"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality." --Bishop Desmond Tutu

Friday, October 03, 2008

The VP Debate: First Thoughts

I'm posting this before reading anyone else's opinions about the outcome of the debate last night. I don't want to taint my own impressions of the performance of the two VP candidates. That said, the clear and indisputable winner (when measured on an objective scale of competence and command of the facts) was Joe Biden. It was not even close.

Let's lay some foundation here. These two people, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, are asking the American people to elect them to the second highest executive office in the United States, arguable the second highest executive office in the world. Style aside, there should be some minimal expectations we have of these people who are seeking this position. They should be in command of the facts for all the pressing issues of our time: the economy, the wars, energy policy, civil rights, etc. They should be able to speak extemporaneously on these subjects with ease. They should be well spoken and have a curious and vigorous mind. Those are the measures I would use to evaluate the success or failure of someone in the upper eschelon of our political classes. In fact, these measure of success exist in many other realms as well. CEOs, for example, have to be smart people. They have to be well spoken. They need to know the facts. Joe Biden qualifies. Sarah Palin does not.

Palin was successful at delivering the talking points she has been memorizing for the past few weeks. But she did it with such unrecognized self-parody that the line between reality (Palin) and comedy (Tina Fey) blurred even further. Her verbal ticks were numerous (dropping the "g" from every "ing" word, mispronouncing nuclear as "nukular" a la Bush, little catchphrases like "betcha'") and her inability to answer the moderators questions (at one point saying that she wasn't going to answer the questions, she was going to "talk straight to the American people") made her performance far below what should be expected of someone seeking the 2nd highest office in the land.

Her "folksy" style was irritating and her attempts at being ingratiating were annoying. The winking and smirking were insufferable. Talk of hockey-moms and "Joe Six-Pack" might work for the election of a small town mayor, but to the second highest office in the land? It's remarkably disrespectful.

Biden is the consumate professional. He was gracious and well spoken. He was able to articulate (with accuracy) both the McCain record as well as his own and Barack Obama's on all the subjects the moderator raised. His ability to characterize McCain as the Un-Maverick was brilliant.

Overall, Palin's lack of gravitas makes her completely unsuitable for the position of Vice President. The Republicans like to tell us how dangerous our world is, but all they've given us to keep us safe is a born-again beauty queen and a septugenarian with a 1 in 3 chance of seeing his 75th birthday.

1 comment:

Amelia said...

Thank you for this. I can't stand to watch television and get the news filtered through my friends, so I didn't watch the debate.

Oversimplifying what you alluded to, I find it interesting that Palin didn't want to answer questions but preferred to "Talk directly to." to me this sounds like she just wants to get her message out and not hear what the public has to add to the conversation. Shame!