Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 21, 2008

A STUNTED VP DEBATE.... This may be an elaborate effort to manage expectations, but it seems more likely the McCain campaign is genuinely worried about Sarah Palin's ability to handle a nationally televised debate.

The Obama and McCain campaigns have agreed to an unusual free-flowing format for the three televised presidential debates, which begin Friday, but the McCain camp fought for and won a much more structured approach for the questioning at the vice-presidential debate, advisers to both campaigns said Saturday.

At the insistence of the McCain campaign, the Oct. 2 debate between the Republican nominee for vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin, and her Democratic rival, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., will have shorter question-and-answer segments than those for the presidential nominees, the advisers said. There will also be much less opportunity for free-wheeling, direct exchanges between the running mates.

McCain advisers said they had been concerned that a loose format could leave Ms. Palin, a relatively inexperienced debater, at a disadvantage and largely on the defensive. [...]

McCain advisers said they were only somewhat concerned about Ms. Palin's debating skills compared with those of Mr. Biden, who has served six terms in the Senate, or about his chances of tripping her up. Instead, they say, they wanted Ms. Palin to have opportunities to present Mr. McCain's positions, rather than spending time talking about her experience or playing defense.

The commission specifically sought a relaxed format for Biden and Palin, allowing time for "unpredictable questioning and challenges between the two vice-presidential candidates." The McCain campaign rejected the idea altogether.

The farce, in other words, continues. A campaign confident in its running mate -- you know, the one who may be one heartbeat from the presidency in about four months -- wouldn't be this afraid of questions and interaction.

Steve Benen 10:58 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Comments

Of course, then again they might be managing expectations--a key, as we know, to a successful debate performance.

Posted by: David in Nashville on September 21, 2008 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Look, I see only one threat in the entire debate: the chance that Palin will play the victim card.

Remember that dumbass who stalked across the stage to strangle Hillary in New York? (Oh, wait -- he just tried to give her a piece of paper....) That's what I'm talking about.

I think this format protects BIDEN more than it protects Palin. She's dumb, and she's going to come across as dumb and uninformed, even as her glitter-white teeth and doe-eyed air of confidence convinces the true believers that Christ really did pick her out of a line-up to lead them all the Heaven (TM).

Count me relieved that there's going to be a lot of structure, and let's hope Joe learned his lesson watching Barack debate Hillary. Be NICE. Be A GENTLEMAN. Stick to the FACTS.

Posted by: The Phantom on September 21, 2008 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

I hope Biden makes a point of -casually- mentioning before the debate that he would have been comfortable with either format-- that he at least isn't afraid of open information.

Posted by: fuyura on September 21, 2008 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

I guess she's not ready to be VP after all.

Posted by: AJB on September 21, 2008 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

I have a lot of confidence in Joe. I'm certain the Obama team has been hammering into his head BE NICE but NOT TOO NICE. He's a pro and knows what to do. Sarah, on the other hand, should provide lots of entertainment value--as well as many jaw-dropping statements as she tries to talk her way around a question she has no clue how to answer. She is truly one of those people who believe the sheer force of their personality will make everything turn out the way they want it to. Things are about to get SO interesting!

Posted by: frankie14 on September 21, 2008 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

When you have a stunted candidate then it's only right to demand a stunted debate.

Posted by: Dennis - SGMM on September 21, 2008 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

SHE WON'T BLINK!

Read this to know:

http://www.newsweek.com/id/160080/output/print

Posted by: John McCain: Glorious Leader on September 21, 2008 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

"they wanted Ms. Palin to have opportunities to present Mr. McCain's positions, rather than spending time talking about her experience or playing defense."

Shorter version: she can only spout talking points, and doesn't know enough about them to be able to explain anything about them.

She is such a DISGUSTING MORON!!!!!!!!! She reminds me of every talentless quarterwit who ever shows up in Hollywood, full of belief in themselves, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Posted by: TCinLA on September 21, 2008 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

It will be tempting for Biden to dominate the time, which will benefit Palin. Palin should be encourage to ad lib on record as much as possible. The Republican spin will try to focus on Biden gaffes.

Posted by: bakho on September 21, 2008 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol is saying the VP debate is pay-per-view.

WTF is wrong with that guy?

Posted by: Bobzim on September 21, 2008 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

I know this goes against the general grain, but we need to be careful underestimating Palin in debates. She's got a 'folksy' style that appeals to a lot of voters, is good at delivering one liners that will be picked up and repeated after the debates and, whether we want to admit it or not, has geniune charisma.

And don't forget, its not just the debate that matters, its the post debate spin from the MSM. The McCain camp has been desperately trying to the get the MSM into a meme where they think they've been too hard on Palin so they'll so soft on her debate performance to make up for it (don't laugh, that really is how so of those idiots think). Remember, Kerry was generally seen as winning the debates by those who watched but lossing the debates by those who paid attention to the post debate MSM spin.

Posted by: thorin-1 on September 21, 2008 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

still no news conference: my guess is that she will NEVER do one before the election

and the MSM blithely goes along ... is it only Andrew Sullivan who's raving fucking mad about this? Everyone ought to be.

Posted by: sjw on September 21, 2008 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

She's a relatively inexperienced EVERYTHING. Why should debates be any different? Gotta be nice to the n00bs.

Posted by: on September 21, 2008 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Wait a second, don't we have three presidential debates to learn McCain's positions? The veep debates are about the veeps.

This is pretty pathetic on the McCain camp's part.

Posted by: Rabi on September 21, 2008 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

I hope the Obama campaign has demand or two of their own. I would suggest they require a qualifer before the debate beigns while the rules are being explained that specifically spells out any demands by the McCain campaign.

There's going to be alot of interest in this debate, and this story will get quite a bit of attention (not to mention what SNL will do with it). It's going to be harder to spin this as a win for Palin no matter how poised or down-home she is if all she's required to do is spout talking points. She showed no depth or knowledge in her ABC interview, the Hannity sit down was rediculous and her pol numbers are dropping. She needs to step it up in the debate. This isn't the way to do it.

And Biden needs to play loose with the conditions. What will they do, escort him off the stage? If Palin begins spouting false talking points ment to go unchallenged he needs to address it.

Posted by: Saint Zak on September 21, 2008 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

The commission specifically sought a relaxed format for Biden and Palin, allowing time for "unpredictable questioning and challenges between the two vice-presidential candidates." The McCain campaign rejected the idea altogether.

So to the extent that a President faces only predictable questions and challenges, Sarah Palin should do fine if John McCain kicks off. That's good to know.

Posted by: RSA on September 21, 2008 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

They're trying to rig the debate---and the next step will be to determine what the questions will be. After all, we know how the McCain "cone of silence" works....

Posted by: Steve on September 21, 2008 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

The international press has a few interesting takes on the Palin VP pick and behavior.

I liked the way Die Zeit from Germany put it:

OK, so Sarah Palin doesn’t know what the Bush Doctrine is. But how about the Palin Doctrine – “Don’t Blink!” Freely translated, that means don’t flinch, don’t hesitate, prefer the attack, preferably even a preventive one. What a beautiful philosophy.

For a translation into English of that article, go to this link at Watching America and enjoy. It's nice to see that there are actually newspapers who see through all the bullshit. Unfortunately most of them are not in America.

Here's another link to the Aftenposten from Norway; with a link to the translated article at Watching America. Here are a few interesting quotes from it:

The United States has a talent for producing thought-simplifying politicians. Especially when they claim to represent God's march on earth.
We are risking having a woman who sees God's hands in all she does just a heartbeat away from the oval office. An unholy mixture of ignorance and vulgarity. We know this “Gott mit uns” - mentality all to well from European history. Save us from the Alaskan version!
It is easy to be confident when you can use simple rationalization because God is on your side.

It would be very nice indeed, if at least a few Newspapers here pointed it out... on the front page that is.

Posted by: bruno on September 21, 2008 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Look, I see only one threat in the entire debate: the chance that Palin will play the victim card.

How can a self-described pit bull with lipstick play the victim?

...when I hear a statement like that coming from a woman candidate with any kind of perceived whine about that excess criticism or you know maybe a sharper microscope put on her, I think you know that doesn't do us any good -- women in politics, women in general wanting to progress this country
-- Sarah Palin

Posted by: croatoan on September 21, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't sad that we have to go across the Pond to get any authentic commentary on the national joke that is Sarah Palin...The typical MSM reaction to any Palin performance is "no major gaffes." What a high bar for a woman who could be President...

Posted by: C.J. Roses on September 21, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

The bloom is already off the Palin rose, as she now has the worst favor/disfavor spread of the four candidates on the tickets. A merely competent performance won't stop the McCain ship from sinking. She could help if she can whip out a "you're no JFK" zinger. But such moments usually occur only when the opponent's hubris (eg, Quayle repeatedly comparing himself to JFK) creates an opening. Biden is unlikely to provide such an opening; more importantly, Palin's dependence on memorized talking points won't allow her to be alert for such an opening should it arise.

Posted by: kth on September 21, 2008 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

The short-answer format will clearly allow Palin to toss off short, memorized, glib answers on numerous topics, which will disguise her lack of in-depth knowledge. Unfortunately, it may also work against Biden, who is better at longer answers and can take a little while to get going. But he has had quite a few good sound bites lately, so perhaps not all is lost. My prediction is that the debate outcome will ultimately depend on a race between commentators spinning for Palin ("MUCH better than expected....") and fact checkers working their way through a forest of partial yet complex misrepresentations on her part.

Posted by: N.Wells on September 21, 2008 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

JFC, next they'll have her simulcast from Wasilla so she can have off camera script cards with makeshift answers. Where's the pit bull now you bat-shit crazy, bent-ecostal harpy? I know where the pit bull has gone, out the door with your hard core heavenly heritage and your international and domestic expertise! Is the circus over yet??!

Posted by: The Galloping Trollop on September 21, 2008 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

"...were only somewhat concerned about Ms. Palin's debating skills compared with those of Mr. Biden, who has served six terms in the Senate,..."
---

I love how they're chicken shits and force a debate format that could only be seen as protecting their no nothing candidate, and still they try and belittle their opponent.

'I'll Arm Wrestle you if I can use two hands, even though you're not that strong!'

Who does this stuff work on?

Posted by: TBone on September 21, 2008 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect viewers will see Palin deliver chirpy skin deep talking points. If pressed harder on any topic, she may veer into the "blizzard of words" strategy of using key words with little intelligible sense. Palin does have folksy delivery appeal and may land a zinger or two, but will she hold up over the course of 90 minutes???? She's has had an awfully easy time in the limelight so far.

Posted by: Jim on September 21, 2008 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

McCain advisers said they had been concerned that a loose format could leave Ms. Palin, a relatively inexperienced debater, at a disadvantage and largely on the defensive. [...]
Boo Hoo. I'm sure our enemies will go easier on her because she's inexperienced.

Posted by: Lew Scannon on September 21, 2008 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

I think the VP debates (and probably the presidential debates as well, if the truth be told) are largely politics as theatre at this point, and unlikely to change many minds. If Obama could pick up some independents this way, it's not wasted time, and all the debates are bound to be an interesting spectacle, but I agree with N. Wells, above - those who are already in the McPalin camp will say she rocked their tiny worlds - what's that line again, Brick Oven Bill? Oh, yes; she engaged them with her eyes, and said intelligent things. Those who have complete contempt for her apparently room-temperature IQ and wild-eyed ambition will say that it's about what they would have expected from a talking potato.

I'm visiting Washington today (state, not city) and political bumper-stickers and paraphenalia are pretty thin on the ground here in Seattle. I saw only one sticker for this election, and it was Obama 08.

Posted by: Mark on September 21, 2008 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

I think Joe will be fine, and as some have said, the reduced amount of time will be a help to him. Here's an article on how Joe is impressing people with *his* down-to-earth, folksy style:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20080921/pl_politico/13596
(Be sure to read past the first four paragraphs.)

And here's an American article on Palin in the same vein as the European ones:
http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/20080921_The_American_Debate__Populism_gone_wild__Palin_latest_example_of_push_to_mediocrity.html
The American Debate: Populism gone wild: Palin latest example of push to mediocrity

Posted by: Hannah on September 22, 2008 at 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

Hmm...

You folks are getting suckered into a false sense of security. No one here seems to remember that Palin participated in a whole series of debates during the 2006 race for Alaska governor. If Palin is so weak , then how did the democrat, former governor Tony Knowles, manage to lose the race?

Posted by: Brad on September 22, 2008 at 6:48 AM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: Orwell on September 22, 2008 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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