The Veep Showdown: Palin Versus Biden

By Staff Staff | Posted at 6:39 AM

Thursday night’s Vice Presidential Debate, moderated by Gwen Ifill and participated in by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) and Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), was the most watched veep-debate in history. Everyone wanted to know if Biden could deliver the crushing blow to Palin that would end the Republicans’ hopes for the White House a month early. OFB’s Timothy R. Butler and analyst Jason Kettinger weigh in.

Timothy R. Butler: Both candidates offered worthy debate performances, but Palin clearly won. She not only managed to avoid a complete meltdown, she proved herself a worthy adversary to a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Senate.

Biden’s major weakness is that many of the McCain campaign’s primary attacks on Sen. Barack Obama are the same ones Sen. Biden used against Obama before he ended his presidential hopes in January. Citing Biden’s own positions about Obama’s naïveté worked to demonstrate the bi-partisan concern about Sen. Obama. Moreover, this approach allowed Gov. Palin to “generously” applaud Biden’s straight talk from the primary season that has now been conveniently swept under the rug.

Biden by all measures should have been able to win. Biden is a capable debater with far more experience than Gov. Palin. Conventional wisdom suggested this should have been another Quayle-Bentsen debate. However, Biden’s Achilles heel, remarks full of gushes of gratuitous gaffes, appeared again, as he tried to deny Obama’s dangerous statements from last year in support of presidential meetings with hostile leaders, such as Iran’s Ahmadinejad, without preconditions. These disturbing statements, made on a CNN televised debate, are well documented.

He also offered an extremely strained attempt to defend his apparent support of the Iraq war before he turned against it, a situation that might not have been quite so bad if he could have just brought himself to say he had been wrong. To borrow the best phrase of the night from Gov. Palin, there were plenty of times the viewer felt like remarking, “Say it ain’t so, Joe, there you go again.”

Biden suffered from a “beltway disconnect” that makes him seem isolated from the Heartland. The claim to be a defender of the middle class also rang hollow as Gov. Palin aptly pointed out that she was a member of the middle class (unlike the rest of those in this race). Who better to look out for the middle class than someone who actually has been and continues to be an average, middle class American?

Palin made her own set of gaffes, but generally they were more subjective in nature. Overpowering any marks against her for those were a surge of confidence and folksy presentation that harkened back to her nomination acceptance speech, or, perhaps, even Ronald Reagan, more than her recent, less than stellar interview performances. Anyone who doubts Palin’s abilities to adapt herself and think quickly has some serious explaining to do after last night.

One detractor imagined before the debate how Biden could hearken back to Bentsen’s famous put down of Dan Quayle, in which Lloyd Bentsen told Quayle he “was no Jack Kennedy,” by telling Palin she “was no Dan Quayle” – insinuating she was remarkably dull if not outright stupid. To the horror of these folks, Quayle comparisons came, but in a very different tone: they were remarks of how Palin was head and shoulders better than Quayle. She actually appeared to be a savvy, smart candidate. As the Governor said plenty of times during the debate, “Darn right.”

Jason Kettinger: Joe Biden sounded smarter than Sarah Palin, but he does pride himself on letting people know how smart he is.

He's flat-out lying about his position on the war in Iraq, and is hoping we don't notice. Anyone who has bothered to read the war resolution knows he is evading his responsibility.

He's not in a position to talk tough on Iran, either. The American Enterprise Institute recently noted the close ties between Biden and Iranian officials. The surge and attendant change in strategy is the single biggest challenge in making Obama's Iraq position palatable to non-Democrats. It remains to be seen whether their failure to acknowledge the surge’s success will cost them.

The supposed foreign policy expert also should have known that Lebanon has long been controlled by Hezbollah, and that U.S. troops have not been there recently, much less removed them. In addition, pray tell, how would an Obama-Biden administration be substantively different from the Bush administration vis a vis Israel and the Palestinians? Indeed, Bush should be commended here.

As with the McCain-Obama debate, last week, the economics portion was a wash Thursday night. I thought in terms of style, it was the worst debate I had ever seen. Both candidates took the liberty to avoid the questions, and issue stump speeches. Palin was worse in this regard. This debate cannot be scored.

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3 comments posted so far.

Re: The Veep Showdown: Palin Versus Biden

As Gov. Palin so eloquently put it during the VP debate on Thusday: Sen. Obama wants to “waive the white flag of defeat” in Iraq. I think most Americans, right of left of the aisle, do not want that to happen. Regardless of whether or not you supported the war at its onset, not to mention the debacle it transitioned into before Gen. Petreaus got there, we are clearly winning now. The terrorists are on the run, safety is improving, and if we don’t get it right this time, we’ll probably have to go back 10 years from now to fix it anyways. It’s like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Iraq has been doing well lately and it would be crime to let the lawlessness that has reigned for the last 3 years loose once again to ravage the country and its people.

Palin went on to point out that Obama is insistent on pursuing “dangerous” foreign policies and remains “naive” when it comes to the ways of the world. Imagine what people would say about anyone else promoting a 16 month withdraw plan for well over 18 months, and then saying that no revisions were necessary? That sounds pretty naïve to me. Obama says that we must win in Afghanistan, which to him is the central front on the War on Terror (the Generals in the military disagree), and not necessarily Iraq. I can’t imagine how we could possibly win in Afghanistan if we capitulate in Iraq. That is a very dangerous thinking.

I think Palin made the decision that voters face this year very clear. Vote for a winner, or vote for a loser.

The real Obama:

Posted by Fred D - Oct 04, 2008 | 7:21 AM

Re: The Veep Showdown: Palin Versus Biden

Only if you were high on drugs and on the short list waiting for a brain transplant could anyone believe Sarah Palin was a winner of anything beyond the “managed not to drool on herself or fall down” prize.

From the media who are eager to manufacture controversy to attract attention because they are bleeding out market-share and audience, the game was about looking good and making a flashy presentation - kinda like everyday media - which Palin was as a weather reporter.

But for substance and critical thinking skills, she came to this contest unarmed, except for the handlers notes and memorized talking points. Might be acceptable for doing the weather or running a state with a smaller population than Baltimore, but for the job she perspires too, she isn’t just under-qualified she is clearly un-qualified.

Posted by mikey - Oct 04, 2008 | 10:09 AM

Re: The Veep Showdown: Palin Versus Biden

People forget that they vote for president, Obama does not have enough experience to be president. It’s the economy and the war that make people frustrated but Obama-Biden is the wrong choice for America.

Posted by you can't be serious - Oct 04, 2008 | 11:46 AM