The Collective
Thursday, October 2, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Some first impressions:

  • Palin stopped the bleeding. This was better than any of her interviews.
  • She clearly is better if she can provide a rehearsed answer than when she has to talk off the cuff.
  • I don’t think this debate will affect the polls much.
  • Biden was stronger later in the debate.

Like the debate last Friday, I don’t see a clear winner. The lack of clear winner gives the debate to Palin.

They were both, in terms of the debate itself, sufficiently veepish.

On balance, I concur with James Joyner’s basic assessment:

Joe Biden was about average tonight, hitting the talking points in a way that was far from seamless while Sarah Palin was worse than most, making some attempts like “Say it ain’t so, Joe” at delivering canned lines that made me cringe.  She was by no means awful but she struck me as someone obviously looking for her mark.  She struck me as rather corny, if not goofy, at times whereas Biden struck me as much more bland than usual. At the same time, though, she didn’t come across as a nitwit.

I also agree that:

The most poignant moment of the evening was Biden’s talking about the tragic accident which took his wife and daughter and the struggle of being a single dad.   Palin missed an opportunity to share a human  moment after that, immediately going into chipper line recitation mode.

It was a very human moment, and from a political POV, it will likely get quite a bit of coverage (and such things matter).

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Filed under: 2008 Campaign, US Politics | |


  1. I thought both were atrocious. Palin didn’t speak with specificity on ANYTHING, but was only challenged by Joe Biden on this once. Why not? Biden had ample opportunity to win this debate and punted instead. Palin was better than her earlier appearance simply because she didn’t screw up. I would probably agree that there was no clear winner, but both were terrible. It will be interesting to see where the McCain campaign’s media strategy will go from here. Douglas Holtz-Eakin is in the spin room right now talking the Nixonian strategy of bypassing the national media in favor of local (and less intrusive) media outlets. I am afraid that the McCain camp hopes she has allayed fears of her on the ticket and will now put her back in the box.

    Comment by Talmadge East — Thursday, October 2, 2008 @ 9:59 pm

  2. I am afraid that the McCain camp hope she has allayed fears of her on the ticket and will now put her back in the box.

    I expect that you are correct.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, October 2, 2008 @ 10:04 pm

  3. i agree with your analysis almost completely. at least mostly. he crushed her on a point-by-point basis, but that’s not the point of the debate. and maybe she was veepish. maybe. but i wasn’t convinced that she could step into the presidential shoes. but she did stop the bleeding because she exceeded expectations. true, she spoke almost entirely in generalities, but she also hit biden hard on his flip-flopping on his loyalty to mccain. and though he won the debate, she won the debate in terms of its real purpose–to advance the needs of the principal.

    taylor, you’ve really been remarkably on the money throughout this campaign. much much better analysis than what i hear on tv and what i’ve read in most essays. i admit i’m impressed.

    by the way, one of my regular readers of my blog tells me that she checks out your blog now at least once a day, and often more than once a day.

    Comment by mbailey — Thursday, October 2, 2008 @ 10:21 pm

  4. The most poignant moment of the evening was Biden’s talking about the tragic accident which took his wife and daughter and the struggle of being a single dad.

    I hate it when politicians decide to use family tragedy to score political points. I remember the 2000 pathos fest (also known as the Democratic National Convention) when it seemed that each speaker competed to show how a tragedy in their life shaped one of their core beliefs. Vote for me, I know somebody who died a horrible death. Biden’s walk down that road was a cynical, rehearsed ploy. Palin realized that even acknowledging it would be criticized roundly as being heartless.

    However real assessment will come after the inevitable SNL skit. To hit the mark in comedy you have to exaggerate reality. Palin mispronounced enough (OBiden, nuclear, any word ending in ‘ing’)to make the Tina Fey credible with the northern accent. My guess the Biden character will be putting on the phony grin that shows every tooth as often as possible (Biden seemed to not realize he was sometimes on split screen when she spoke).

    Comment by Buckland — Thursday, October 2, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

  5. I hate it when politicians decide to use family tragedy to score political points.

    I thought it was a moment of honest emotion.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, October 2, 2008 @ 11:14 pm

  6. I thought I was watching animal planet. Palin devoured Biden whole. She didn’t even take bites, she just unhinged her jaw and swallowed him whole.

    Biden sounded like one of the adults on Charlie Brown. Waaa-wa-waaa-wa-waaaaw.

    He didn’t even come across as intelligent. He looked and acted flustered, irritated, and at times, arrogant.

    Palin was commanding, human, and sensitive. At no point did she show weakness, and at no point did she appear inferior in capability to Biden, and at no point did she commit the huge gaffes that she was expected to commit. This is especially significant given who the moderator was - an unabashed Obama supporter who is in the process of writing a very flattering book about the man, who stands to profit enormously if he is elected. Palin was set up - again - to be hatcheted by a biased moderator, and she still came out on top. She beat Biden handily and did it with a smile.

    Don’t get me wrong, Biden’s a nice guy and I like him. He’s been a decent senator at least 20% of the time, which makes him better than most. But he got his butt handed to him in this debate, on a plate, with a little parsley to garnish it.

    She wins hands down. And I think she’s getting more adept at handling the traps that the self-proclaimed journalists are laying for her in these “interviews.” Good for her.

    As a lawyer it’s nice to see someone get out of the legalspeak and actually come out on top. Good for her.

    And you say she does better when she can have scripted responses - to that I say, she does better when she is treated in a remotely fair manner. The traps they laid for her in previous interviews - nobody ever laid those traps for Biden or Obama.

    You say tomato, I say tomahto - those hacks that they put on the tube who call themselves journalists, they should all be ashamed of themselves. They’re pathetic. Wouldn’t last a day in a real profession.

    Go get a real job, Katie Couric. Consider welding; you’re a crappy journalist.

    Comment by Western Man — Thursday, October 2, 2008 @ 11:35 pm

  7. When did George Stephanopoulos become commander-in-chief of all US political commentary?
    Prior to joining ABC News, he was a senior political campaign adviser to Clinton and later became his communications director.
    Could there be anyone more far left?? I about fell off my chair when he said Biden won (which should NOT have surprised me).
    Let’s look at George’s scorecard for the debate:
    Strategy: Biden A, Palin A-
    Style: Biden A-, Palin A
    Accuracy: Biden B, Palin B

    I’m a math teacher, and the numbers just aren’t adding up, Mr. Stephanopoulos.
    If I had 2 students with these grades, the report cards would be even. How in the world did Biden get a “win”???
    Apparently the liberal media uses different calculators than teachers do.
    Personally, I think Sarah won, but that’s aside. It was NO LESS than a tie.
    And if a flaming liberal gives EQUAL overall scores to Biden and Palin, there’s only one thing to conclude: Sarah won.

    We’ll also see that CNN “suggests” that Biden won. Read on.
    They say 51% of voters said Biden did better, BUT they say their survey is not a measurement of the views of all Americans, since only people who watched the debate were questioned. More Democrats than Republicans watch the debates (they said so last “poll”, and there were well-organized Obama Debate Watch “parties” all over the country). What does it say if more Democrats than Republicans were surveyed, and only 51% of those surveyed said Biden did better? Sad.

    Palin was eloquent, confident, strong and enthusiastic (and all this after a week of incessant attacks by the liberal media). She addressed the people of this country throughout the debate by looking at us. (Biden addressed the moderator). When she spoke to Biden, she faced him. Interestingly, those were repeatedly touted as Obama’s strengths last week, but barely mentioned when Sarah did the same this evening.

    Still, tomorrow morning we’ll see newspapers selectively quoting George and CNN to “prove” Biden won. Fortunately, some will have enough intelligence to see through all that (newspapers, after all, are a big part of the liberal media). UNFORTUNATELY, some will be naive enough to believe that if something is in print, or said on TV, it must be true. Again, sad. We need divine intervention. Oh, wait, we must be careful, since Obama said “this is no longer a Christian nation”.

    Comment by Concetta — Friday, October 3, 2008 @ 1:05 am

  8. Biden Palin Vice Presidential Debate: Two Survivors…

    In the end, it didn’t happen. In the highly-watched Vice Presidential debate Republican Gov. Sarah Palin didn’t flop, but she didn’t match the home-run excitement she generated with her GOP convention acceptance speech. Democratic Se…

    Trackback by The Moderate Voice — Friday, October 3, 2008 @ 1:27 am

  9. mbailey,

    Many thanks for the kind words and for additional reader!

    I agree that there remain serious doubts (to me, anyway) about Palin’s ability to step into the presidency. I just meant that in terms of what she had to do last night, she was sufficiently veepish. Not only were the expectations low for her, I think that they are low in general for a VP debate.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Friday, October 3, 2008 @ 6:42 am

  10. Western Man:

    While I can understand why Katie Couric would not, in general, be one’s favorite journalist, I simply cannot see how the questions, especially the several that I highlighted on this blog, were unfair or even difficult to answer. It is unreasonable for Palin to defend why the proximity to Russia is foreign policy experience (a claim that Palin herself made)? It is unreasonable to ask if she any opinion on SCOTUS cases beyond Roe? It is unreasonable to ask about what her main sources of news are?

    These are really unfair question to ask someone who might be POTUS? Really?

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Friday, October 3, 2008 @ 6:45 am

  11. I feel compelled to address one of the points “Western Man” tried to make in his first comment, insignificant though it may be.

    It would be impossible to accurately label Ms. Ifill “an unabashed Obama supporter who is in the process of writing a very flattering book about the man” when she HAS NOT EVEN RELEASED THE BOOK YET.

    How could anyone judge whether or not the book’s content is “flattering” toward Obama when the author herself admitted on Wednesday that she hasn’t even WRITTEN a section about Obama yet.

    Way to make an informed statement, Western Man.

    Comment by Sarah K. B. — Friday, October 3, 2008 @ 11:37 am

  12. What isn’t fair is you - and other blogsters and pundits and talking-head types - taking soundbytes out of an interview when what the American public should be seeing is an entire picture.

    You take one or two poorly answered questions and highlight them, unfairly deleting questions that were answered well. You skew the picture in one direction. THAT IS NOT FAIR.

    I know, because I do this sort of thing for a living. It’s how you win cases in a court of law. It also makes me able to recognize it when I see it.

    Katie Couric asked questions that she knew people like you would repost. She knew that only the negative would be re-transmitted and that the good parts of the interview would be deleted.

    YES, I think asking what Palin’s news sources were was a BS question, for reasons I already got into. No, I don’t think knowledge of a lot of SCOTUS decisions is something that an EXECUTIVE should really be held accountable to know. The executive’s job is to lead, to command - not to preside over a court of law. What, are we blending our three branches of government together now? Is the executive doing triple duty as a legislator and a judge?

    That question was assinine and an obvious trap intended to make Palin look bad. She fell into it. And maybe she doesn’t know a lot about SCOTUS decisions. You know what? You don’t need to be a constitutional law professor to be a good president or vice president. I don’t care if she doesn’t know about SCOTUS decisions because I think that if our three branches of government - with the checks and balances they were supposed to give us - were working for us it would not matter. If she stepped out of her boundaries, the other branches would fix it.

    OH, WAIT!!!! We threw that process out the window when we started letting the judiciary interpret the constitution outside of its literal representation!

    It should be obvious that I’m hostile to a lot of things. And I’m not sugar coating anything. This country is in the toilet and the citizenry has it’s hand on the flush lever.

    Yes, I stand by my assessment of Couric’s interview. It was an amateurish hatchet job that belongs somewhere in the deepest corners of YouTube. Maybe. I’m not even sure that her work is fit for that venue.

    She should think about welding.

    Comment by Western Man — Friday, October 3, 2008 @ 12:19 pm

  13. Oh, and about the book thing:

    Come on. That lady has a sweet, 26% royalty contract. If Obama gets elected and the book sells 10 million copies worldwide, you do the math and tell me how much coin that lady is going to pull in.

    The book WILL be flattering. But it almost doesn’t matter. The fact that she’s going to get filthy rich overnight if Obama is elected means that she was not an impartial moderator, should not have been in that seat at all - whether or not she did a decent job is totally immaterial. She shouldn’t have been there. The fact that she gets rich if Obama becomes president means that she is an Obama supporter, whether or not she says so.

    And yeah, I think she did what she could to skew the results, though, fortunately, she couldn’t do much.

    Comment by Western Man — Friday, October 3, 2008 @ 12:22 pm

  14. Where, Western Man, were you able to find information regarding a “sweet, 26% royalty contract” for Ms. Ifill?

    I am genuinely curious.

    Comment by Sarah K. B. — Friday, October 3, 2008 @ 12:50 pm

  15. Sarah K, *I* feel compelled to address YOUR “informed statement” about Ifill’s book, and I can’t believe you’re serious.
    “It would be impossible to accurately label Ms. Ifill ‘an unabashed Obama supporter’”, and it’s not possible to “judge whether or not the book’s content is ‘flattering’ toward Obama”, and that she has not even released the book yet????
    Apparently you have done NO research, and are just parroting one liberally-slanted “statement” you read.

    1) The book is hardly “unwritten”. It is CURRENTLY available for pre-order at amazon:
    “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama”, by Gwen Ifill, will be released January 20, 2009
    It ALREADY is the #5 best-selling book in the category of US History of this century. The product description begins with the following: “In THE BREAKTHROUGH, veteran journalist Gwen Ifill surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power.”. Not “flattering”, Sarah??? She has a 3-minute book promo video at explaining what the book is about, “taking the story of Barak Obama and extending it to a whole new generation of black politicians.” She certainly knows what is in her book!
    2) This woman has a PERSONAL stake in Obama’s win. The pro-Obama book drops the DAY OF INAUGURATION, Jan 20. She has a vested financial interest in the outcome of this election. in any law court in the country, this would cause a mistrial.
    3) A “moderator”, by definition, is “the nonpartisan presiding officer” - Ms. Ifill is neither “moderate” nor “nonpartisan”.
    4) The book’s title majestically refers to “the Age of Obama.”. Can you imagine a right-leaning journalist writing the book “The Age of McCain”, telling the story of the ’stunning’ McCain campaign and its ‘bold’ path to reform, timed for release on Inauguration Day – and then expecting a slot as a moderator for the nation’s sole vice presidential debate?”

    “Way to make an informed statement”, Sarah K.

    And liberals are wondering why on earth eyebrows were raised over this choice!

    Comment by Concetta — Friday, October 3, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

  16. To be more clear, I think Ms. Ifill was chosen based on her solid reputation as an unbiased professional. Both campaigns know of the choice well in advance and gave their approval. I am reluctant to accept Western Man’s accusations against her because they seem to be based on the content of a book that not a single person has had the opportunity to read. In my opinion, Ms. Ifill has not done anything to diminish her credibility as a journalist or author. The McCain campaign expressed a similar view yesterday.

    However, I acknowledge that the book issue is only a small detail of a much larger discussion. Overall, I think the debate went well for both candidates.

    Comment by Sarah K. B. — Friday, October 3, 2008 @ 2:18 pm

  17. Sarah K,
    There was no reason to try to be “more clear” - your post was already 100% clear.
    You mocked part of WesternMan’s post which described Ms Ifill as “an unabashed Obama supporter who is in the process of writing a very flattering book about the man, who stands to profit enormously if he is elected”. That statement was 100% correct, and everything I have read in my research backs what he said, not what you said.
    I addressed every one of the OPINIONS you stated in your reply to him, point by point, with documented facts.
    Now you add that not a single person has had the opportunity to read the book?
    How about Ms. Ifill herself? I watched her self-promotion video where she talks in detail about her book.
    Not her publisher, Doubleday? I read the specific promo they provided at Amazon.
    Finally, it takes little insight to determine the “tone” of her “Age of Obama” book which touts his campaign as “stunning” and “bold”, adding in the irrefutable fact that she has a vested interest in what she hopes is Obama’s win.
    Whether or not her moderating was “fair”, is another subject, to which you took recourse when you realized what you said about the book held no water.
    I personally always welcome informed comments, from either “side”, whether or not I agree.
    You may be surprised by this, but I am not registered with the Republican party (nor any party for that matter). I AM a voter, and a proud 1st-generation American.
    You may also be surprised by the fact that I counter deception/lies from BOTH parties! (you should see how many “forwards” I send BACK to conservative friends when they contain information about Obama that is not true, or even deceptive). I supply them with the correct information, and surprisingly, sometimes they even forward the information I provide back to their recipients!
    To all: research, research, research your facts before adding to muddied waters!
    Can we agree that we ALL need to be INFORMED voters?

    Comment by Concetta — Friday, October 3, 2008 @ 4:07 pm

  18. Governor Palin made the selection of Ms Ifill moot by stating she would choose not to answers questions asked that she did not want to. That attack on Ms Ifill turned out to be an unfair and unnecessary tact.

    Governor Plain spoke in reasonably complete sentences and improvement from the past and therefor did not embarrass herself, I guess therefore judged to be successful.

    A wink, smile and folksy delivery may have impressed some but I thought that trading on her gender something I find offensive and a form of sexism that all have been trying to remove from the workplace at all levels.

    In terms of matters of substance it was clear that Senator Biden was superior which is what one would expect from a candidate who is well educated, experienced and knowledgeable in an array of matters that affect the future direction of the country.

    If I was interviewing a prospective candidates for a receptionist or perhaps a sales representative I would select Governor Palin, who after training in the product or company would be charming to outside customers.

    It is impossible to believe her qualified to lead the Congress and the Nation, should that be necessary and that is the constitutional duties for the office of the Vice President of the United States. Just because you ignore the facts does not mean they do not exist.

    Comment by geek — Friday, October 3, 2008 @ 4:56 pm

  19. It’s interesting to note that you thought “Plain spoke in reasonably complete sentences”.
    I do proofreading on the side, and editing the grammar and spelling in your post would take quite a while. The stream of mistakes made it difficult for me to wade through what you were trying to say, though I caught your drift.
    IF you are in some way handicapped, or English is not your first language, please accept my apologies. Honestly. I don’t want to assume anything here.
    As you implied, command of the English language is a key component in communicating clearly, and in being taken seriously. To that end, I’d give extra points to Obama and Palin. McCain and Biden do well, but not extraordinarily so.

    Comment by Concetta — Friday, October 3, 2008 @ 5:27 pm

  20. Concetta,

    A point of order: just because a book is available for pre-order, doesn’t mean it is done. Indeed, I can speak on this with authority, as I know for a fact that this book is available for pre-order, and yet is not “done.”

    Indeed, Ifill is waiting, as I understand it, to finish the book based on the way the election turns out.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Friday, October 3, 2008 @ 7:04 pm

  21. Thank you, Dr. Taylor!
    I tried to look information about the timing of book publishing, and couldn’t find anything!
    Where did you get the information that Ifill is waiting on the results of the election? I’m curious.
    It’s impossible to determine her progress on the book, but I will state that she does have the tenor of the book pretty well laid out, based on her own comments and Doubleday’s promo. Win or lose, its title will still refer to “The Age of Obama”, and his “stunning”/”bold” campaign. Choosing her was a breach of ethics, and I reiterate that, had this been a court case, any court in the country would have declared a mistrial and thrown everything she said out the window.
    I would have said the same had the shoe been on McCain’s foot.

    All that being said, my personal opinion is that she moderated the debate without showing any glaring favoritism, and for that I give her kudos (though I imagine she was under some pressure, self-imposed or otherwise, to “prove” her impartiality). I was struck by her professionalism.

    Comment by Concetta — Friday, October 3, 2008 @ 7:30 pm

  22. Concetta,

    It was in press reports yesterday (I think via various cable news outlets–I was flipping around).

    All told, it would have been better for appearance’s sake for Ifill not to have moderated, although I really don’t think it made any difference, nor do I think it would have done even if the brouhaha about the book was never raised.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Friday, October 3, 2008 @ 7:40 pm

  23. 26% is Doubleday’s standard.

    Duh. . .

    Comment by Western Man — Saturday, October 4, 2008 @ 1:12 pm

  24. Hey, WM!
    This isn’t directly any of my business, but that “Duh” was uncalled for.
    The lady asked nicely, and there was no need to imply she had a lack of intelligence.
    I’ll shut up now.

    Comment by Concetta — Saturday, October 4, 2008 @ 1:23 pm

  25. You’re right, it was uncalled for.

    So what.

    This whole election is a SHAM.

    Comment by Western Man — Saturday, October 4, 2008 @ 2:49 pm

  26. yes, biden sounded like one of the adults. true that.

    palin? not so much.

    Comment by [email protected] — Monday, October 6, 2008 @ 4:05 am

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