Don't tell my department chair, but I let my creative writing workshop out early last night so we could watch the Vice Presidential debate. Or, should I say, so I could watch it. I printed out my Palin Bingo card--and had BINGO about 8 minutes in.
One of the obvious things I noticed was the fact that even though Palin danced around questions and changed the topics to whatever talking points she wanted to hit, Gwen Ifill, the moderator, didn't follow up very much, or ask that she stay on point. She and Biden both allowed the moose-skinning mama to direct the flow of that debate, which is disappointing. As moderator, it was Ifill's responsibility to actually moderate--to keep the candidates on track, to steer them back to the requested topic when they veered away, and to ask follow-up questions whenver she tried to sing and dance her way out of something. Or play the flute out of something. It just made me miss Tim Russert all the more.
Biden, for his part, was well behaved and well trained. His coaches had obviously hammered the importance of not attacking her ad hominem, and even though he looked, as Rich Villar said, like he wanted to "piledrive her through the floor," he refrained, and his behavior, though careful and measured, was beyond rebuke. He answered his questions without being overly loquacious, and he hammered certain necessary points home again and again, which I was glad to see. I think his closing statement could have reiterated that Bush=McCain and that this call of "change" coming from more of the same is preposterous, but it was good enough.
And that seems to have been the mantra for Palin's camp. "Good enough." The playbook for Palin? "Just don't show the world that famous gaping lack of intelligence you've shown the media whenever you're off book. Stand at that podium by the creek in Sedona and memorize, memorize, memorize. Ignore Joe Biden and Gwen Ifill and the actual questions and say what WE want you to say. Bring it back to whatever talking points you remember. Try to get that 'There you go again' quote in there--people love remembering Reagan. Look directly at the camera and pretend like it's just you and the American people because without Joe Biden and Gwen Ifill, it is! Make it folksy. Throw out as many references to your 'pedigree' as possible, and mix it up with some 'youbetchas' and 'goshdarnits.' Wink as often as possible without going overboard. And above all, DON'T SAY ANYTHING YOU THINK UP ALL BY YOURSELF!"
After her part of it was over, nothing of substance had been said, no real questions had been answered, no policy differences had been cited, and only Joe Biden seemed to notice.
And when the pundits came on afterwards, they seemed to believe that since her performance in the past few weeks had set the bar so low, the fact that she didn't self-combust or implode or say one of her characteristically vapid statements meant that somehow she had succeeded. Since when does the ability to memorize and regurgitate talking points--when it's the ONLY THING YOU HAVE TO DO FOR FIVE WEEKS--equal intelligence? And the moment when she furthered Dick Cheney's agenda of having the VP have even more power sent chills down my spine. Literally. As if Cheney as the Emperor wasn't dark enough, in this sequel, Sarah Palin's Jar Jar Binks would be wrapped up in those robes, with no Jedis in sight to save us.