The VP Debate

Joe Biden praises honesty. Sarah Palin praises straight talk. That was worth the price of admission.

I do think Governor Palin passed this one. She was prepped reasonably well, she held her own, she seemed comfortable and confident, and she looked like she had a good night’s sleep last night. I do think she does better with men than with women – for obvious reasons. Content-wise her answers were shallow and unsatisfying, except perhaps on the technical details of who voted for what.  

Joe Biden was his old wicked self. He’s “the devil we know” and there’s something endearing about that. For the first time, though, I recognize some remnants of Catholicism in his personality. He’s a traditional Bad Catholic, or more specifically a Bad East Coast Irish Catholic Politician. He knows how to appeal to Catholic ideals of social justice even if he doesn’t understand them himself. He knows how to work a crowd and rouse the rabble. He knows how to debate, not as one who is passionate about the truth, but as one who wants to convince people who are passionate about the truth. He’s also acquainted with grief and can’t help getting emotional sometimes. He’s Irish: he doesn’t do it for show. In the debate I think he used his family tragedy for political gain and then, for a brief moment, the enormity and transcendance of the past caught up with him.

Sarah Palin passed the test, but did she rescue a faltering campaign? I don’t think so. Unfortunately it is the Obama-Biden ticket that is campaigning on ideas and policies (bad ones), and the McCain-Palin ticket that is campaigning on image and identity. I think even the average American voter, who isn’t too bright, can see the difference between candidates who really want to change things, and candidates who really just want a room in the White House. Their principles are wrong, but at least Obama and Biden are running on principles. McCain-Palin is running on little more than Governor Palin’s substantial charm and good looks, which doesn’t hurt, but isn’t nearly enough. Judging by tonight’s debate, the Republican ticket’s most comprehensible ideas are support for same-sex civil unions, increased federal involvement in education, and expansion of our foreign wars. So far as this campaign is concerned, Governor Palin’s pro-life principles amount to nothing more than Mario Cuomo’s “I’m personally opposed, but …”.

And yet, I’m glad Governor Palin held her own tonight, and for America’s sake I’m glad she’s on the national stage. There is one and only one reason for this: the witness of her family. Five children. A child with Down’s Syndrome. A pregnant teenage daughter who is carrying her child to term. I can’t vote for this ticket, but it’s a powerful image for America at this time.


16 thoughts on “The VP Debate

  1. I don’t have TV stations and am glad I can parasite off of all you guys who actually watch these things. Don’t try to break it gently: What did she say about same-sex civil unions?


  2. Apparently Joe Biden’s Catholic “principles” don’t slow him down too much:

    Biden’s 14 Lies

    Endearing??!! I found NOTHING endearing about Joe Biden. I knew he was lying, and knew that very few Americans would stick around to fact-check after the debate. You remark on Biden’s principles – and Palin’s looks. I find that fascinating, and incredibly frustrating. Obama is such a danger to this nation, and yet even a traditional Catholic such as yourself is impressed with his campaign’s fervor for change – as if change was necessarily a good thing.

    “The disruption of the present organization is the first step toward community organization…. All change means disorganization of the old and organization of the new.”
    –Saul Alinksy, Rules for Radicals


  3. Lydia:

    IFILL: Governor, would you support expanding that beyond Alaska to the rest of the nation?

    PALIN: Well, not if it goes closer and closer towards redefining the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman. And unfortunately that’s sometimes where those steps lead.

    But I also want to clarify, if there’s any kind of suggestion at all from my answer that I would be anything but tolerant of adults in America choosing their partners, choosing relationships that they deem best for themselves, you know, I am tolerant and I have a very diverse family and group of friends and even within that group you would see some who may not agree with me on this issue, some very dear friends who don’t agree with me on this issue.

    But in that tolerance also, no one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties.

    But I will tell Americans straight up that I don’t support defining marriage as anything but between one man and one woman, and I think through nuances we can go round and round about what that actually means.

    But I’m being as straight up with Americans as I can in my non- support for anything but a traditional definition of marriage.


  4. I agree with most of your assessment, though I’m curious about how, specifically, Biden was appealing to Catholic ideals of social justice.


  5. Anna,

    Joe Biden was not the only one lying. Both of them lied or deliberately distorted the truth. I’m sure your fact-checking revealed that. I feel sorry for her but I can’t vote for the ticket. I will withhold my vote.

    “Joe Biden praises honesty. Sarah Palin praises straight talk.”

    How ironic! The King of Lies praises Honesty and the Queen of Generalities praises Straight Talk.

    We get what we deserve. May the good Lord have mercy on us.


  6. Pingback: Substantial Charm And Good Looks | Steve Skojec

  7. Both of them lied or deliberately distorted the truth.

    I would be interested in seeing an example of Governor Palin’s deliberate distortion of the truth.


  8. No time to reply in detail, but this “fact check” page indicts both candidates pretty thoroughly. The alternative to holding that Palin deliberately distorted the truth is holding that Palin ignorantly distorted the truth. Governor Palin is a bright lady and ignorance is not a plausible argument. Indifference seems to be a kinder explanation, as she obviously received her talking points from others and perhaps did not take the time to check them out. But it’s a fine line between indifference and a positive willingness to deceive for political purposes. I doubt that Palin is unaware – at this point – of the readiness of her handlers to practice deceit.


  9. You hold that Governor Palin either deliberately, ingnorantly, or indifferently distorted the truth, but you hold out no chance that she may have inexpertly distorted the truth, such as misstating the troop numbers by 6,000. It’s amazing to me that Joe Biden gets a kinder eye from you than does Sarah Palin.

    It’s time for me to say goodbye, Jeff. You have a wonderful Catholic blog here, and I wish you and your family every blessing as you make the big decisions of which you’ve spoken recently.


  10. Anna:

    Joe Biden does not get a kinder eye from me than Sarah Palin. You know that very well. The only time I have ever remarked on Biden’s principles is when I called him an “unprincipled snake”. But the fact remains that he is campaigning on principles while McCain and Palin, whatever their personal merits, are running an incoherent campaign of image, identity, and personality.

    Politically, Biden and the Democrats are not even on my radar screen. I have nothing to say about the Democrats other than to remark on their personalities; their ideas and policies are beyond the pale. I’m not disappointed in Joe Biden: he’s not on my side and never has been on my side.

    The Democrats haven’t betrayed us, Anna – the GOP has betrayed us. The Republicans have been my political home for 24 years. Our party used to be about ideas, principles, and values: now it is about power and image and little else. I’m not going to reward that betrayal with a vote or support of any kind. I wish you agreed with me, but I won’t hold it against you if you don’t.

    Leaving the GOP reservation has its benefits, though. I can give credit where credit is due – even if that credit goes to the likes of Joe Biden – without worrying about the Tribe coming down on me like a ton of bricks. There is something about modern politics that corrupts the eye and blinds us to the humanity of the other side. While I have no use for Biden’s ideas or even his character, he is not without personal qualities, and in the midst of all the Palin adulation I thought it ought to be pointed out. I think even Sarah Palin would agree.

    “It’s time for me to say goodbye, Jeff.”

    Anna, I’m sorry to see you go. You were my most prized reader and commenter. God keep you.


  11. There is something about modern politics that corrupts the eye and blinds us to the humanity of the other side.

    Indeed. The voting liturgy is primarily ‘about’ its effects on the congregations. Whatever folks may think of my more particular arguments, I hope more come to realize that elections are more – far, far more – about what they do to the voters than they are about deciding outcomes.


  12. Zippy, I still hope that elections aren’t *primarily* about their effects on voters, but that element does loom increasingly large. You’re certainly right to emphasize the problem. In Sarah Palin’s case (and many others no doubt), it is also about the effects on politicians, to the point where we may not even have a system that is capable of delivering uncorrupted leadership.


  13. Jeff, thank you for your kind words, which are entirely undeserved. I spoke too hastily. I can’t stay away–I would miss coming here too much. Yours is a thinking blog, and I love that. But to help me think more and talk less, I’m putting myself in read-only mode … until after the election. :)


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