Sarah Palin: The Vice Presidential Debate Performance of a Lifetime

I’ve waited a few days to weigh in on the vice presidential debate to give myself some time to digest the debate performance of Republican candidate Sarah Palin mostly to see if my reaction was sexist, as in, do I discount her abilities because she is a former beauty queen who doesn’t seem to have a brain in her head (not do I discount her abilities because she is a woman). After doing some soul-searching, I think that my reaction to Sarah Palin is feminist: I react to her the way that I do because I resent John McCain choosing her thinking that placing any woman on the ticket would be a way to win women voters, regardless of that woman’s qualifications, as in, women are interchangeable because of their parts.

But let me step back for a moment. Admittedly, the debate was not a train wreck (more like an episode of The Brady Bunch, sans kids and dad on the right side of the stage, but more on that later), and for that, the Republicans can all breathe a collected sigh of relief and get back to the matter of trying to make their presidential candidate look presidential. Good luck with those numbers, and too bad about Michigan, guys.

As to her actual performance in the debate, I will say that she exceeded my expectations. Palin did not fall of the stage. She pronounced multisyllabic words. She was able to string together sentences. Granted, they were her sentences, and not necessarily related to the questions she was asked. Palin declared early on that she was going to use her own game plan: “I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I’m going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record.” Well, okee dokee, governor. And that’s exactly what she did. If she didn’t like the questions, she went back to something she was more comfortable with, as in “I’m still with that tax thing.” I counted at least six mavericks. Please, no more, and at least two contradictions, increase regulation in one answer, while reigning in government to get it out of the way in another. But does the woman even know what an “Achilles Heel” is? It’s not a good thing, but that didn’t stop her from going on for 90 seconds about her positives, including a supposed (incorrect) Reagan reference to the City on the Hill.

I wish that format had been stricter so that Ifill had done more follow-up as Lehrer did and had made the candidates answer the actual questions. Both candidates had a few factual errors, but Palin was prepped well on her key points and stuck with them—over and over and over again. Joe Biden, god bless him, managed to be succinct most of the time, not condescending, and to hammer Palin with facts. He was better after the first forty or so minutes when he finally decided to become more aggressive, and I loved it when he finally called her on the maverick thing.

But what I could not take, could not stand, absolutely could not abide for one more second was the bless his heart, you betcha, doggone it, “say it ain’t so Joe, there you go again” (awkwardly stitched together Reagan reference), supposedly joe(?) six pack-speak that was meant to endear Palin to the common people. Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t want a common person in the presidential or vice presidential seat. I want individuals in both seats. I want to know that the person in charge and the person who is next in charge will be able to lead this country in times of peace and in times of crisis with a cool head and an above average intelligence, a savvy articulate negotiator who will be able to go toe-to-toe with any world leader and not come off as some kind of backwoods idiot, a person who will be able to stare down a Putin or a Kim Jong-Il, will be able to garner the respect of someone like the iron maiden British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher—a person like Barack Obama, a person like Joe Biden.

The last thing this country needs is another president like George Bush who cannot find the verbs in his sentence. We have a whole industry devoted to Bushisms. It’s a national pastime.* Bless our collective hearts, but we just don’t need the humiliation again.

Please. Winks? Crinkling of the nose and opening the eyes really big like a high school cheerleader?Shoutouts? This was not a PTA meeting or a Wasilla town council meeting for gosh’s sakes. “Hey, can I call you Joe?” It was phony and condescending from the first moment. More and more, Palin reminds me of Carol Brady of The Brady Bunch, with her big family and her can-do attitude and her absolutely sunny attitude. But even as a child, I knew that there had to be something wrong with Mrs. Brady; I imagined that she was probably a secret alcoholic (I know it was the early cynic in me), but how else could you put up with that group of kids and that irritating husband and one bathroom? You would have to be a bitch behind closed doors when no one was around, but only the other moms would realize it. The other dads would be thinking of ways to get in your pants because you looked so good for having so many kids. And it was the men in the audience in particular who found this endearing. Pat Buchanan post debate declared Palin a clear winner, and in his commentary used the word “attractive” no less than four times in his description of the candidate. That definitely is a clear indicator of a good vice president. How could I miss that?

But perhaps the worst offender was Rich Lowry of the National Review’s “The Corner,” who wrote, “when Palin dropped her first wink, [I] sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, “Hey, I think she just winked at me.” And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America. This is a quality that can’t be learned; it’s either something you have or you don’t, and man, she’s got it” (10/3). Thanks to Keith Olbermann’s Countdownfor sharing the wonderful bit of pure ickiness, which just goes to show which part of their brains male supporters are using when they are assessing Sarah Palin’s qualifications.

This was a vice presidential debate that was viewed by 70 million people around the world. Have some dignity. At least the Todders wore a dark suit and a tie.

And PLEASE, it’s noo-clee-ar, not noo-cue-lar. DAMN!!

*For a really good read on how to diagram Sarah Palin’s sentences, see this article in Slate http://www.slate.com/id/2201158/

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