On the first question of the evening, Ifill stated that neither candidate answered what was asked. That was the last time she noted that in spite of the fact that Sarah Palin followed her own agenda and responded to nothing that was asked. I certainly believe that there should be some flexibility in the debate to respond to issues raised and change the scope slightly to clarify positions. However, it was truly mind boggling because Sarah Palin was entirely in another place. In her mind, she was at a campaign rally talking to supporters. Palin came well prepped with a set of talking points and stuck to them like glue. She changed the very topics of the debate so that she could not fail and to make McCain look like the maverick that he really isn’t. How many times did you count the word maverick in her incoherent babble last night? She continued to portray herself as “Joe Six Pack” just like the American middle class, a portrait that some find offensive, by the way. Someone should tell Sarah Palin that not all middle class Americans are beer swilling hockey moms and dads. Someone should also tell her that she is not really a member of the middle class.
The Palins earned $230,000 in 2007, of which $125,000 was Palin’s income as Governor of Alaska. The figures do not include the $17,000 in per diem payments Palin received for 312 nights she spent in her own home since becoming governor, the $43,490 she received to cover travel costs for her family, or the $1,654 each member of the Palin family received in state oil royalties paid to all Alaskans. Census Bureau figures put the median Alaskan income at $64,333 a year, and the median American (non-Alaskan) income at $50,740. The Palin’s estimated net worth is listed at $1.2 million. They own a half million dollar home on a lake with a float plane at the dock and two vacation retreats. I don’t believe that most “middle class” Americans share that fortune. Do you? While this doesn’t come close to the McCain fortune, including 13 cars and 8 homes, the notion that either member of this regime will champion the middle class is hard to swallow.
Palin kept on with the “a change is coming” statement, but she never talked about what change was coming. She never once distinguished McCain-Palin from Bush-Cheney, and that’s because there really is no difference. There were no specifics about policies and plans. There were just broad talking points and she never veered from them. She repeated the same thing over and over. Palin did make one statement that showed how closely aligned Bush-Cheney and McCain-Palin are. Gwen Ifill correctly noted that Palin once stated that she didn’t exactly know what the vice president’s role was, so she asked the candidates how they would handle the role of the vice president if elected:
First came a lame joke, then Palin stated, “…Of course, we know what a vice president does. And that’s not only to preside over the Senate and will take that position very seriously also. I’m thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president’s policies and making sure too that our president understands what our strengths are…”
It is clear that, like her predecessor Dick Cheney, Palin favors expansion of the powers of the executive branch at her whim. She could care less about the Constitution. It is not the role of the Senate to provide blanket support of the president’s policies. It is the role of the Senate (and the House) to represent the American people in Washington, and to provide a voice for those who have no voice. Rather than differentiate the ticket from Bush-Cheney, she aligned the ticket with Bush-Cheney because that is exactly the way our elected representatives have been manipulated since the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Americans be warned. It’s the same old wine in a brand new bottle.
Finally, a comment about the notion that Sarah Palin successfully took her cause directly to the American people. I believe she took her cause successfully to her conservative base and to those who were in a panic over the uncertainty of her performance. There was a style of sorts, but I simply have a hard time seeing Sarah Palin as having “folksy charm.” In fact, I don’t find her charming at all. She winked into the camera more than once, which is obnoxious and condescending. When Biden spoke, there were times when she sometimes snickered and rolled her eyes. She played the “mom” card far too many times in her effort to attract women voters. When Biden finally spoke of the personal pain he suffered after losing his wife and daughter in an accident and then having to take care of two sons by himself, Palin showed not one ounce of empathy and offered no comfort. In fact, she smiled throughout the entire story and then simply went coldly back to her talking points when he was finished. It could be the basis for a new movie: The Stepford Wife Goes to Washington.
While Joe Biden isn’t the most exciting speaker, he is knowledgeable, understands the real issues facing Americans, and can think on his feet. He can respond to statements and challenges without reading canned notes or changing the subject. He has a mind and uses it. He was clearly focused on differentiating Barack Obama from John McCain and his policies. This is the kind of information Americans are looking for after eight years of Republican rule. What Sarah Palin did was successfully stop the bleeding. The McCain camp has no intention of allowing her to be interviewed one-on-one for the next 32 days. Prior to the debate, the McCain camp said she will hold one press conference, but I’m willing to bet that never happens. Now, the focus goes back to Obama and McCain. After watching McCain self destruct over the past several weeks, I don’t think this bodes well for him.