Friday, October 3, 2008

My reaction to the Biden and Palin debate

I watched the VP debate last night and was again very uncomfortable seeing Palin in action. Perhaps it is because I am a woman, but to see her so out of her league makes me upset. Women have fought so hard to be able to break into politics, against stereotypes that we are intellectually inferior to men and can't go the distance. And now to see Palin emerge on the VP scene as unprepared as she is, well, I wish it were different.

The fact that the media is falling over themselves to increase their ratings with nonsense "analyses" after the interview is equally troubling. To call her style "folksy" and to say that because she surpassed expectations she had a victory is nothing but media spin.

This is what I saw from my couch. I saw a woman who, because she didn't know enough about the subjects and thus refused rudely to answer the posed questions, resort to flirting. I saw her wink and use voice and body language that was inappropriate to a professor, let alone a VP presidential candidate who might become a President one day. Her remark to call John Biden by his first name was not folksy. It was rude and pretentious. Her invocation of socceer moms and Joe six packs, her use of slang jargon, and her mispronunciations were not cute. They were demeaning, as if the middle class of which I am a part, cannot understand anything but street conversation.

George Stephanopoulos of ABC gave her debate an A- and her style an A. Based on what? The fact that she was coherent, even though she had little knowledge of the issues that were being debated? As a professor, this is so offensive, I don't even know where to begin. We don't give grades based on exceeding sub-standard expectations. We give grades based against a knowledge-set that must be met. We don't give grades based on "a good try." We give grades based on the quality of the work. And Palin performance was neither of these. It showed how much she doesn't know (as oral exams often do).

UPDATE: J.K. Gayle left this link in the comments. I didn't know about this blog previously.


David said...

Good morning, April,

Palin reminds me of the woman who engineered the hostile takeover of my church's board of directors: a beauty queen with a bit of a mean streak, a charming exterior masking a deep personality disorder, and enough money or connections to intimidate people around her into submission. Such people have no interest in "the truth", only the delusion that serves their personality, and they leave nothing but wreckage in their wake.

J. K. Gayle said...

Was Palin told to bait Biden by calling him out on apparent contradictions or reversals they think he's made in the past? She did that a few times. Was the McCain campaign hoping Biden would point out Palin's clear unpreparedness (as in public responses to voter questions, or to Katie Couric)--so that they could slam him as condescending? If so, didn't work.

I thought Biden did well "based against a knowledge-set that must be met." And he also exceeded the "sub-standard expectations" of him as a sometimes gaffer. (How many times did the radio talk shows play the gaffs on my relatively short commute home yesterday?) For me, his son's speech and his own address at the DNC really raised the bar for all. I was glad for Biden's (controlled but clearly surfacing) emotion in the debate last night, when talking about being a single parent in the middle class of small town USA. Don't know how Stephanopoulos grades that, but Biden and Obama, and the Clintons (yes a woman too), prove that there can be intellectual, prepared, and in-touch people in the exec-branch government "of, by, for the people."

David said...

I wonder if your readers will find these web sties as useful as I am:

And where are the equivalent sites for the study of religion? Any ideas or examples?

J. K. Gayle said...

NYT: "We cannot recall when there were lower expectations for a candidate than the ones that preceded Sarah Palin’s appearance in Thursday night’s vice-presidential debate with Joseph Biden."

WASP: "Ms. Palin had to do little more than say one or two sensible things and avoid an election-defining gaffe. By that standard, but only by that standard, the governor of Alaska did well."

Eric Rowe said...

Sitting Republican presidents and vice presidents have been called by their first names in every debate since Clinton started doing it in '92.

Unknown said...

My friend recently posted this short text by Josef Pieper -- well worth a read:

R.Eagle said...

An excellent assessment, Dr. D! And I couldn't agree more.

Obviously, Biden came to debate the issues, and Palin came to campaign using the same empty rhetoric.

Judy Redman said...

You might also find Mary Hunt's comment on this interesting and helpful. See

José Solano said...

Political naïveness runs deep in academia. I’ve explained how it’s the multinational corporations and the military industrial complex that manages the major issues related to economics and world hegemony. The only issues where a president can make a significant difference is where there are no significant money matters. Those are the issues in which we are having a culture war as the article by Mary E. Hunt clearly demonstrates.

Ultimately we can see this symbolically as the ideological clash between the Mary E. Hunts and the Mary Ann Glendons. It’s the clash between those that wish to continue the slaughter of the innocents, promote the deconstruction of marriage and are blasé about family fragmentation. Sarah Palin, even more than McCain, symbolizes wholesome family ideals and that’s what her supporters are voting for. That’s what I’m voting for. Sarah Palin and McCain will put in the US Supreme Court judges that will be pro-life and pro-marriage just as Bush did. Presidents serve four years but judges are in for life. Judges powerfully impact the culture of the nation.

Since Roe vs. Wade some 45,000,000 babies have been snuffed out. This has been a truly colossal crime against humanity. We want it to stop. McCain and Palin are the real candidates for change, for big cultural change. Millions of others are voting for McCain/Palin because they believe they can defend our nation better. That’s not my reasoning. I’m a liberal Democrat who like many others simply refuses to identify with the culture of death and depravity.


José Solano said...

As I rushed out of the house to enjoy pizza with the family I missed a connecting link in a sentence. My last comment should read: “It’s the clash between those that wish to continue the slaughter of the innocents, promote the deconstruction of marriage and are blasé about family fragmentation and those that defend life and family.”

I suppose it’s worth repeating.

Judy Redman said...

I'm sorry but Palin and McCain are not pro-life. They're simply anti-abortion. People who are really pro-life oppose not only abortion but also euthanasia, war and the death penalty and work actively towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in developing countries and the provision of adequate health care and education in developed countries, thus ensuring that children do not die of starvation and preventable disease.

José Solano said...

In the extreme sense you are correct Judy. I am pro-life in that sense but McCain and Palin are simply more pro-life than Obama/Biden. Do remember that there is the death penalty by which a few people may be executed in jails every year and then there are the millions of babies being legally snuffed out yearly.

I’m a pacifist but none of the candidates are and Obama/Biden are just as bellicose as McCain/Palin because as I have said, the issues of war are decided by the military industrial complex and the multinational corporations under the guise of “national defense.”

If you’re waiting for war and poverty to be eradicated before you defend the millions of children being legally slaughtered then it simply will never happen. Obama is not the Messiah and he cannot do any better at reducing these than McCain. But McCain can and will put more pro-life judges in the Supreme Court and Obama will do the opposite. We both know this.


Mark D B said...

A Republican president putting "more pro-life judges in the Supreme Court", as Mr. Solano puts it (and as Mr. Bush has done), is something that conservatives like Mr. Solano would find untenable from a Democratic president doing the opposite.

The "it's okay when we do it, but you're destroying the very fabric of our democracy when you do it" rhetoric really boggles the mind.

Aren't we smarter than this?

Judy Redman said...


I am not suggesting that we wait for an end to war and poverty before tackling other issues. I am merely saying that Palin and McCain and many others who talk about being "pro-life" are simply anti-abortion and should be named as such. I imagine that a totally pro-life platform would be political suicide in just about every developed country. I don't think you can use candidates' platforms on abortion as the sole measurement of which are more or less "pro-life". You also have to look at their policies on war, the death penalty, overseas aid (that isn't providing arms and soldiers) and domestic access to health care.

Leon said...

I agree that it is very disgraceful for a candidate to refuse to answer certain questions and then claim she is answering them by promoting her virtues as a mother or whatever. The sad thing is that this was probably very agreeable to her constituency. As someone recently said, we don't choose political candidates on the basis of experience or their ideas, but on how well they tap into our beliefs and mythology. Palin does that for a lot of people and her bad performance only reinforces their beliefs.

Leon Zitzer

David said...

"how well they tap into our beliefs and mythology"

Well said, Leon. Quite possibly the most relevant thing I have heard throughout the election period. And so true.

I have also been observing how we have religified (new word) American politics. So much false righteousness and right/wrong language and judgementalism. Just like fundamentalism.

Roadscholar said...

Concerning this “pro-life” talk by the conservative right, I really don’t get it, considering that it is the unbridled, unregulated capitalism promoted by the Republican party that is destroying the entire planet’s ability to support healthy and sustainable life, and that we may well be condemning generations of our children and grandchildren to an unimaginable hell on earth. The sweeping roll-back of environmental regulations in the 2005 “Clean Air Act,” which was denounced by every environmental organization in America, is only one example, and this campaign’s proud slogan of “Drill, baby, drill!” is yet another.

When I look at the Republican Party’s platform issues, I see virtually all of them to be hypocritical in regards to what Jesus plainly says in the Bible. For example, Palin ridicules Biden for saying that it is “patriotic” to pay taxes, when Jesus is reported to have been entirely in favor of paying them, and for charitable programs for the poor as well. As for Sarah Palin, she has been quoted as saying “I fully expect to see the return of Jesus during my lifetime.” So here’s one for you, Sarah, and your “pro-life,” “just-say-no” mentality (which doesn’t work, obviously, or at least not in your own household.) For the only thing Jesus said that in my mind is relevant to the pro-life issue (considering that it is precisely the overpopulation of our species that is destroying life on this planet,) is “How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!” (Matt 24:19) So Sarah, here’s to hoping, for your lovely daughter’s sake, that Jesus doesn’t return within the next nine months!

John McCain, who a few days ago stated that he always tells the “100%, absolute truth” must not have been watching his own introductory promo video at the RNC in Minneapolis, which unabashedly tells the story of when he first met his future wife, Cindy, and told her that he was some five years younger that he actually was. How cute! But Jesus said that “The devil . . . is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) Get a grip, all you right-wing Christians. In my humble opinion? “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.” (John 8:44) Money, money, money, as if you could serve both that and God. My suggestion, if you have not already shut me out? Maybe you people should try reading your Bible, and this time learn from it. “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:47)

JMD said...


When John McCain asked Governor Palin to be his running mate she may have been as surprised as the rest of us.

But, as a politician and sitting governor, she did what she had to do, she accepted.

At the time it was not clear that McCain had done her any favor.

The ticket was not expected to win.

She was expected be demolished in the process and have no future.

The Kati Couric interview suggested just such an outcome.

Well here we are after the VP debate and the Republican ticket is still expected to lose.

But Palin was not demolished and may well have a future.

Palin may not yet be smart in the way you would like her to be smart, but she is intuitively smart.

She took the hand she was dealt and made something out of it.

Machiavelli often focused on this quality of political leaders: virtue – the ability to take advantage of what fortune gives you.

R.Eagle said...

Let's be honest, Palin (talented woman though she is) is just being a little TOO ambitious this time; she is clearly out of her league, and as for McCain (war hero though he is), he's just being the sneaky politician he's come to epitomize of recent.

As for me, I don't see how that's going to help us this time around and for a long time, for that matter.

José Solano said...

—Dear Mark d b,

I’m not a “conservative.” I’m an anti-war, anti-death penalty, anti-murder, liberal Democrat. I’ve been one all my life. Everyone in my family has been a Democrat and all my friends with whom I grew up in New York City were Democrats or Socialists. I work within the Democratic Party to change its identification with the culture of death and depravity.

I will continue to repeat: Both major parties are equally pro-war as that is controlled by other powers. McCain offers his pro-war strategy and Obama offers his pro-war strategy. Both will continue to enrich the military industrial complex as both parties have always done.

I do not at all find it “untenable” that Democrats would try to put pro-abortion, pro-culture of death and depravity judges in the US Supreme Court. I fully expect them to do just that. It’s there legal right to try and do that if they wish. I just fully oppose it.

There is a rumor that Ben Witherington may run for president. ( I would vote for him if he does. I know that the supporters of the culture of d & d would oppose him even more than they do Palin.

G O said...

Any reasonably objective person would say she "pretty well" "held her own" in the debate, and did much better than the media expected. Your continued "trashing" of her demonstrates significant liberal bias. I'm disappointed in you. And it seems to me we've wandered far (very far) from "The Forbidden Gospels", which is the topic for which I visit you Blog. My wish is that you would "get back on track" or start a new "political Blog," clearly identified as such. Personally, I'm pretty tired of hearing politics at every turn.

R.Eagle said...

"Any reasonable objective person" would see that Palin and Mccain will do anything to win, as they are now, resorting to slandering Obama. What sort of character does that reveal about them? Yet, the unreasonably religious right has this fixed idea about a fertilized egg being synonymous with a fully-developed baby, as though they've got the indisputable answer as to when the soul/spirit actually inhabits a human being. Now, there's a forbidden gospel topic for you G O.