Friday, October 03, 2008

VP debate thoughts

If you missed the debate, C-Span has the whole thing up on YouTube.

At any rate, just flipping through my scribbled notes:

-Palin openly and deliberately switched topics multiple times during the debate, at one point even flat-out saying she was going to ignore the moderator and speak directly to the American people. That was a gamble, and I'm not sure whether it paid off.

-Palin once again hammered home the point that many small businesses are over the $250K threshold, and will thus have their taxes raised under Obama's plain. Biden countered that 95% of small business owners have incomes of less than $250K/year.

I'm willing to bet all the change in my pocket that both candidates are absolutely, positively, 100% correct. Can you spot the extra word Biden snuck into his above rebuttal?

-Biden picked up Obama's line hammering McCain's plan to pair the $5000 tax credit for health insurance with taxing employer health benefits. Steven Landsburg should be pleased.

-Neither McCain nor Obama gave an answer last week when asked what campaign promises they might not be able to fulfill because of the bailout. Biden did give one answer--namely, increased foreign aid--then went on to say the Obama campaign would also not carry out McCain's proposed tax cuts.


-Palin, after snarking that she hadn't been on the campaign trail long enough to make any such expensive promises, suggested that McCain hasn't overextended himself to that point either.

-Palin got her head handed to her on climate change. When she said that she didn't want to argue about causes, Biden pounced--if you don't know the causes, you can't find the solutions, as he rightfully pointed out.

-Palin had a quick recovery, though. When the discussion turned to alternative energy sources, she immediately noted natural gas--conspicuously absent from Biden's list--and the Alaska pipeline, then went back on the offensive with three quick strikes: Obama/Biden's unwillingness to consider any domestic solutions, their referring to safe drilling processes as "raping" the land, and Biden's YouTube coal moment.

-The sound bite of the debate: Palin saying, "We'll know when we're finished in Iraq." I'm not quite sure which side it'll end up benefitting, but there it is.

-Biden tried to spin his vote authorizing the Iraq war as not a war vote, but as giving Bush the military option to maintain sanctions. Palin countered by invoking the outsider's view, and said flat-out that a war vote is a war vote.

-I'm not quite sure what to make of the exchange over Afghanistan. I'm not clear on what the "surge principle" Biden and Palin referred to is, and how it relates to increased troop levels and classic counterinsurgency strategy (which were both part of the surge in Iraq).

-To my surprise and delight, a close variant of the NYT's question on the role of the vice presidency was, in fact, asked, with reference to Cheney's creative interpretation. Palin argued for the flexibility of the office; Biden, by contrast, argued that the VP is exclusively an executive position, whose Constitutional powers over the Senate are ONLY to cast the tiebreaker vote.

Biden is flat-out wrong on this one. Article I, Section 3:

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

The VP has voting power only in case of a tie, but his/her powers in presiding over the Senate are NOT limited to that instance. In fact, it would seem to be the exact opposite--the Constitution seems to imply that the VP's voting only in case of a tie break is a limitation on his/her powers in presiding over the Senate!

-Interesting, and disturbing, how Biden described his change in view on the fitness of judicial nominees, with explicit reference to the rejection of Robert Bork. Biden's former position is the one that Republican senators followed faithfully all the way up through the end of the last Democratic presidency, even after the spectacles of Bork and Clarence Thomas--putting Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer on the bench by votes of 97-3 and 87-9, respectively.

The GOP, apparently, was engaged in a little unilateral disarmament of their own. One hopes that if Obama is elected, they will keep this in mind.

-Snarky remark in Palin's closing statement about speaking to the American people without the filter of the MSM. For those who recall the creative editing of her interviews, this was a well-appreciated remark. For those who don't recall it...well, as I said at earlier, Palin's approach was a gamble.

-All pre-debate controversies aside, Gwen Ifill did an excellent job as moderator. No complaints whatsoever.

Overall, while Palin did a lot of meandering, she made very clear that she was changing the topic, so unlike her recent interviews, it didn't look like she didn't know what she was talking about. Biden didn't have any fatal gaffes.

Call this one a draw.


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