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Knee-Jerk Thoughts on the Debate . . .


. . . and on Palin in particular, whose performance I found less impressive than several others here did.

1.  Palin’s populism lost her the debate over the bailout. She basically acquiesced to Biden’s views of the causes of the financial crisis. I wish Ronald Reagan’s ghost had possessed her and spoken through her for the first twenty minutes. 

2.  Did you hear she’s a maverick? An outsider? That she’s committed to reform? I found all this fine the first time she said it, but soon it became annoying. What annoyed me was not the statements themselves, but her ceaseless repetition of them, coupled with a general failure to engage on particulars. Which is not to say that Biden was a whole lot better, but to me he appeared to have a better command of detail, and offered direct arguments and rebuttals (rather than topic-changing generalizations) more often.

3.  Exception to the above: I thought Palin gave a good, detailed initial answer on health care (though she missed some opportunities in the back-and-forth). Her initial discussion of the surge was also effective, and she did a good job of keeping Biden on the defense throughout the Iraq discussion.

4.  Her closing statement was all platitudes. A lost opportunity. 

5.  Her answers on energy policy weren’t bad, but she ought to have said a) a lot more about nuclear power, and b) a lot more about the inefficiency/impracticability of Biden’s favorite alternative-energy sources.

6.  Notwithstanding these criticisms-and my feeling that, if I knew nothing of the candidates, and had no political commitments, and simply read a transcript of the debate, I would think Biden the more effective debater-I have no very clear impression that Palin lost in a general, PR sense. Nobody keeps flow charts while watching these things. To the extent a debate is about “branding,” about conveying an outlook and expressing a personality, Palin might have done herself a lot of good, particularly among working-class voters who have not been taught to think that her mannerisms, speaking style, and values are indicative of stupidity.

7.  Speaking of which, I think I understand now what drives the Left (and I mean the elite coastal Left) batty about Palin.  It is precisely her personality, its utter lack of the gestures by which one affects sophistication.  She has the kind of blunt, down-home earthiness that one also sees in President Bush, and for which he is also hated. (I say I understand this now because-incredibly-this was my first time hearing or watching Palin on TV.  {I missed the convention speech because I was camping.})

8.  Continuing on the matter of personality: I’m probably the only person on NR’s staff who would write this, but: I like Joe Biden’s style.  He’s a blowhard.  He refers to himself in the third person.  He loves the sound of his own voice.  But there’s an earthy bluntness in him, too. (Compare with Barack Obama, who always talks like the law professor he once was.)  And Biden helps himself by managing not to seem grumpy.  He’s a little bit like the opinionated, happy old drunk sitting on the barstool next to yours.

9.  Why is Joe Biden spending lots of time at Home Depot?

10.  Sarah Palin used “whom” correctly at least once. May editors of all political stripes pause and be grateful for this. And may it weigh against those who will mock her English for containing the pronunciation “nucular.”


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