Sarah Palin: Beauty Queen At The Debate

With a brilliant smile and a confident swagger, Sarah Palin faced Joe Biden, and America, in the first and only vice presidential debate. But the face she presented was that of shallow Pollyanna with a woefully insufficient grasp of issues and facts.

Let’s set aside for the moment that she was flatly wrong when she said that there were fewer troops in Iraq than before the Surge. And never mind that she doesn’t know the name of the American commander in Afghanistan. Palin’s big problem was that she outright refused to answer the questions that were asked. Now, that is a venerable debate tactic and, when used skillfully, can be quite effective and undetectable. However, when Palin did it she clumsily announced that she was changing the subject, and then proceeded to deliver her memorized talking points.

What might have been an enlightening exchange between the candidates was severely constrained by a format and a moderator that discouraged direct interaction. The question arises as to whether Gwen Ifill was cowed by allegations that she would be partial due to the upcoming publication of her book on race in American politics. We may never know if that’s the case, but we do know that Ifill was a virtual non-entity on the stage and failed to ask probing follow-ups of either candidate. That could explain why Palin expressed such satisfaction with the event in her closing remarks:

“I like being able to answer these tough questions without the filter, even, of the mainstream media kind of telling viewers what they’ve just heard. I’d rather be able to just speak to the American people like we just did.”

First of all, she wasn’t asked any tough questions and I suspect that that is what she really liked. Secondly, the Mainstream Media to which she refers doesn’t apply filters to her interviews. The Gibson and Couric affairs simply allowed her to speak on her own, and any resultant embarrassment was of her own doing. Thirdly, her impression of speaking to the American people appears to rely heavily on the help she receives from her speech writers and a teleprompter.

Her statement above is a thinly veiled declaration that she intends to have no further association with the media for which she is so dismissive. I predict that she will have maybe one more interview with a reputable national journalist (probably Brian Williams), then will scurry off to the more comforting embrace of comrades like Hannity and Limbaugh and the Washington Times. By November 4th, she will not have had a single open press conference for the entire election cycle.

The fact that she relates so closely to Dick Cheney, whose warped and unconstitutional view of the Vice Presidency she shares, alarmingly foreshadows the sort of secretive cabal she seems even now to be shaping. The last thing this country needs is another administration that aspires to conceal itself and its actions at every turn and reside outside of public view in a secret undisclosed location.

Frantic Conservatives Trying To Ditch The Sarah Palin Debate

Let’s face it. They have a right to be scared. Conservative activists have seen Sarah Palin humiliate herself and her Party repeatedly. She can’t name a single newspaper or magazine that she reads, or cite a Supreme Court decision other than Roe v. Wade, or give an example of McCain’s maverickiness. She doesn’t know who Hamas is. She adopts Obama’s policy toward cross-border attacks in Pakistan (then denies that she did so). And she asserts that her fresh face and new ideas (see Barack Obama) make her a better candidate than Joe Biden because he is just an old guy who has been in the Senate for a long time (see John McCain).

She has still only been permitted to be interviewed twice in the thirty-three days since McCain tapped her for his VP. She is being purposefully sequestered from the media and any serious inquiry into her positions or her past. There have been conservative commentators calling for her to be dropped from the ticket for the good of her Party and the country. And last week McCain suggested that the VP debate be postponed until some undetermined date and replaced by the first presidential debate.

Obviously, they don’t want the debate to proceed. And the latest evidence of that is a new effort to remove the debate’s moderator, Gwen Ifill of PBS. The argument is that Ifill has authored a book that prevents her from being objective. The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” is scheduled to be released January 20, 2009. The book is a study of how…

“…the Black political structure formed during the Civil Rights movement is giving way to a generation of men and women who are the direct beneficiaries of the struggles of the 1960s.”

For the book Ifill interviews Obama, as well as Republicans like Colin Powell. By all accounts, the book is not political advocacy, but an exploration of race in contemporary politics. But the controversy being manufactured by the likes of Fox News, National Review, and Human Events is a thinly disguised attempt to kill the debate. Even if their allegations were valid, it would be very difficult to find a replacement for Ifill literally on the eve of the debate. They would have to find someone who was able to immediately clear their calendar and then would still come to the event unprepared – no research, no questions, no context for engaging the participants. The only viable option would be to delay the debate to some undetermined date, just as they tried to do last week.

This is yet another transparent attempt to sabotage the debate by having it canceled or by preemptively discrediting the results. How convenient to have a reason to disregard the whole affair should Palin, true to form, embarrass herself. This dust up could also have the effect of influencing Ifill’s performance as moderator. She may decide to bend over backwards to avoid the appearance of bias and, consequently, display bias in favor of Palin.

We can only hope that the cynical manipulations of the rightists orchestrating this controversy are not successful, and that Ifill relies on her own sense of professional ethics and not the rantings of frightened partisans.