Gov. Sarah Palin, once again, confounded her critics with a strong performance. She did it at the Republican convention, and she did it again last night in her debate with Sen. Joe Biden. She performed with poise and charm. She effectively made the case that Senator Obama would be naïve in foreign policy and harmful to economic growth, and that Senator McCain would be a common-sense reformer. She handled questions about Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran well. She connected domestic-policy arguments to the lives of average voters. Anyone who hoped — or feared — that she would fall flat on her face was proven wrong.
Biden, it must be said, also did well, and Palin was of course not flawless. She let a few hard shots from him, on health care for example, go unanswered. At times she slipped into platitude, as when she repeatedly referred to greed as the cause and regulation as the cure of the financial crisis. On the other hand, her account of the roots of the housing bubble were more sophisticated than Biden’s (she allowed that consumer behavior had played at least a supporting role in the drama).
The response from liberals/reporters on the airwaves after the debate was instructive. They criticized Palin for dodging some questions. Dodge she did, and good for her: Instead of taking Gwen Ifill’s loopy invitation for the candidates to dilate on when we should use nuclear weapons, she talked about rogue regimes and nuclear proliferation.
Paul Begala was among those who said that Palin had helped herself but not McCain. It’s fair enough to observe that the election is, of course, not going to turn on the vice-presidential debate. We expect that a lot of Democrats will be saying that now.