Saturday, October 04, 2008

Pom-Poms for Palin

By Sharon Dooley.

Sarah Palin was perky and folksy during the VP debate and, as she has said: “comin’ at cha!” Maybe the gray heads running McCain’s campaign found that substantive, but I was unconvinced. She smiled, she looked professional – and she winked at us – more than once!! Can anyone imagine the uproar if Hillary Clinton ever winked at her audience during one of those debates with all of the guys running for the Democratic nomination? Would any Marylander dream of our intrepid ‘Senator Barb’ ever looking as if she was thinking about a wink?

The debate was more a series of separate questions and answers than any repartee between candidates or the moderator. They did not really communicate, although they did posture. Biden also overcame diminished expectations and was more concise and engaged than he has been in previous debates. He appeared to be addressing the questions asked, in most cases, and pretty much ignored the chipper chatter coming from his opponent. He did not come across as heavy-handed or sexist, both characteristics attributed to him in anticipation of this event. He pretty much kept to his script about looking for the differences between Obama and McCain and creating the parallels. He made some precise statements regarding health care and the office of the Vice-Presidency. He went back and forth about the Middle East and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But to me – sounding almost boring here reinforces a feeling of stability.

Let’s get serious – can anyone believe that a candidate who could not answer questions about nuclear nations needs to be close to absolute power? Her support for following in Cheney’s path and claiming additional fiat for the reach of the vice – presidential office is alarming to anyone who has watched the secretive veep and his forays toward a subterranean branch of the federal government outside the executive confines. Does any voter – aside from Palin support this hidden and expanded role for a VP?

Disdaining the agreed upon rules of debate and following her own script – even reading her lines at several points – Ms. Palin announced her plan to answer the questions she wanted to explore, not the ones which were actually asked and did so. Gwen Ifill, whom the McCain operatives hoped to replace or intimidate with charges of favoritism, did not repeat the questions or chide Ms. Palin in any attempts to get her to answer the questions asked, which might have returned some sense of reality to the stage. Returning to energy at almost every turn with colloquialisms flooding every sentence, she provided little light on most questions. In her many repetitions of comments already made on the campaign trail and proven to be inaccurate such as Obama’s stance on taxes and budget support for the troops, Sarah charged ahead disregarding facts in play. Her tentative use of the term mandate appeared to indicate that she was uncertain what the term actually meant.

Did she do better than her recent interviews with Katie Couric? Certainly. Can Katie ever be fairly charged with gotcha journalism? I think not; but here again the press was attacked for asking questions she should have known how to answer. (I do assume that most of us could easily recall the newspapers and magazines we usually read.) Is the national stage a hard and tough one? Of course. When anyone steps on up and embraces the role – that choice has been accepted. That process is part of our democracy and it should be defended. But Palin’s handlers couldn’t or wouldn’t let her hold a press conference. If she is not ready for prime time interviews, why select her in the first place? How has wrapping the candidate up and making her unreachable added any transparency to this campaign? Is she better or worse than she appears? We may never know.

Soon, the debates will all be over – the yard signs will be put away, the electorate will have spoken. Will the voters “shout out for substance” or bow to the soap opera power of the gal with the pom-poms and the quirky nature? Will we vote for the campaign promising hope and change or the one that claims straight talk?