaum,

Did you personally find Plain convincing, or are you just saying that you think "the public" did? If the latter, you might want to take a look at the polls, because the public does not seem to agree.

Posted by: synykyl | October 3, 2008 11:07 PM | Report abuse

I encourage you to compare this transcript with the transcript of the Miss USA finalists answering the "What do you hope for the future?" question. Golly gee... all those freedoms... save the environment... with NO substance or supporting details...

Posted by: jh13 | October 3, 2008 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Sarah Palin is all contradictions. She made the sound bites during the debate.
But on examination, these were are incoherence and contradictions.

One Dick Cheney is enough for Anerica. American dont need another one for four more years.

Posted by: kenny4 | October 3, 2008 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Palin had no substance. Her folksy manner is hugely off-putting, and she completely sidestepped all the issues. She may say she's not of the Washington stock, but she's certainly the same-old, same-old when it comes to being a politician.

Posted by: ceeveg | October 4, 2008 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Was the debate a lesson in "style v. substance"? If we concede that all politicians take "facts" and stretch them to suit the context of what supports their argument, did we learn more about the nuts and bolts of actual policy from one candidate more than the other? Can we be honest enough with ourselves to examine those details [if] they exist in a candidate's position and conclude that it is more important to understand them and acknowledge them whether or not we agree with them so that we may be better informed to communicate to the candidate of our choice what it is we expect from them. We must make the argument from a place of rational logic, not simply one of passion and emotion (no matter how much we think we're justified in our position.) Being leader of the free world demands it.

Posted by: partainmike | October 4, 2008 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Apparently Sarah speaks coherently on her feet; but not sitting down. Maybe a boil?
She's gonna make a great Vice-President Winkie. I didn't notice it in real-time (gotta lay off the Tequilla) but the playbacks were pretty clear. How many winks does it take to screw in a light bulb? Psychological warfare here, folks.
Last comment: I am tired of hearing about General Petraeus from John & Sarah. If he's so damn smart, give it up, and have him running for President.

Posted by: danws | October 4, 2008 12:57 AM | Report abuse

I agree that Palin improved from disastrous to merely horrible, but I can't see why refusing to answer questions put to her, and only sticking to the script she'd memorized was somehow "a draw" to Biden's intelligent, appropriate and wise responses.

Posted by: Cyclopsina | October 4, 2008 1:27 AM | Report abuse

I believe with Palin getting smarter with hardly five weeks of tutoring to debate,why doesnt McCain give her the "change"he's promising by exchanging his Presidency.Maybe she would learn the trade before she completes four years as President!

Posted by: mcvsekhar | October 4, 2008 1:47 AM | Report abuse

What a breathtakingly shallow analysis. Spouting gibberish, as Governor Palin did, with energy, enthusiasm, and confidence, is the hallmark of a moron. As is praising her for it.

Posted by: lydgate | October 4, 2008 2:22 AM | Report abuse

The Talking Heads may be calling it "a draw", but -- judging from all the polls -- the voters certainly aren't:

CNN: Biden by 51-36.

CBS (among previously uncommitted voters): Biden

Posted by: rmoomaw | October 4, 2008 3:24 AM | Report abuse

Hit the wrong button. Let's try again with the actual poll results:

CNN: Biden 51-36.

CBS (among uncommitted voters): Biden 46-21.

Fox News: Biden 61-39.

Inane bright chirpiness, it seems, will only take you so far. Particularly if the voters are in a grim mood to begin with.

Posted by: rmoomaw | October 4, 2008 3:27 AM | Report abuse

Biden was sapient. Sarita was a barking varmit.

Posted by: mnjam | October 4, 2008 3:54 AM | Report abuse

An insightful post, Anne. Palin is all style and no substance. I would have hoped that even on your blackberry you could tell that. Would you have found her credible if she told you that humans and dinosaurs co-existed (as reported in the Alaskan press) and then winked? Even a pretty face, great glasses, and perkiness can't hide the shallowness and ambition within.

Posted by: pjs3 | October 4, 2008 3:55 AM | Report abuse

The McCain-Palin ticket is bad for the Republican Party in the long run. He says one thing at 9 o'clock then the opposite at 11 o'clock and denies he's contradicting himself. She clearly hasn't done much reading, thinking or discussing about major national issues but believes she is clever and perky enough to fool people by delivering memorized talking points in a folksy manner. Neither of them offers much substance when it comes to saying what they will do to make life better for the middle class. What are they going to reform? McCain hates earmarks but they account for something like 2 cents of every federal dollar we spend, if that. It's not going to do much to reduce the federal deficit. And the saddest thing of all is that most pundits are afraid to speak the truth about this for fear the Republicans will accuse them of being biased. Fortunately, most of us average people are not similarly afraid. What's scaring us are McCain and Palin and the Republicans who defend them so blindly and dishonestly. This is not good for the GOP. Not good at all.

Posted by: rightright | October 4, 2008 4:32 AM | Report abuse

McCain and Palin spout crass dishonesty every day of the week, and no one calls them on it.

If you began building an oil rig today, it would be 10 year befor a drop of that oil reached any market anywhere. Their 'Drill Baby Drill' chant is misleading to the point of lying. Newly discovered oil deposits WILL NOT GET US OUT OF THESE HIGH ENERGY PRICES ANYTIME SOON.

Someone please admit, just once, that we don't pay a penny less for oil pumped in the US than we pay for oil brought in from the Mid east. The oil companies put profits before patriotism years and years ago. The oil company lobbiests have blocked every effort to develop alternative fuels, and have conned us into a war for oil by co-opting our White House.

McCain and Palin are owned by lobbiests, who form their campaign staff, and who bring us the McCain/Palin show every day of the week.

Nagoyo and Kyoto is not so distant from the USA that you have any excuse for not noticing.

Posted by: dutchess2 | October 4, 2008 6:59 AM | Report abuse

Head of State

Tuesday, September 30, 2008
McCain and Couric Spar on Gotcha Journalism

COURIC: Over the weekend, Gov. Palin, you said the U.S. should absolutely launch cross-border attacks from Afghanistan into Pakistan to, quote, "stop the terrorists from coming any further in." Now, that's almost the exact position that Barack Obama has taken and that you, Sen. McCain, have criticized as something you do not say out loud. So, Gov. Palin, are you two on the same page on this?

MCCAIN: Now, just a minute, Katie. I have to step in here. That's another example of the media's "gotcha journalism"...

COURIC: But, it was a question from a citizen. How is a citizen asking a candidate a question an example of what you call "gotcha journalism?"

MCCAIN: Because it was hard, Katie.

We don't want Gov. Palin to be asked questions, unless she is prepared for them. When she is prepared, as she will be before the debate, she sounds intelligent, knowledgeable and feisty. But when she has not been prepared, she sounds lost and incoherent.

We can't have people asking her questions before she has had time to be prepared with an answer.

COURIC: But, Sen. McCain, I have to say, you are 72-years old. Actuarial preditions show that if you were to be elected, Gov. Palin would have a 1 in 5 chance of actually becoming President. These are perilous times--unprecedented crises in financial markets, tensions across a wide range of critical foreign policy arenas. Shouldn't we have a Vice President, and a potential President, who actually understands these issues, beyond the preparation necessary for a debate?

Here is her response to a question on the economy, a critical issue, you would agree, Sen. McCain:

COURIC: Why isn't it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries; allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the—it's got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.

COURIC: That answer, Sen. McCain, as noted by Fareed Zakaria, is incoherent.

MCCAIN: Yes. (nodding his head, smiling).

COURIC: Well, isn't it actually important that a potential President actually comprehend issues? That is, beyond debate preparation?

MCCAIN: No, Katie. That's what I mean by "gotcha journalism". It's obvious from these prior interviews that Palin has little to no comprehension of fiscal policy and economics. For heaven's sake, she received a "D" in macroeconomics in college! And, as I've said in the past, I have little understanding of economic issues myself.

No, what's important, Katie, is that she sound like she understands the issues. In the debate. If she is sufficiently prepared, she can give an illusion of understanding the issues--even if she is only giving answers with the prepared and practiced spontaneity and content necessary to give that illusion force.

Given that the bar is set at the lowest standard imaginable, Katie, if she accompanies that performance with sufficient charm, we believe that media will follow, into focusing on the change from that low standard, and on those superficial entertainment values--you know, Katie, (McCain smiles through tight lips and squinting eyes and moves his hands up and down)--"She certainly appears to be more confident tonight; she appears more poised, coherent, humorous"--rather than her readiness to be President from an objective standard. After all, using the more important standard of Presdidential capability, she has already demonstrated that she is unprepared to be President.

So, Katie, we want them to focus on that difference, on her debate preparation, rather than on her actual well-demonstrated Presidential unreadiness. And that's what I mean by "gotcha journalism."

KATIE: But if I understand you correctly, Sen. McCain, you actually believe that it's not important that she understand the issues actually facing the nation...

MCCAIN: Right.(nodding)

COURIC: On which many people's very jobs, health and life will rely at this critical time...


COURIC: And that all that really matters is creating a standard so low that she actually is rewarded for her widely seen and repeatedly demonstrated lack of knowledge and understanding. That we would be using what is essentially a remedial standard for Presidential capability--rather than one of actual capability.

Sen. McCain, you seem to be actually suggesting that we should decide that she is ready for the Presidency, simply because, after preparation, she has improved. Even though just days earlier, time after time, she was unable to give coherent answers on these subjects.

No one can gain Presidential-level understanding in days. And in the office of the Presidency, with its intense crises and unforseeable events, she will not be prepared for each unpredictable day, as she was for the debate.

Yet you expect media to focus on these values, rather than actual readiness to be President. That's what you mean by "gotcha journalism"?

MCCAIN: Exactly. And they will. Katie, I would say to the media: Once again--we "gotcha" to lower the bar. We "gotcha" to set expectations far below those actually required for a President. We "gotcha" to focus on characteristics unrelated to Presidential capability, and to ignore her statements on these issues made only days earlier--as if a few days of debate preparation can erase a glaring and dangerous actual lack of knowledge and preparedness. Yes, indeed--we "gotcha". (smiles).

COURIC: How can you expect the media to fall for that?

MCCAIN: It worked for Bush.

Head of State

Posted by: robthewsoncamb | October 4, 2008 7:15 AM | Report abuse

The governor is a manipulator from the word go. Her feigned folksiness (which you didn't see in her Alaska debates) and her winks and nose crinkles are pathetic attempts to cover up her lack of substance. She's a talking point generator. Charm? Likability? In your dreams. She's as mean as they come. Cross her and you're out the door. When it comes to real empathy, her cupboard is bare. The light's on but nobody's home.

Posted by: bdunn1 | October 4, 2008 7:19 AM | Report abuse

I was thinking the same as you have pointed out... the transcript confirms a train wreck, but the live version was more like a slow derailment. One had to ask, "is this really the answer?"

We all like to believe that in this case substance should always win, though she had some semblance of off-putting style to consider...

For me the moment of the debate was Biden smacking down the idea that she has a monopoly on family issues... she wasn't intellectually flexible enough to even acknowledge and parry away from it... folksy, common sense people know how to relate to people issues.

This is McCain's mess

Posted by: Rickster623 | October 4, 2008 8:25 AM | Report abuse

What's funny is that this echoes the Kennedy-Nixon debate. A lot more people than still didn't have TV, and listened on the radio. Polls show people who watched it on TV gave the debate to JFK. Those who listened on the radio: Nixon's the winner. So if Sarah Palin "won" this debate because of her appearance, there is a precedent for that, and it's not just one that benefited the GOP.

Posted by: tigmet | October 4, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse

It's very comforting to see these comments at a liberal website. It surely means Sarah hit the libs where they live. It's tough when you don't have Katie Couric or Charlie Gibson to carry out a hatchet job.

Posted by: emurphy222000 | October 4, 2008 9:35 AM | Report abuse

The debate wasn't an episode of "American Idol," which would be the only criterion by which Palin even came close to winning. What do we want: to have the world's cutest Vice-President?

Posted by: thrh | October 4, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse


The only problem with your argument is simply that by giving Palin credit for the folksy and colloquial mannerism we are in fact giving in to our worst instincts. Is it Joe-Six-Pack the model of citizenry that America must encourage? Are we really in a such terrible need to promote more drinking? Should we really appeal to the basest instincts of our people or should we encourage a higher and better conduct? By caving in to that kind of populism, Palin is not only being condiscending, but is also contradicting herself displaying a model of conduct and living that does not match her aspoused religious, evangelical, ultra-conservative background... it's just what her political life demonstrates... the contradictions of the bridge to nowhere first supported then recalculated for political motives; the fiscal conservative who, when necessary, knows how to cave in; and it's the same in her personal life: strict religious upbringing ignored when it comes to pre-marital sex, something that her own daughter has repeated with every single sexual encounter. I do not condemn these things and I do not deny these contradictions to any human being. It is afterall an integral part of life itselft. But what I cannot accept is her attempt at manipulating those facts to appeal to a republican party the is totally out of touch with America... whether you define it by the Joe-Six-Pack mantra or not.

Posted by: translator001 | October 4, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Since Palin spent 3 days in MEMORIZING THE McCAIN TALKING POINTS and then spit them out by "rote", like a rapidly fired Gatling gun, it showed us that she put NO THOUGHT into the discourse but only the RECITATION of those talking points. So whether read or seen, the debate showed that we were watching the same "empty vessel" who had earlier been interviewed by the press, but who had now learned a new 'trick'! I'm sorry, but tricks are no longer what Americans WANT OR NEED!

Posted by: emurphy222000 You are so sadly mistaken. No hatchet job was done to Palin - the press asked questions so that we could learn more about Palin. She managed to do a hatchet job on herself because at her age of 44, she should previously have been interested in current and historical affairs in an effort to broaden her personal horizons in life. But she has not been interested in learning; only in 'sliding by in life' on her looks. She better watch out 'cause dog gon it, looks fade with age and what will she have left then?

Posted by: ObamasLady | October 4, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Hey where is Nagoyo?

I know Kyoto is in Japan.

Go Quayle, Go Palin, Go Salieri. We deserve you!

Posted by: salieri | October 4, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Interesting commentary about a "read only" VP debate.

With all the prepping and positioning for these debates (think lobbyists and advertising), no wonder they seem scripted and come off as canned.

One thought: Could we get our hands on the video of the candidates preparing for the debate -- complete with the gaffes, flubs and coaching from their handlers? I think it would be fascinating not to mention both sad and hilarious!

Posted by: Keenobserver | October 4, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Biden could have, but wisely didn't, say "Wait a minute, you just told the moderator that you don't care what the questions are and you are going to tell the people whatever you want them to hear? I agreed to debate you, not listen to a series of 90 second speeches. If you want to do that, schedule one tomorrow and see if you get national TV coverage. I'm here ready to debate, and if you're not, you're not ready to be the Vice President of the United States. get serious or go home to Alaska." now that would have been fun

and that cute Reagan quote at the end about telling our grandkids how we once were free. That was Reagan on the radio, telling his audience what would happen if we gave in to the socialists and adopted Medicare.

Posted by: JoeT1 | October 4, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

In all honesty, Palin side-stepped the questions because she clearly didn't understand what was being asked.

Posted by: pointdumer | October 4, 2008 2:33 PM | Report abuse

From the polls I have seen and other indicators of the public's opinion, this was not seen as a draw. The words you first saw came through the visuals that others first saw.

Posted by: anders1 | October 4, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Excellent observation, Ms. Applebaum.

Some voters, having viewed the debate, will be swayed toward Governor Palin sheerly on the strength her razzle dazzle. They will sit back and chuckle and say "What a gal."

Sometimes I almost slip and say "Stevenson" instead of "Biden" because both Adlai Stevenson and Joe Biden are clean of meaningless bluster and false posturing.

Stevenson lost the Presidential Election in 1952 and 1956. He had a brilliant understanding of the political situation as it was at the time. He was honest by nature; a more keenly intelligent and subtly witty man I have never seen. But, no cute antics.

So if Joe Biden is to be Vice President, Every single one of his people must walk crawl or be dragged to the polls.

Posted by: mycrows | October 4, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

jd5024 -- it is an irreconcilable contradiction to say that it isn't important to understand the cause of global climate change, on the one hand, and to support "cap and trade," on the other hand. What is being capped and traded is CO2 emissions. If humans aren't the cause of climate change, there is no reason to limit C02 emissions.

Note that the pundits, but not the polls, are calling it a draw. The pundits are pretty sure that we're as dumb as Palin thinks we are, you betcha, but golly gee, maybe we saw through her. Wink.

Posted by: jmls1 | October 4, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Poor Palin is just lost. She "survived" because Joe Biden is intelligent, and because our country is to stupid to realize there should be no debate distinction between a male or female candidate. They are want the same job for the same pay.

Not to allow open sparing in a debate because one candidate is a female is the old way. If she can't spar with Biden, or appear on established news shows such as Meet The Press, she does not deserve or have the knowledge or ability to do the job.

For all of you who think she has more experience and knowledge than Obama, let's put them in the ring. She won't live long enough to memorasize enough answers to get by for 10 minutes.

Sorry Senator McCain you made a terrible, reckless mistake picking her as your running mate and you do not deserve our vote.

Posted by: COWENS99 | October 4, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

I watched the debates and was horrified that this woman, so carefully coached that every answer was the virtually the same to every question, is the best the GOP can do. Are there no smart, capable women in the party?

But you're right. Read the transcripts and you'll be scared sh*tless. Without the winks, nose-wrinkles, sparkling eyes, and killer cheekbones, she makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. She's master telemarketer.

It that good enough for America?

Posted by: agolembe | October 4, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

This article points out the central contradiction in the McCain/Palin campaign. He is steadfastly opposed to regulation, but he is being packaged by his running mate as a reformer. Will someone please ask her what it is that he plans to reform? And how his record supports the conclusion that he means it?

Posted by: fmjk | October 4, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

I thought the "debate" is supposed to illuminate us on the position of the candidates and not personal style and presentation. As long as we get stuck with the latter, we are going to get various versions of W, again and again.

If indeed the "debate" is reduced to nothing but talking points and sound bites, why bother having it (or them). Just let the candidates pay for TV ads, at least that will "help" the economy a bit.

Those in the media, will you please stop being so childish, stop focusing on who wins and who loses, and start anaylyzing the answers and the positions of the candidates? Gosh darnit, how else are the voters going to find out. Betcha most of the media will agree that is their JOB.

Posted by: steviana | October 4, 2008 7:54 PM | Report abuse

I wish commentators such as Applebaum tell us what *they* think rather than echo what others are saying. I wish they would see these debates with through their own eyes and not pretend to divine what a typical viewer may be thinking, about whom they don't see to have a very good clue.

My experience is that first impressions stick. So if Applebaum read the transcript that would heavily skew how she would react when watching the debate. And yet she seemingly comes to completely the opposite conclusion -- very strange.

Posted by: news-junkie | October 4, 2008 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Well if you have already, you really need to WATCH the debate. Palin acted like a moron.

Posted by: RMP830 | October 4, 2008 11:39 PM | Report abuse

I understand exactly Ms. Applebaum's point. Even though Palin didn't answer the questions (somehow answering the bankruptcy question with talking about what she did with energy in Alaska), she looked good while she did it. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that she was going to be declared the "winner" of the debate on looks alone. She does pretty well when she's reading from notecards or a prompter - she was a tv sports news announcer, after all.

Remember, lots of people voted for W in 2000 because he seemed like a guy they would want to have a beer with. I can see GOP strategists thinking that worked once before, so try it again with Palin. She's attractive and has enough of a home-spun quality to make her seem like the kind of person "ordinary people" would have over for coffee or would see at the PTA meeting. The problem is that the world has changed quite a bit in 8 years, and many won't fall for it again.

Just a thought: do the "joe sixpacks" of the world actually call themselves "joe sixpack?"

Posted by: TL17 | October 5, 2008 1:39 AM | Report abuse

OMG, Palin is such a great debater. She is 2 hot. I mean like she even quoted Ronnie Reagan who's lines from 30 years ago never get old. She's right we do need to not look back and go forward - because no one is more qualified to handle an S&L crisis like her friend McCain.

I was going to vote Obama but after Biden's fiasco I'm a McCain supporter. I mean Sarah quoted Reagan and Biden didn't even use one quote from my favorite president- Jerome F. Kennedy.

I realize hot middle aged women tend to obsess with six-pack abs so I wish she, you know, wouldn't them make a big deal. I also like how she pretends she'd like to do 150 million uneducated white American males - they'd like to return that favor too.

She IS better live because, you know words for her tend to be obstacles in her road to being a maverick - which is a renegade whorse.

Posted by: Leofwine | October 5, 2008 9:21 AM | Report abuse

It's Nagoya, Japan, not Nagoyo. Please take the time to research the name if the city where you've been!

Posted by: cc1221 | October 5, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

As a foreigner who unfortunately cannot vote (it would be for Obama/Biden - no contest), I am always surprised about how superficial these so-called TV debates are - "she made better tv, he made better arguments" - is this political entertainment? Anyone with an IQ above room temperature should be able to understand the shallowness of Sarah Palin.
The fact that she did not answer the questions and was even proud of it, is a slap in the face of the moderator (who had not her best day either) and a complete disregard of the voter. How come she gets away with this?

Posted by: dschff | October 5, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Are we looking for a vice president (who, as the cliche goes, is a hearbeat away from being the president) who has thought through various social/economic/geopolitical issues over 35 years or one who is good at theatrics in front of the TV camera --theatrics which impress six-pack Joes and hockey moms?

Posted by: AMemberofHumanSociety | October 6, 2008 1:49 AM | Report abuse

You wrote:

:For one, she kept contradicting herself, not least about the role of "government." On the one hand, she declared that "we need to make sure that we demand from the federal government strict oversight of those entities in chage of our investments." A few minutes later, she declared that "government, you know, you're not always the solution. In fact too often you're the problem."

There's nothing inconsistent or contradictory here. If you read Palins's words closely you should have noted that her use of the qualifiers "not always" and "too often" means that there are some instances when government has a valid role.

Posted by: jlar555 | October 6, 2008 1:52 AM | Report abuse

"She made better television.."

Hold on, this is not about entertainment, this is about the fact that the country is going DOWN THE TOILET and after 8 years of a failed administration, which has dug us into a profound hole, we need a president (and vice president) who understand the issues/problems and can help stop the ship from sinking to the bottom. Our country is like the Titanic. When drowning I don't need entertainment!

It really mystifies me that more people are not offended by McCain/Palin. After 8 years of being talked down to/lied to, it's time to raise the bar and send the Mickey Mouse club HOME.

Winking and flirting with the camera (what Mrs. Palin did while spouting gibberish) is not and should not be acceptable in a debate on this level. Why aren't more people as outraged as I am?

Lets stop the madness and elect Obama! Lets restore our dignity!

Posted by: lisadesimone1 | October 6, 2008 8:00 AM | Report abuse

The more information they pump into Sarah Palin, the more she confuses me. My conclusion...she is a very confused person!

Posted by: puredemo | October 6, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

A draw?


She's not getting any points here, Ms. Applebaum. Just because she was all faux-folksy and direct, doesn't mean the vast majority of Americans couldn't tell she was full of sh*t.

Just one example: Joe Biden called her on McCain's proposal to tax employer-paid health insurance premiums. Given an opportunity to respond, she "pivoted" and lied about Obama's tax proposals.

We all saw it. Those who watched the debate critically concluded that Palin had no clue what McCain's health care proposal is, none. Not a sound bite from debate camp, so nothing to say there, also.

As a woman, Ms. Applebaum, I'm surprised you're not furious that Palin isn't being held to a higher standard.

Posted by: dpc2003 | October 6, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse

It’s funny reading in the comments above that the interviews with Gibson and Couric were “hatchet jobs”. What kind of cowardly campaign are McCain and Palin running and are their supporters as big cowards as them? Palin supporters don’t want her to do interviews or answer questions, and they don’t know a thing about her. They call any interview a “hatchet job”, the “gotcha game”, or “gotcha journalism”.

Posted by: miknugget | October 6, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

The media is running so scared now (by allegations from the far right) that they are trying to portray the VP debate as a toss up. Wow. Toss up if you hold Palin to high school debate team standards and Biden to presidential debate standards.

I'm a bit surprised more attention isn't being paid to what I call Palin-speak or Palinese. She has quite a talent in this regard. She says absolutely nothing, yet speaks a lot of words, uttered in any old non-sensical and ungrammatical order, and throws in a few words/phrases that all Americans have to agree with. To our ears, we are confused. It appears she has said something sensical that we agree with, even if basic/simplistic, but part of our brain is going "wtf did she just say?" Then we second guess ourselves and say ok it probably made sense. Or we unconsciously translate her mumbo jumbo into English instantaneously, so we think it somehow made sense. But, when you look at the transcripts of every interview she has given or of her free-flow unscripted talk in the debate, you realize OMG this is utter nonsense with no meaning or substance. It's quite a talent and a rarity. Maybe it is the marque of someone trying to sound smart but entirely unequipped for the task. She uses words improperly, her sentence structure is totally tortured, her verbs don't match up correctly with their subjects, it is just horrific English. She is truly special in this way. I've never seen anything like it.

Posted by: bmorebent | October 6, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

The McSame campaign is just doing what's been very effective in the past: if you just repeat something enough times, the press parrots it and it becomes fact. The debate was a farce - no one besides die-hard neo cons saw it any other way. Biden showed up to the debate to debate but Palin only knows jingoism (and now some new sound bites) and folksy so that's what we got from her. Is anyone with a brain really surprised? The republicans only have one trick this year, distraction, so that's what we're getting. If this election were based on the issues, it wouldn't be close. That McSame has no policies that differ from Bush's (or should I say Chaney's) means that he has to distract us with Palin and hope that a significant segment of the voters cannot tell the difference between style and substance.

Posted by: PhillyRationalist | October 6, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

It was no draw! Biden wiped the floor with her! The prople spoke: CBS Biden 46-21, Fox: Biden 61-39. This is a landslide by any standard and it proves that Americans have the common sense to judge based on the issues and intellect and not winks, make up and hillbilly talk.

Posted by: Bowerguy1 | October 6, 2008 5:41 PM | Report abuse

This was posted earlier:

Anne, it is not a contradiction to acknowledge the need to reduce emissions while also acknowledging the immediate need to secure greater domestic oil supplies.

Any OTHER answer is idiotic.

Huh? I'll explain why that answer is idiotic and contradictory...

Immediate need to drill more...why? It would take YEARS before we got any of that oil. If we use our brains in the interim we might find a better source of energy that's cleaner, thereby lowering emissions.
Face it, many cars just need to be put out of their misery as they spill so much pollution out into the air. For what? To go to work? Well, work is going to be underwater if we let the ice caps melt.

Palin can't make a convincing argument, because she doesn't sound like she's studied the problem. She is a BS artist. Her performance at the VP debates would have gotten her kicked off of any high school debate team.

To the world, PLEASE STOP MAKING EXCUSES FOR DUMB PEOPLE JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE GOOD LOOKING.We all know that if Sarah Palin looked like Harriet Meyers (another person that would have made a better choice of VP pick), nobody would tolerate any kind of second rate claptrap that she could think up on the spot.

Posted by: catweasel3 | October 6, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

I was glad to see this (a couple of days late) because it corresponds to my experience. As I watched the debate, Palin seemed more capable. When you read her answers they are all but unintelligible. But under either circumstance, the public has overwhelmingly seen through the charade and found Biden victorious.

Posted by: Omyobama | October 6, 2008 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Actualy she made terrible television (wink wink nudge nudge, indeed!); the pundits are sweet-talking her because they want a close election. She bombed, totally.

Posted by: EmmanuelWinner | October 7, 2008 12:27 AM | Report abuse

I especially liked that great argument Biden made with absolute dogmatism about the role of the Vice President being clearly laid out in the first article of the constitution. It was so substantive. He said it with such conviction.

Of course, article one describes the legislative branch. So Biden blathered on, making point after point, stating blatant untruths with full certainty. If someone can say anything he wants without retribution, he can be very convincing.

Posted by: betbapt | October 7, 2008 3:19 AM | Report abuse

I especially liked that great argument Biden made with absolute dogmatism about the role of the Vice President being clearly laid out in the first article of the constitution. It was so substantive. He said it with such conviction.

Of course, article one describes the legislative branch. So Biden blathered on, making point after point, stating blatant untruths with full certainty. If someone can say anything he wants without retribution, he can be very convincing.

Posted by: betbapt | October 7, 2008 3:20 AM | Report abuse

Betbapt - Biden "said it with such conviction" because he was on point about the duties of the VP. Check Section 3 of Article 1 for the only constitutional reference to VP duties.

Posted by: sk123 | October 7, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Palin made for "better television." Wait a minute, am I reading ET? It's a shame for this country that entertainment be considered as a measure of success in any debate. Clearly, Homer Simpson stands a chance at the next VP nomination.

Posted by: k_a_s | October 7, 2008 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Speaking as someone currently living quite near it, would it kill you to please properly spell "Nagoya"? It's not as though Japanese is hard to pronounce or spell like English or French.

Posted by: doctorfedora | October 7, 2008 11:51 PM | Report abuse

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