Friday, October 3, 2008

Biden v. Palin

The debate proved tonight that Governor Sarah Palin can more than hold her own against Senator Joe Biden. Although Biden, as should be expected from his lengthy tenure in the Senate, had a better command of the issues, Palin rightly steered away from the political language employed by Biden and connected better with the audience.

This week saw continuing release of the Katie Couric interview with Palin, an interview even with the best spin was a failure. Thursday night during the debate, the nation saw a far different Palin - confident, strong, assertive.

Unfortunately given the McCain camp's media track record, probably the wrong lesson will be learned from the two experiences. That wrong lesson is that the problem is the format, with the conclusion being that Palin avoid all one-on-one interviews with pesky media types. If you watch the Couric interview though, you are watching someone who was overly-scripted and told not to vary from the talking points she had memorized. Then, of course, when Couric asks a question for which she does not have a prepared response, panic sits in. That's what happened with Palin in her interview with Couric.

While Palin is ultimately responsible for the failure of the Couric interview, it is understandable that she feels compelled to follow the McCain people's advice about the media. After all, McCain is the sole reason Palin is on the ticket. The McCain people though have demonstrated they do not understand the media. Palin would be better advised to stop trying to be someone she is not. It is okay for her to not have an answer to a question or to mispronounce a world leader's name. No one expects her to have the kind of knowledge that one acquires in being a U.S. Senator for 30 plus years. What people want to see from her is not accumulated knowledge, but someone who would exercise reasoned, sound judgment when presented with the facts.

Likewise, the McCain people would be wise to let her open up about policy differences she may have with McCain. One of the worst moments of the debate was when Palin tried to reconcile her global warming beliefs with those of John McCain. Instead of engaging in a fumbling effort to explain why the two positions didn't contradict each other, she should have simply said what she believes - that man is only have a negligible effect on increasing temperatures and that the increase in temperatures is much more likely just part of a normal climate cycle. After all, the Earth has been going through such cycles since the beginning of the planet. Certainly a lot of people, including many scientists, would have cheered someone finally questioning the global warming orthodoxy rather than simply accepting without question the assumptions underlying the approach I might add that is very unscientific.

Only in the insider political world does a VP candidate expressing an opinion substantially different than the Presidential cnadidate a reason for cnncern. The public certainly doesn't expect such unanimity on the issues. In fact, the public would probably welcome a VP canddiate who openly stood up and talked about differences of opinion with the President and who indicated a willingness to convince the President to see things from another point of view.

In the end though, history says that Vice President makes little difference on the outcome. This race like all the others is going to be about the top of the ticket, Obama v. McCain. Still for one night it was nice to dream otherwise.

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