Sarah Palin Wins Debate–By darn

by Walter Brasch

The vice-presidential debates proved one thing. At the very least, Sarah Palin can be trained.

For several days, she had camped out in one of John McCain’s Arizona houses, where she underwent Debate Boot camp conducted by drill instructors who make Marine DIs appear to be slaggers.

With a few “darns,” “betchas,” and “ya”s, Palin managed to get all her talking points into the debate, even if she constantly changed the question to suit her note cards.

During the 90-minute debate, Palin six times referred to her experience as the mayor of a 6,000 resident village. Seven times, she specifically mentioned Ahmadinejad. Iran’s president, proud she knew the name, proud that she could pronounce it. No one asked if she knew his first name or anything else about him. Shades of George W. Bush in his first term trying to prove he knew something about foreign affairs by enunciating the names of a few world leaders—after several gaffes early in the campaign. Of course, twice Palin was wrong about the name of the U.S. commander in Iraq. Several times she noted she and John McCain are mavericks. About the sixth time she mentioned it, Joe Biden finally unleashed his debating skills. John McCain is no maverick he said in measured response. The Republican nominee voted with President Bush four times to extend the budget deficit, said Biden, who also pointed out that McCain went along with Bush on numerous health care and education issues, most of which were regressive rather than progressive, was one of the strongest backers of going to war with Iraq, and opposed tax cuts.

Palin’s answers were mostly glittering generalities as she peppered numerous responses with cheerleader messages about America, and even tossed in Reagan’s “shining city” example, and punctuated another response to Biden with a Reaganesque, “Say it ain’t so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again.” Her responses, after awhile, seemed to be more acceptable to a beauty contest than a vice-presidential debate.

Both Palin and Biden had a few factual errors, with Palin ahead in the count of misstatements, discrepancies, and outright lies, according to, a non-partisan source at the University of Pennsylvania. Possibly Palin’s biggest problem, and something that should coincern every voter, was that she bumbled on the constitutional definition of the role of the vice-president, something Biden quickly corrected.

Nevertheless, Palin came across as confident, charming, and folksy, even giving America three on-camera winks. She successfully muted her previous blunders in interviews with TV news anchors Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric, where she claimed Alaska provides 20 percent of the nation’s energy (it’s only 3.5 percent), revealed the only Supreme Court case she knows is Roe v. Wade, that like President Bush she probably isn’t much of a reader, believes she knows foreign affairs because Russia is a few miles from Alaska, and disguised her lack of knowledge of vice-presidents by claiming George H. W. Bush was the vice-president she admired the most because he “kind of learned the ropes in his position as VP and then moving on up.” In that same interview, responding to a question about what was the worst quality of the current vice-president, Joe Biden said it was shredding the Constitution; Sarah Palin said it was “the duck hunting accident.”

In the debate, Biden threw specifics after specifics. Almost every major online newspaper poll gave Biden the win, especially among undecided voters, with several polls showing him scoring in the 70s and 80s. The CNN poll showed that about 51 percent thought Biden did a better job, while 36 percent supported Palin. At MSNBC, it was 78 percent for Biden. Even the conservative Wall Street Journal readers polled online gave Biden 52 percent. The ultra conservative Drudge report, however, gave Palin the lead at 68 percent.

But, this was also a win for Sarah Palin. Expectations for her were so low that if she didn’t shoot a moose during the debate, people would be thrilled. In theatre, actors learn that their first responsibility is to learn their lines and don’t fall over the scenery. In this debate, Sarah Palin knew her prepared lines, and the scenery still stood after 90 minutes.

[Walter Brasch’s latest book is the second edition of Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush (November 2007), available through,, and other bookstores. You may contact Brasch at or through his website at:]

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About Walter Brasch

Columnist, author, journalism professor. Latest book is BEFORE THE FIRST SNOW: STORIES FROM THE REVOLUTION, a look at the couterculture from 1964, as seen through the eyes of a "flower child" who is now middle-aged--and of the reporter who covered her story. The book is available through . . . Check out website, for further info. Or, just write me:
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6 Responses to Sarah Palin Wins Debate–By darn

  1. Burr Deming says:

    Governor Palin did very well for herself.
    Joe Biden merely did well for Obama.
    But I have not yet heard anyone from any side express any concern about <a href=”“>the most dangerous possibility</a> if Governor Palin is elected to national office.

  2. Stuart O'Neill says:

    Good analysis, Walter. I think you were generous in describing the bar she had to jump over to be a ‘winner’. I thought if she didn’t simply go silent she’d have proved herself the rightwing.Good job.

  3. Lickspittle Republican lackeys set the bar low for Palin thendeclared her the winner. This does not mean it’s so. The NYTsummed this up better than anyone in the mainstream media: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. After a series of stumbling interviews that raised serious doubts even among conservatives about her fitness to serve as vice president, 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. But Ms. Palin never really got beyond her talking points in 90 minutes, mostly repeating clichés and tired attack lines and energetically refusing to answer far too many questions…..In the end, the debate did not change the essential truth of Ms. Palin’s candidacy: Mr. McCain made a wildly irresponsible choice that shattered the image he created for himself as the honest, seasoned, experienced man of principle and judgment. It was either an act of incredible cynicism or appallingly bad judgment.

  4. palin , bet she dont know if Iranians are persians or arabs – lol she scares and Sleep if you want to but just recant, <a href=’’>Silk Worms’s aint only in China</a>

  5. All hopes rest on Governor Palin at the Vice Presidential Debate, no thanks to Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson. Ms. Palin knocks it out of the ballpark; she delivers. There’s an observation I’d like to make about Democrats though. A faux pas they commit with increased regularity. Now if you don’t like Bozo the clown, if you feel that he’s a particularly bad clown and bad for the country, why then don a Bozo wig, a pair of size 14 shoes, and a rubber nose whenever denouncing Bozo?

    If there’s an official uniform of the president, it’s the pastel blue tie, white shirt, and dark suit first popularized by George W. Bush. The color scheme comes from the presidential flag. No other American president made those colors his signature style before George W. Bush. In 2004, Bill Clinton even had his presidential portrait painted wearing George W’s distinctive garb. Although the 1960 Kennedy vs. Nixon debate was televised in black & white, people still argue the significance blue vs. grey played during the election.

    But there remains no ambiguity about which candidate wore what color (Kennedy, blue). Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And, the fashion police have long memories. Ms. Palin dressed for and aced the debate. Note: before castigating Bozo, please try not to emulate Bozo. It makes one look like a clown. Unlike foppish Al Gore, Joe Biden and others, we must not allow our inner bozos to dictate our thoughts and actions, much less our mode of dress:

  6. Dan says:

    Palin LOST by a long shot, Biden is a Statesman, Palin is a backwoods Gov of the state with the lowest numbers in education.