Friday, October 03, 2008

Palin trumps O'Biden

I rushed home from a neighborhood meeting and joined The Debate about 10 minutes into it.

I'm sure the left is tremendously disappointed that Gov. Sarah Palin didn't crash and burn. I believe many were certain she'd do herself and McCain in last night. It didn't happen. Didn't even come close to happening. From my seat on the couch she won because she held her own while being toe to toe with a 36 year veteran of political bloviating of the highest order.

Gov. Palin started out slowly but it didn't take her long to find her groove and get her and Senator John McCain's message in front of the television viewers. Her delivery was animated and passionate and she saved it from being the boring droning session these debates usually are. So confident was she that at the end she was giving a shout out to her brother's 3rd grade class as if it were a small townhall meeting instead of a high stakes debate. She succeeded in making it clear that while Obama and O'Biden may say 'middle class' in their speeches, Palin and her family are middle class and really do understand what the struggles are for those Americans.

She hammered home the point that government is more often a hindrance to getting things done. She belabored the greed on Wall Street line and I wished she'd pushed stronger on Congress' part in our current debacle. Thankfully, she mentioned personal responsibility in all this which is an important element that shouldn't be glossed over.

I loved it that she sees the VP job is being more than hanging out wait for the President to die and breaking tie votes. I'm looking forward to seeing how that develops. Biden disagreed at that moment but later said he'd be in on all the meetings/decisions with Obama...sounds much broader than his version of the Constitutional job description and only served to point out Obama's need to have more experence in the room.

Her absolute support for Israel, including putting our embassy in Jerusalem, was terrific! I was very glad to hear her strong statements, once again, in support of this nation.

She's right, Obama isn't ready to be Commander in Chief. That's clear from their insistence that they'll pull out on a timetable that the enemy can use to schedule their next attack.

Another strong statement: Marriage is between one man and one woman.

We howled with laughter when Palin mistakenly called Senator Joe Biden "O'Biden". I think that's going to stick.

Glad she put it to the media for filtering her comments. Apparently ABC, after getting burned with cut and paste job they did with the Gibson interview, was listening as on their Good Morning America broadcast this morning they emphasized that the entire speech was available on their website for viewing. An excellent hopeful and upbeat ending.

O'Biden's Cheshire Cat smile was creepy and condescending. It came across to me as saying 'We'll let the little woman talk but we know it doesn't really mean anything." The children wondered what was up with his Vulcan-like forehead. I wondered how a lawyer and head of the Judicial Committee in the Senate wasn't able to succinctly describe Chapters 7 and 13 of the bankruptcy code. Why on Earth would he give those judges the right to amend the principal amount on a loan??? I got tired of hearing Biden say 'it's fair'. His statement that he'd be in all the meetings with Obama only confirmed to me that was going to happen because Obama wasn't experienced enough to run things on his own. His emotional moment at the end may have started sincerely, but I do believe that he realized it could be useful and went with it. Very Clintonesque.

I'm betting Biden is glad there is only one vice-presidential debate. I suspect Obama is glad he doesn't have to debate her either.


N.S. Allen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
N.S. Allen said...

Obviously, with a debate as anticipated as that one, there are a million different topics one could look at. As to who won, I tend to think more of all the polls I've seen (which give it to Biden by big margins) than of anecdotal opinions. In any case, I'll keep the response down to two questions.

Question #1: What could Sarah Palin have done or said that would have made the debate a loss for her?

It seems like partisans on both sides have trouble seeing major events as anything but a huge win for their guy, a lot of the time. I'd like to simply assert that, if you can't detail what your favorite could have done poorly, you probably can't trust your political judgment as to what he or she actually did well.

(For the record, Biden, who did about as well as I was expecting him to, could have stepped in it by playing up his experience more, which would have made him look pushy against Palin, focusing on Palin rather than on McCain, giving in to some of the verbal tics that already make him sound rough at times, or just by giving off one of his oft-seen, awkward gaffes.)

Question #2: What makes Sarah Palin, as opposed to Barack Obama or Joe Biden, middle class?

Sarah Palin's family has an income roughly five times that of the median income in her hometown of Wasilla. (And median income in Alaska, at least, is one of the highest in the nation, according to the Census Bureau.)

"Middle class" is, of course, a somewhat amorphous concept, but it seems disingenuous, given this, to claim that she's it while Biden and Obama aren't. They're all politicians from middle to lower class backgrounds who are now well off.

So what, exactly, is the economic difference between Palin and her opponents, when it comes to being "middle class?"

(McCain, of course, is nowhere near middle class and never has been.)

Stoney Lonesome said...

I'm curious to know if you understand the difference between the terms "debate" and "scripted speech?" Also, are you able to discern between answering questions and side-stepping questions? While Gov. Palin did give a good performance, that was just it, a good rehearsed performance. No unscripted rebuttals, No in-depth explanations, non answering of the majority of questions, "homey" affectations and clearly rehearsed one liners. No substance, just read and recite, read and recite. Not impressive to me. I have nothing personally against Sarah Palin. I would bet that she is a descent person. In fact, I actually feel for her. I believe she is being used a pawn. A person chosen purely based on a statistician's formula to attract the most votes. If McCain does not win the election, Palin will be tossed aside as damaged goods like Kathleen Harris of Florida was. However, as far as the debate, very transparent.

Kay Brooks said...

Rob: Having been part of a debate team in school...I do believe I know what a real debate is. I don't think we've ever had a real presidential debate in my lifetime.

It's all about fitting in campaign talking points anymore. Gov. Palin managed to do that well. That tells me she knows what her job was that night and she accomplished it.

And Obama wasn't chosen/supported because he would attract votes the Dems are going after?

NS: The bar was set pretty low for Gov. Palin I'll agree. Standing there looking well put together, speaking clearly and directly to the television audience and not stumbling over the pronunciation of Ahmadinejad was more than some thought her capable of. I suppose if she'd come off as Tina Fay's parody of her that would have done it. But she did much better than that and she was obviously in control of the action.

What makes the Palin's middle class? You're right that's hard to nail down. I think income is a component (see below) but it's also about mindset. I haven't heard her complain about having to spend $10K for children's extra-curricular activities or suggest that $600 stimulus money be spent on anything as frivolous as earrings. She has talked about their concerns about how to pay for health insurance and college...certainly normal middle class concerns.

They've actually worked HARD to earn their money--North Slope, fishing--those aren't white collar 'you might get a paper cut' jobs.

Here's a link to her tax returns and financials. She's still no where near the income or wealth of the other three (if you include Cindy McCain's wealth as John's).

Kay Brooks said...

KNEW what her job was. :-)

N.S. Allen said...

1. So, does that mean that the Tina Fey caricature has some basis in fact? After all, if not, then your answer is something along the lines of, "If she'd come off as someone she isn't like at all, outside of the wicked bias of the media, she would have done poorly." Which is hardly a realistic perspective on a candidate's strengths and weaknesses.

If one accepts that Tina Fey was hitting on some traits Palin actually displays, of course, it's a much more legitimate response.

2. Certainly, Palin's annual income is much lower than Obama's or McCain's and somewhat lower than Biden's. There does seem to be some discrepancy as to what, exactly, her income is - the figures on her tax returns are a little over $30,000 less than the figures on her "Public Financial Disclosure."

If you use the higher number, Biden and Palin fall into the same tax bracket and are particularly close if you look at years where the Bidens have only had their usual income - their teaching gigs and Biden's Senate seat - as opposed to additional book royalties or something.

But, beyond the talk of economic standards and the like, I was afraid that you would say something about "middle class-ness" being a "mindset." That seems, in my mind, to be inviting manipulation of the term and the transformation of it from a meaningful, economic usage to a mindless designation of "good" or "like us."

I mean, does talking about a middle class mindset even make sense? If some CEO woke up tomorrow to find that his family's economic circumstances had been magically switched with my family's, would he still not be "middle class," because of the lack of a proper mindset? And would my family still be middle class, as we frolicked in a pool filled entirely with dollar bills?

The hypothetical there is over the top, of course, but I think it illustrates a reasonable point. My family, for instance, is by anyone's standard, I suspect, middle class. My dad has a hard-working, union job. My mom works part-time so that she can take care of my younger brother.

But, at the same time, I'm off at an insanely expensive college (in, of all place, the effete, elitist, out-of-the-mainstream Hyde Park) with quite a few rich liberals and a quite a few rich liberals' children, where I'm probably going to study philosophy. (Is there any major that is more clearly the opposite of blue collar labor than philosophy? I think not!)

My economic circumstances, then, certainly place me in the middle class, but I think you could argue, from the above, that my "mindset" does not. Can I, then, be fairly counted as "middle class," or do the other circumstances of my life make the term cease to apply?

I suspect, in short, that using "middle class" in any sense beyond the purely economic makes the term much, much harder to define. And that lets politicians have their way with language more than they already do, in addition to making it harder for normal folks to communicate clearly on the issue.

Kay Brooks said...

NS: ALL caricature's have a basis in fact. They are not, however, exact representations of the subject.

You're still growing up and are still figuring out what you do and don't believe and why. I'll withhold judgment on whether or not you're middle class until you've finished school, gotten a job, matured, lived some real life and maybe have a couple of children and a mortgage.

Stoney Lonesome said...

Kay, thank you for agreeing that Palin did not debate at all and that she was merely preforming. Tina Fey I'm sure could have given the same performance, but I would not want her as Vice President. Again, I'm sure Sarah Palin is a descent person, but I just do not in my heart of hearts believe she is qualified to be a heart beat away from the Presidency. I pray to God that nothing will ever befall to any of our Presidents. However, it is a point that must be thought about. Honestly Kay,(and I do not require you to answer this in your blog) if such a tragedy did occur, do you in your heart believe that Palin is better qualified to step in and be President than Biden? Although I will not be voting for McCain, if he does win I do not believe our Nation will crumble. There will be many issues that I think will head in the wrong direction, but overall we'll be fine. Even so, I would be very nervous and worried about Palin and her possible roll. She would have to have a very steep learning curve just to even be somewhat up to speed on just what a Vice President even does. This does not instill confidence. Now to your comment about about Obama being "chosen/supported." Obama was chosen by votes from the people. Palin was chosen by a formula. Sure both parties have target audiences, but Palin is a blatantly target choice over substance. The same cannot be said about Biden. Now, to another subject. This is just a pure non political question. Why doesn't Palin's husband ever hold the baby? Have you noticed that? My wife said something about it and then I noticed it too. I googled all of the video I could (wow what a exciting life I have huh) and in every video the father is never holding the baby. I'm not making a judgment, just as a father myself I find it odd. Thanks Kay for having a opinion.

Kay Brooks said...

I'm not conceding that Palin didn't debate at all. I'm saying that neither Palin nor Biden were actually participating in a traditional debate. Both of them arranged their answers to ensure their message was expressed.

Yes, I do believe Gov. Palin would be a better president than Sen. Biden....certainly better than Obama. She has successfully run executive branches of government (as mayor and governor). She's already got that part of the job down. It's highly unusual for a senator to be elected president. Governorship is the normal path to the president.

Papa Palin has held the baby. I saw him do it several times during the Republican convention--maybe you didn't watch? I've no idea if you have any children but when there is a baby in the family and several older sisters it's normal for them to hold the baby and practice being mama. We had a similar situation in our family. Papa had to pull rank for equal time. :-)

N.S. Allen said...

Wait, you actually have to reserve judgment as to whether I'm middle class?

It seems likely that you mean your answer more in the sense of "Oh, you're young, so it's okay for me to ignore your point," but if you're being serious, doesn't that make it clear that the idea of the concept of "middle class" having a "mindset" component is silly and wrong?

After all, personal connotations aside, words do have certain, settled, solid definitions. And I suspect that, when normal people, outside the magical land of political spin, say that person X is middle class, they have a pretty clear idea of what they're saying. There may be disputes as to the precise boundaries of the middle class, but we can still say to someone else, at least when politics have been put aside, "Jim is/is not middle class" and expect them to take away some pretty fixed information from that statement. The idea of anyone in normal conversation having to say "I'll just have to reserve judgment as to whether you're middle class, Jim," is absurd.

But, if you assume that an appropriate "mindset" is necessary for inclusion in the middle class, saying knowingly and truthfully that someone is middle class becomes much more difficult. I may know that my neighbor, for instance, lives in a house of similar value to my own, makes a similar, annual income, pays similar taxes, and suffers through financial setbacks of a similar nature to my own, but, short of getting to know him very well, I can't honestly claim to know his mindset well enough to term him middle class, can I?

In fact, supposedly middle class people I know very well may be stealthily concealing their Rockerfeller-esque inner self from me, lest their true mindset be revealed and they lose that precious, middle class membership card.

(And, of course, under this "mindset" definition, there are no children who can properly be termed "middle class," since their mindset is still developing.)

I'm being silly, of course, but the ultimate point, I think, is serious. You say that Sarah Palin's "mindset" is part of what marks her out as middle class, as opposed to Biden or Obama or McCain. My contention is that this definition of "middle class" is one that makes sense only if you're trying to paint a politically rosy picture. It's significantly different from the definition of the term that most people would recognize in a normal context. It's been distorted, however innocently, into a buzz word, used to stamp contentless approval onto someone.

Now, apart from whether Sarah Palin is middle class, you could certainly say that she shares the values of the middle class, that she has essential experiences in common with the middle class, etc., and you could have a fair argument as to whether each of those statements is true. The only problem is that that same claim could then be made about any of the other candidates, however rich, without being prima facie ridiculous, because there's no reason why someone who isn't currently middle class can't share values or experiences with the middle class.

You see exactly that argument, in fact, when you watch Biden talk about his father's car dealership or Obama talk about growing up with his mother - an attempt at portraying themselves as sharing certain common experiences with the middle class, despite their present wealth.

Buckley said...

I can understand your going after Biden for showing three seconds of emotion recalling the fact that when he was in his early 30s, his wife and one child were tragically killed in an automobile accident, making him a single parent. But to go after his forehead? That's a low blow.

N.S.- You know what you're talking about. Your age has nothing to do with it.

Stoney Lonesome said...

Kay, Palin didn't really "answer" too many of the questions. She rather read and recited. Biden on the other-hand, did answer many of the questions. Anyway, let's move away from the "debate" and agree to disagree. I have to address your statements about Palin being more qualified because of her being a small town mayor and Gov. of Alaska. Kay, I am beginning to think you are too partisan to be objective. Being the mayor of a town that has a population of 6700 plus does not in anyway qualify anyone to be President. Kay, I live in Memphis, (yes a fellow Tennessean) do you know what the population of Memphis is? 680,000 plus or minus. Do you know what the population of Alaska is? 670,000 plus or minus. Now, does this make the Mayor of Memphis (W.W. Herenton) qualified to be President? He has been Mayor since the early 90's. He oversees as much if not more of a budget as she. He has as many employees under him as she (including one of the largest school systems). Memphis is the distribution capital of the U.S. So Mayor Herenton knows domestic and international trade and custom laws very well. Does that make him qualified to be President? I can tell you from living here, none of this makes him qualified to be President. So being a small town mayor and Gov. of Alaska (for 20 months), does not in any way shape or form qualify Sarah Palin to be Vice or President. Also, if "governorship" is the "normal path," by your standard, doesn't that count out McCain? Anyway, yes I do have children, and yes, I did watch the convention. I saw him hold the baby very little. Well, thanks Kay for having an opinion. :)

T.V. Fritz said...

Palin's executive experience as mayor of Wasilla involved racking up $20 million in long-term debt or roughly $3000 of debt per resident.

For someone who speaks volumes of maverick economic reform, her managerial experience did not bode well.

Kay Brooks said...

TV: Are you referring to the sports center which bonding was approved by the voters of Wasilla?

T.V. Fritz said...

Actually, Kay, I'm talking about her budgeting of Wasilla (population 5,469 in 2000) “apart from capital projects and debt, rose from $3.9 million in fiscal 1996 to $5.8 million.”

Palin also successfully pushed through a sales tax increase in Wasilla, (oh noes!) which went to fund a $15 million sports complex.

So yes, I'm talking about that. The sports complex was razed through eminent domain and other scary conservative buzz words.

I'm talking about how the two major parties are indistinguishable in terms of expanding the government and fattening the pockets of lobbyists and CEOs. Despite what Palin may say otherwise.