The Undercard as the Main Event

Before and After Impressions

Gov. Sarah Palin


Sen. Joseph Biden

The Field House
Washington University
St. Louis, MO

9:00 p.m. Eastern


I don’t envy either of them. On one side there’s Sarah Palin, only a month ago thrust into intense spotlight and unending scrutiny, worried that the success of her ticket and, to a lesser degree, the long-term prosperity of the conservative movement in America relies upon her performance in tonight’s debate before an estimated 52 million viewers. On the other side there’s Joe Biden, walking a tightrope between strength and condescension, worried that his tendency to misspeak could lead to trouble.

Neither of them should worry.

This is a debate. So long as Biden doesn’t call her “sweetheart” or pinch her behind as they walk off stage, he’ll be fine in that regard. Speaking from his [wrongheaded] knowledge on matters of foreign policy and beyond, it may be a difficult balancing act for him to come off as knowledgeable and aggressive without going overboard, but this is a debate with high stakes, and people rightfully expect Palin to hold her own. In terms of his tendency to eat shoe leather, he need not worry, either. Just like when he said his helicopter was “forced down” in Afganistan, or when he said that he was “shot at” in the Green Zone, or when he said that FDR was president of the United States when the stock market crashed in 1929, or when he said that he had top-level meetings with Iranian officials, or when he admitted that he didn’t know we get half of our electricity from coal plants, or when he asked the disabled, wheelchair-bound state senator to “stand up,” if he sticks his foot in his mouth tonight, the mainstream press will just dismiss it as “Joe being Joe.”

Sarah Palin, on the other hand, should come right out and explain that she’s not going to be perfect. Anything out-of-step that she says will be magnified and intensified by the press just as some of her admittedly poor answers to Katie Couric’s questions were. Then, she needs to speak from principle.

I worry that Palin has been over-handled. In those Couric interviews, and to a lesser degree when she sat down with ABC’s Charlie Gibson, she looked stiff. Palin is a woman with clear conservative principles, much more so than the man on the upper half of her ticket, and if she has a chance to relax, to take two seconds before answering each question, she should be able to speak from those principles to make her point as only she can. Palin is charming, she has a sense of normalcy about her that speaks to a great deal of people in this country. Of course, she needs to brush up on the intricasies and ins and outs of foreign policy (it’s pronounced Ah-Ma-Dinner-Jacket), but so long as the McCain camp allows Sarah to be Sarah, I think she’ll do just fine.

It’s natural, I think, to want to meddle. Even today, McCain publicly stated that PBS’s Gwen Ifill might be the wrong choice as moderator, telling the folks at Fox & Friends, “Frankly, I wish they had picked a moderator that isn’t writing a book favorable to Barack Obama — let’s face it. But I have to have confidence that Gwen Ifill will handle this as the professional journalist that she is.”

Truth be told, it is very unfortunate that the moderator of tonight’s debate has a vested interest in the success of Barack Obama. I mean, heck, her book is to be released on or around Inauguration Day, and depending upon who wins in November, it will either be on the display at the front of your local Borders, or on the clearance shelf.

Still, I’m glad that McCain hasn’t attempted to strong-arm her removal — for two reasons: First, Evidence suggests that information about her book and its release date was indeed available at the time the McCain organization signed off on her role as moderator. Secondly, if Ifill was removed, who would replace her? Tom Brokaw? Chris Matthews? All journalists have a bias, some are just better able to be objective when needed. Tim Russert was the gold standard for that. At least with Ifill in the moderator’s chair, America will know that she is biased should she somehow fail to be as objective as she has proven to be in the past.

All in all, it will surely be interesting to watch. I wish I had time to write more, but will hopefully have a chance to do so after all is said and all is done. In the meantime …



So, Sarah Palin is a downhill runner. In my opinion, she seemed understandably nervous at first, and may have even trailed for some of the first 45 minutes of the debate as she struggled to stay on topic, taking questions about the bailout and turning them, repeatedly, to talk of energy policy. Although, knowing that energy policy was not going to come up later, it might not have been a bad idea to work it in where she could. Also, admitting that she wasn’t going to answer Ifill’s questions as asked was an interesting move to say the least, but her talk of personal responsibility rescued her otherwise so-so performance on the economic issue. Reinforcing the idea that we should not live beyond our means was a necessary veiled attack on the excesses of Capitol Hill and undoubtedly a manifestation of her conservative principles.

When she asked to go back to talking about Afghanistan, however, when she said “say ain’t so, Joe” and went after Biden for looking in the past and harping on the Bush administration, it became apparent to me that she was finally gaining her sea legs. She turned out, as I said before, to be a downhill runner, and as the topics proceeded from foreign policy to Washington politics she seemed to do an excellent job relating to the people on the other side of the television.

Biden did a nice job as well, though he looked extremely tired. The format, which did not allow for the candidates to directly address each other, probably saved both from an embarassing moment or two, and definitely allowed for Biden to be aggressive without looking condescending. For me, his attention to detail and numbers was fine and appropriate, but he may have come off as a little too wonkish for Main Street America. I wasn’t taking notes, but a few factual issues came to my attention as being a little mixed-up from Biden — unlike what Biden suggested, John McCain did NOT vote for the tax increase on those making $42,000 and up; unlike what Biden said, Obama DID say that he would sit down with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions; and unlike what he maintains, the vote to authorize action in Iraq was indeed a war resolution. Still, all that aside, Biden did a nice job toeing the line between strength and condescension, and turned out a decent performance.

Furthermore, given previous concern elsewhere, I should say that Gwen Ifill also did a very nice job — I may not buy her book, but she was the consummate professional and certainly did not do or say anything to jeopardize her journalistic credibility.

Overall, it was apparent–especially at the beginning–that Palin was waaaaay over-handled. Toward the end, however, it seemed as though a little bit of Sarah Palin emerged from behind the curtain of overcoaching and overpreparation. There, she did extremely well. Just as I thought John McCain had problems with the economic angle of his first debate with Barack Obama and recovered nicely toward the end, Palin did the same. All in all, she held her own–even including the troubles at the beginning–against a guy who has been in public office since 1972 and who ran for president three times. Others, like Michelle Malkin, are thrilled. I see where they’re coming from, even though my enthusiasm is there, but a little more measured.

Just as I wonder whether the sub-par interviews with Katie Couric were intentionally done to reduce expectations among the superficial independent, I wonder whether her expectations-exceeding performance tonight will be enough to rekindle the waning enthusiasm on the right.

Overall, a Palin win. She held her own, scored some points, and managed to connect with the folks on the other side of the television.



  1. Anonymous says:

    Why, may I ask did this Ifell woman get chosen to do this debate? Doesn’t SHE have ALOT to gain if Obama gets the presidency—She does have a book coming out on inaugeration day for Obama!!!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am confident Governor Palin can hold her own. I recently heard her on Sean Hannity. Granted he was not grilling her, but she was very natural in her responses and sounded more relaxed. Too bad there is such a double standard….Joe Biden can be an ass and an idiot but Gov. Palin is not allowed one (well two) missteps.

  3. John Galt says:

    My second ex-wife is named Sarah and she spells her first name just like Palin spells her first name with the “h” at the end.

    It was alway fun debating with her.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The debate is over and she WON! She connected… She knows what we feel like. She was brilliant and John MCCain was damn smart to pick her.

    Biden (who had 1000 votes) was tiring.

    I’m for McCain/Palin 100%. I trust Palin more than I could ever trust Obama.

  5. Anonymous says:

    and from what I remener of US history, article 1 is about the legislative branch- not the executive

  6. Anonymous says:

    Sarah did a great job ! Love her !

  7. Anonymous says:

    Biden won the coin toss right? shouldnt Palin have closed the show? although speculation may say Ifil did it to allow a democrat to resonate in the end……one can speculate.

  8. Kuanonymous says:

    Biden is to “Washingtonized”. Palin won hands down..

    From the beginning to the end.

    PS, I really enjoy your blog…Thanks.
    I read it everyday.

  9. John Galt says:

    I have read a number of comments on this debate on various websites and I am amazed that no one else has commented that Biden spent 90% of his talking time, talking to Iliff and not the TV audience.

    He also seemed to me to be lying through his teeth on a number of occasions, throwing out numbers like he was some kind of bean counter, which he isn’t.

    I was impressed by Palin looking at me; i.e. the audience in the eye when she talked and not spending most of her time talking to Iliff like Biden did.

    By the end of the debate I had had all of Biden’s left ear and nose profile that I could handle.

    For Biden it was like he spent the whole evening talking to Iliff and only faced the TV audience when he was reminded to.

    My daddy always told me to never trust someone who doesn’t look you in the eye when they talk to you.

    Biden came across as a big time politician who cares nothing about America but only his power in Washington and a big time liar.

    Palin came across as smart and someone who really cares about the American people.

    Biden felt the need to spend the evening talking to Iliff and not the American people watching the debate and that told me loads about Biden and what he really thinks of the American people; i.e, not very much.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I thought Biden showed a stronger presence and won the debate–even though his outright lies are not discussed on the liberal networks. However, Sarah held her own, which was what mattered. She’s my same age, and I am a conservative, and it was only important enough to me that she could show that she could hold her own–I am re-energized again and just love her. She will learn more about how to do televised debates–its an artform that Biden has mastered. Go, Sarah, I love you.
    One of a dozen Seattle Conservatives

  11. Anonymous says:

    What is the comment “superficial independents” mean? Just curious. I have been registered independent for almost 20 year. I assure you I am not offended- just wanting a little insight into your point of view.

    I also thought Gov. Palin did a great job. She was very straight and I think that will be very influencial amoung “undecided’s”.
    I too wish she had been last to speak. Her speech was truly uplifting and would have been a great way to end. Biden was tired by then and ended on a more depressing note.

  12. chris says:

    Hi Jeff
    This is long, don’t expect you to post it, just wanted to share my post with you.

    For the past few days I’ve been looking over the political map of America. For the past what, 12 years now, we are a country divided. The heartland bleeds red and the far west and northeast coasts are always blue. I’ve known this since Clinton was first elected. I’ve watched it become even more divisive and pronounced during George W’s campaigns. We are a country divided. I heard Kelsey Grammer on the Glenn Beck show today. He said it well when he said, (paraphrasing) “we are in a civil war. Not a war with bullets. But still, a civil war. Sadly, in these past 12 years the only thing that has brought us together is Osama Bin Laden”, and even now, there are those who want to make what happened on 9/11 into a conspiracy planned and delivered by our own government. As I have looked over the map and recall my last year of living in LALA land I have had many thoughts of hoping/wanting the northeast and west coasts to secede the Union. Yes, I have entertained many thoughts of wanting them gone. Let them leave and form their own government, infrastructure, social or communist states and leave the rest of us the heck alone. There are so many people compressed into these areas (I think I heard an estimate of 10 million living in LA county while I was there) that they lose a sense of belonging to a community, a sense of what can I do to help rather than what can the government do for me? I saw too many examples of “me first, screw the other guy” while I was in LA to list. And if I can’t do it for myself, well then by God the government better do it for me. These huge metropolises are so expensive to live in that it is hard to survive. So, live beyond my means, hey, it’s okay, I can file bankruptcy. And now, if what Joe Biden said during his debate last night is true, a judge can pardon my inability to pay my mortgage, lower my interest rate, and even change the principle amount I owe on said mortgage, just so I don’t lose my house. Never mind that I should never have been given a loan for such a large amount, or I was betting on being able to pay interest only, or maybe I just bought more home than I needed or could really afford. Doesn’t matter, the government will fix it all for me. Thank you Joe. I will certainly keep this in mind if I decide I need a bigger more expensive house, or even if I decide I should spend my money on luxury items and not pay my mortgage. Why should I worry if I can just have a judge make my problem go away?

    Which brings me to my next point. Who ends up paying the difference? The government? Oh, yes, they will do it with the 50% which I already pay on my income in taxes and if Biden is again correct, I’m sure it will go up to around 65%. Please, take my wealth and make a society of “fairness” as you proposed. Like you said, it’s not a redistribution of wealth, it’s just “fair.” Say it ain’t so Joe….I really need to know who that is fair to. Who in their right mind would want to continue to work hard to make more and provide for their family just to have the government take it away for the fairness of everyone? I haven’t done the figures yet, but I can’t help but wonder if I wouldn’t actually keep more in my own pocket if I made just under the $250K amount you’ve stated instead of growing my business and having you take more and more in taxes. So, maybe I should reduce my work force and lay off some people, provide less services to the community I serve, and try to reduce my gross income. Oh, but wait. If I am to believe you the majority of small business owners already don’t make over $250K a year so it won’t affect them, so why am I even worried?

    Joe represents the blue states very well. He is a true blue blooded Washington insider who knows how to talk the talk but not walk the walk. He can mesmerize the smartest of the dumb with his facts and figures, never mind that 1/2 of them are bold faced lies. He sounds knowledgeable and that, after all, is what the left is all about: perceived intelligence, elitism, and knowing how to make a pile of Ship High In Transit (look at the acronym) look like a filet mignon.

    Palin on the other hand is a down to earth, my type of gal. She is genuine. She is likable. She may not know the ins and outs of Washington, but she knows dishonesty and greed. She is willing to take it on and conquer it for the little guy. She is a woman of principles. She is the heartland of America and that is why we love her. She wants to unite us, to make “I’m proud to be an American” mean something. And beyond being a patriot, she promises to change the way government is run. She promises to put it back in it’s place of protecting freedoms, rights, liberties, and the pursuit of happiness. Not adding to the ever expanding monster that wants to control every aspect of your life. Not send it on its way to becoming a socialist state. A promise to make it smaller and allow you to get on with your life without it being in the way. Thank you Sarah Palin. Now, Joe, let’s talk.

    Your ability to talk out of both sides of your mouth is profound. You are like a snake charmer who bobs and weaves while hypnotizing his prey. Then, when they are so coo-coo for cocoa puffs that they don’t know what to believe, you strike and immobilize them. You conquer and reign supreme over the snake who will a few years down the road wake up from the hypnosis and realize it’s been screwed. Then watch out Barrack and Biden, because that viper is venomous and will find a way to strike back. I only hope and pray that it happens on Nov. 4th when McCain/Palin win the election, and not in 4 years in an effort to rid us of the ilk your administration imposed on us all.

  13. Me says:

    Chris, great post. Now, could you please post it all over the “Talk of the Day” and “Letters to the Editor” blogs on Maybe you can get through to some who are yet undecided in the St. Louis area.

    (To post, you have to choose individual letters/talk topics, but the links above will get you where you need to get started.)

  14. Anonymous says:

    Please email to GOP and McCain campaign: NO QUITTING MICHIGAN!

    Tell them please send Sarah to Michigan. Ask the volunteers to work there.

    the addresses:,,,,,,,

    Thanks you

Speak Your Mind