Joe Biden won the vice presidential debate last night, and anyone claiming otherwise is making excuses for Sarah Palin. Let me get that out of the way up front. Biden won, Palin lost, and it wasn’t even that close. But — and here’s the rub — Biden failed to make the kill. Palin was still standing at the end, and, as I feared they would, her cheerleaders in conservative talk radio are enthusiastically spinning her survival as a great victory.
I’ll say that again, because this is how far the bar has been lowered with the selection of Palin: the apologists for the Republican vice presidential nominee are treating the fact that she did not utterly collapse opposite Joe Biden as a vindicating triumph. Biden raised his standing in my eyes slightly, but the dude’s not exactly John Fucking Kennedy. Not getting blown off the stage by Biden should never be a cause to break out the champagne.
Biden did well. McAsherson and I will talk over the debate a good bit Monday on the next Snark-Gap Transmission, so I don’t want to pre-repeat myself, but here are a few things that bothered me last night about the debate, and this morning about some of the responses:
- I loved Biden’s attacking McCain’s proposal to tax health benefits as “the ultimate ‘Bridge to Nowhere.’” I wish there had been more of that. God knows he had opportunities. When Palin continually brought up her experience as a mayor and governor in “an energy-producing state,” why didn’t Biden bring up the debt and exorbitantly high taxes she left behind in Wasilla, the team of lobbyists she hired to court the very government graft she now claims she’s eager to do away with, or that the oft-repeated notion of attaining energy independence through increased domestic oil production is a right-wing pipe dream? Biden did a lot to justify his place on the ticket last night; I only wish he had gone for the throat.
- The phony outrage over Gwen Ifill serving as moderator despite writing a book with “Obama” in the subtitle seems even sillier in retrospect, doesn’t it? Ifill was just as professional and fair as we had every right to expect her to be, and was far more of a non-entity in this debate than was Jim Lehrer in the first Obama vs. McCain bout.
- Could Palin possibly dial back the folksiness? Just a little fucking bit? Dennis Miller has been effusing for the last month over how Palin is a true-to-life Frank Capra character, as though the mere fact that some people find her reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart’s character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington qualifies her to hold the second-highest office in the federal government. I reject the comparison, at any rate. I’m no big fan of Mr. Smith, but I can see why people admire and long for a politician like Mr. Smith; he is simple, but not simple-minded, wise and earnest and eloquent. Find for me the wisdom and eloquence in anything Sarah Palin has ever said. Palin doesn’t remind me so much of a Capra character — more like a marionette in the image of Lonesome Rhodes.
- For the love of God, can we please, please stop comparing this woman to Ronald Reagan? Say what you will about Reagan’s politics, his intellect, his economic policies — the man could give a speech. He spoke with conviction, with gravity and even sometimes with eloquence, or at least something damn close to it, and he was charming. So Palin shares many of Reagan’s moral and political convictions. So does Alan Keyes. Neither one of them are fit to wipe Reagan’s ass — and I’m not even a Reagan guy. This weird insistence from people on the conservative side that Palin is an heir to Reagan only demonstrates their deference to ideology to the exclusion of all reason and common sense. It doesn’t matter who Sarah Palin is or what she’s done, only that she professes the proper creed. That’s why the conservative faction of the Republican party treated their nominee, a for-real fucking war hero and one of the most recognizable and respected political figures in the country, with ambivalence and sometimes outright contempt, but have lined up in virtual lockstep behind the ticket now that Palin — a moron, but a proper right-wing moron — is on board. Embarrassing.
If you missed it, or want to experience the magic all over again, RealClearPolitics has the full transcript right here, and below, courtesy of C-Span’s YouTube channel, is a video of the whole thing: