My thoughts on the VP debate.
By Alice Bradey
I watched the debate last night, as so many did, with great interest, and the three-quarters-written other column I had prepared for this week promptly got thrown out the window. Because this morning there’s not much else I can think of.
First off, let me just say this: I want my audience to be able to express their opinions here, even if they differ from my own. I welcome dissent, as long as it’s civil. Any opinion I express is strictly my own, and just as I’d like to be respected, I intend to respect yours as well.
This is probably not the most original sentiment floating around on the Internet, but I share it, so I’ll repeat it: Sarah Palin is frightening. I looked into her eyes last night, and I saw the glint of someone who believes she can win. And that scared me.
Before last night I mostly felt sorry for her. I read the numerous calls, including the one from the National Review, calling for her to step down. Of course I saw the interview with Katie Couric, and the dramatic reenactment on SNL. It was obvious that she was completely out of her depth, and as she was unable to answer question after pointed question, I have to admit that I looked forward to the debate with increasing glee.
I should have known better. The thing about a debate is, the questions are sort of beside the point. You can get away with evasion and sticking to your talking points or just devastating the audience with your charm and good looks, and no one calls you on the fact that that you didn’t answer the question. The debate moderator isn’t going to press you again and again, as Couric did, for a single concrete example of the nonsense you’re spouting. You’re up there at the podium, she’s all the way down there, and you have the floor. The content is yours to direct.
So we all know that Sarah Palin was coached heavily in the days leading up to the debate. I half-expected her to lurch up to the podium shouting random numbers and facts. But as soon as she started talking, I realized the numbers and the facts (much less the depth of knowledge and wisdom that, in my opinion, Joe Biden embodies) don’t matter. What matters is that she smiled straight at the camera and charmed American with her plain talkin’ and gosh-darn common sense. So even though she didn’t say a single thing that would indicate that she really knows what she was talking about, her performance was declared a success.
Why is it a success because she didn’t embarrass herself or McCain? Why is this okay in the eyes of the pundits? Every time she beamed and winked at the camera, the experts should have been listening even more closely to the complete lack of substance behind her words, but instead they were charmed. She tossed out her favorite words hither and yon—maverick reform, reform maverick, oversight, MASSIVE OVERSIGHT—with little regard for their meaning or applicability to the subject at hand. As far as actual content, all I got out of anything she said was that global warming isn’t wholly man-made and that 20 million of us will lose our health insurance under a McCain presidency. But she smiled her pretty smile, so that’s a triumph?
I am truly appalled, and I think this entire exercise was an insult to feminism. Instead of trying to show the experience and knowledge that she claimed to have, Palin and her coaches clearly decided that the best thing for her to do is just flirt with America. Just flirt, and hope no one notices that she’s completely and utterly out of her league. It wasn’t just an insult to feminism–it was an insult to the intelligence of the American people. Her nomination was a cynical move, and this was the ultimate expression of that cynicism. John McCain showed his disdain for us all with his choice of vice president, and his team showed their disdain for us by having Sarah Palin bypass substance and head straight for empty-headed charm.
In the eyes of the pundits last night, this constitutes a success. I think it constitutes a potential nightmare in the making.
As always, I welcome your thoughts.
Published October 3, 2008.
Last updated August 21, 2013.