Reactions to the VP Debate

Preface: These are my initial reactions and thus may not be as organized or as cohesive as my other posts.

If all I was looking for was a VP who can put a complete sentence together (with a subject, verb, and object), then Palin would pass…but so would Biden.

Of course, I was looking further. I will admit that Palin exceeded my exceedingly low expectations. But I have higher expectations for a VP than the low expectations I had for Palin tonight. And Palin did not meet those expectations.

Palin continued to show a complete lack of understanding of the complexity of foreign and domestic policy. She came prepared with a hefty stack of notecards, and she never strayed from them…even if she was asked a question that her notecards couldn’t answer. (In those instances, she would give a two-word answer and then launch into something that was on one of her notecards.) She showed herself unable to think critically through the questions she was asked. And in at least one instance, she completely misunderstood the question and tried to answer it anyway. Both she and Biden were asked what they thought their biggest achilles’ heel was. A middle schooler could tell you that Ifill was asking them what their greatest weakness is. Instead of answering that question, Palin launched into a long-winded explanation of how her two years as governor has given her plenty of experience to be VP. (Incidentally, Joe Biden said that his greatest achilles’ heel is his deep passion. Now, you could argue that he was trying to mention a “weakness” that most people would see as a strentgh, but at least he understood the question.)

Biden, on the other hand, answered the questions that were asked of him coherently and showed himself to be capable of thinking critically through the questions he was asked. Ifill asked both candidates whether they or their campaigns would not be able to meet some of the promises they’ve made so far due to the financial crisis. Biden answered thoughtfully and completely that, yes, there were some things that would have to be put on the back burner (foreign assistance, for example). He also listed the so-called “non-negotiables” that would not be cut (education, for example). Palin completely avoided the question by saying that she’s only been on the job for five weeks and thus hasn’t promised anything. She then used that justification to say that she wouldn’t cut anything. But the question was not a personal one. Ifill specifically asked about the candidates’ “campaigns.” The McCain campaign has clearly been around for much longer than the past five weeks and has made promises to the American people that a McCain administration would surely not be able to implement due to the financial crisis. But Palin refused to acknowledge or address this.

In sum, Biden showed himself to be knowledgeable, articulate, and a critical thinker about the issues of the day. Palin showed herself to be someone who has been tutored by Bush administration strategists for the past five weeks on issues she had never previously thought about. Biden is better prepared to be VP.