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.