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Vice-Presidential Debate Impressions

My wife and I watched the entire debate last night and I felt a little bit disappointed. It was like watching a NASCAR race without a crash or a hockey game without a fight. Biden kept his loquaciousness under control and Palin didn’t make any Couric-esque blunders.

I thought Biden came across as very down-to-earth and knowledgeable. He’s obviously familiar with the debate topics and showed his knowledge in a relaxed, straight-forward, and confident manner. He seemed “real,” especially for a politician who’s been around Washington as long as he has. However, he also seems extremely well-educated and intelligent.

Unlike what I’m used to hearing in political interviews, he actually answered the questions instead of dodging them and he responded to Palin’s statements about his record and the record of Obama with relevant counter-points. I think he demonstrated beyond a doubt that he understands the issues and has a clear, defined plan about how to deal with them. I don’t happen to agree with all of them, but he’s clear and specific.

To me, Palin came across as flippant. I get that she was trying to connect with “middle America” and, from some things I’ve read, she seems to do very well at that, but it doesn’t work for me. Her folksy colloquialisms, patronizing smiles, and winks seemed out of place and inappropriate in the setting of a Vice-Presidential debate. Maybe those are good things in a small town like Wasilla, but on the national stage (much less the international one), they make her seem like a cookie-baking trailer-park queen.

With regard to the topics, it really seemed that she stuck to her script no matter if it was relevant to the standing question or not, even going so far as to state that she might not answer the questions in the way that the moderator or Joe Biden wanted her to. As the debate went on, that translated into “not at all” in some cases. Her counter-points were also scripted, as they rarely addressed anything specific that Biden said or any explanations he had given. Biden’s voting for the War Powers act and bringing up Bush’s policies for the last eight years both come to mind. Her constant over-use of the word “maverick” also made me want to scream.

The big polls seem to show that the general population thinks Biden “won” the debate. The expectations for Palin’s performance had been set low enough that it could be said that she won, too, but I don’t think that applies to her knowledge and understanding of the topics. It has to do with her stage presence and showmanship. I think if the initial questions had been followed up with questions testing the depth of understanding, she probably would have failed miserably.

It saddens me that McCain picked her as his running mate.

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