Loved Palin’s first question (caught via live mic as she shook hands with Biden): “Hey, can I call you Joe?”

First question about the economy. Biden’s answer is professorial and a bit dry. Palin starts with “go to a soccer game” which had my train wreck radar buzzing, but she pulls it back in and nails it. Very impressive opening for her.

Question about reaching across the aisle to work with the other party. Biden talks about his experience then goes on the attack about the economy. Little disconcerting to talk about working together then slam McCain. Palin responds a bit weakly, but does OK going back to her talking points on McCain being a Maverick and working to change the culture of Washington.

Who’s at fault for the sub-prime mess? Gwen Ifill retreads a bit here in that Biden has already blamed the GOP’s economic policies and Palin has already begged the question (albeit very smoothly).

Palin blames the predator lenders! Blames greed and corruption on Wall Street. She’s being perky. Calls for regulation! Calls for Americans to live within their means, calls for personal responsibility. Biden offers a good anecdote about talking with a guy at a gas station. Makes him seem much more down to earth.

Palin argues Obama is a tax increaser. Biden is chomping at the bit to respond. Lays into her in argument and more or less flattens it. Notes she didn’t answer the question. (Again.)

Palin has a good scripted line about not answering questions the way Biden or the moderator want; she’s going to talk to the American people. Betcha she didn’t come up with that one herself.

Ifill gives different questions to each. Biden, why is Obama’s tax cut for under wage earners under $250,000 annually not class warfare? For Palin, McCain health plan will move 5 million people into the ranks of the uninsured so how is that not taking things out on the poor? Not a great job by the moderator here.

Good answer from Biden. Palin argues Obama’s plan forgets small business. Palin claims to be middle class! (Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the Palins were millionaires.) Neglects McCain health care plan at first, but defends it in a somewhat disjointed fashion after Ifill prompts. After a weak start, Biden begins making his points 1, 2, 3, 4 and ends with a cheap-laugh “bridge to nowhere” line.

What promises, given the bailout costs, are you not going to be able to keep? Oh, methinks everything. Let’s see what Biden says. Less foreign assistance, get rid of Bush tax cuts for wealthy and corporations. Won’t give up on education, environment, healthcare. Yeah, we’ll see.

Palin dodges, says Obama gave tax breaks to oil companies. Palin says she took on the oil companies! Calls energy her area of expertise. OMG. Ifill returns to the question, asking Palin again what McCain/Palin will change because of the bailout. Nothing!

Biden praises Palin for the windfall profits tax in Alaska; notes that McCain opposes.

Ifill: Last year Congress made it harder for debt-strapped mortgage holders to declare bankruptcy. McCain support it, Sarah whaddya think? Would have supported, but lets blame Wall Street greed. Let’s all thank John McCain. Etc.

Palin on energy: Drill now for energy independence. Palin on climate change: Yikes. Lots of words, not a whole lot of sense. Worst answer of the night for her so far.

Palin mentions that the chant is “Drill, baby, drill!” That’s not going to appeal to independents, trust me. Palin goes drill crazy. Common attitutde in Alaska from what I’m told.

Question: Do you support granting same sex benefits? Biden: Yes. Unequivical. Palin: Not so much.

Foreign policy:
Iraq: What is the exit strategy? Palin close to off the rails. No plan as Biden rightly says. We will end this war. Palin calls it a white flag of surrender. Palin does not look good in this area, perhaps because McCain doesn’t look so good. Biden is commanding on the issue.

Iran v. Pakistan: Which is worse? Palin not looking good. Palin should not be talking about naiveté. Foreign policy clearly not a good area for her. Her rapid-fire talking is now grating.

It’s come to this: She sounds almost like a bad TV reporter, which I guess makes sense. Biden has come alive in the foreign policy area. Palin thrilled that Biden loves Israel! Hugs all around. Huge blunders in the Bush administration, but let’s not point fingers or look backwards as that might make the GOP look bad.

Biden ties McCain to Bush on foreign policy. Utterly damning.

Palin on nuclear weapons:

Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be-all, end-all of just too many people and too many parts of our planet so those dangerous regimes again cannot be allowed to aquire nuclear weapons. Period.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Well, maybe.

The folksy thing grates even more. Biden clearly knows what he’s talking about, Palin not even close.

“John McCain, who knows how to win a war…” Uh, what war would that be exactly? The one where he was a POW for five years and that we lost?

Palin makes another call for deregulation, which is amazing given the events of the past week. Biden links McCain to Bush again. Palin chides Biden for looking back at the Bush Administration then gives us another great line:

Ya mentioned education and I’m glad that ya did. I know that education you’re passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and God bless her, her reward is in Heaven, right?

You mean her reward isn’t in slogging it out day after day teaching the little ungrateful runts? Maybe Erin’s got a better deal going than I realize.

Palin, after calling her brother the best school teacher in the year (?), gives a shout-out to a class of third graders (literally: “here’s a shout out”) telling them they get extra credit for watching the debate. Quite the meta moment.

Then: “Education in America has been, in some senses, some of our states just accepted to be a little bit lax.”

The topic turns to the vice presidency, and Palin wants to reassure us that she knows what she’s talking about:

Of course we know what a vice president does, and that’s not only preside over the Senate, and we’ll take that position very seriously. Also I’m thankful that the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president also if that vice president so chose to exert it working with the Senate.

Ifill wants to know if Palin thinks the vice presidency exists outside the Executive Branch specifically in the Legislative Branch, the bizarre claim made by Dick Cheney.


Well our founding father were very wise there in allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the office of the vice president and we will do what is best for the American people in tapping into that position and ushering in an agenda that is supportive and cooperative with the president’s agenda in that position. Yeah, so I do agree with him that we have a lot of flexibility in there and we’ll do what we have to do to administer very appropriately the plans that are needed for this nation and it is my executive experience that is partly to be attributed to my pick as vp with McCain, not only as a governor but earlier on as a mayor, as an oil and gas regulator, as a business owner. It is those years of experience on an executive level that will be put to good use in the White House also.


…the idea he’s part of the legislative branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive, and look where it’s gotten us.

I’m going with Joe on this one.

Ifill asks about perceived weaknesses (Palin=lack of experience, Biden=lack of discipline). Palin begs the question with a rambling, almost incoherent answer that ends up talking about, at least passingly, American exceptionalism and McCain/Palin being a good ticket.

Powerful emotional moment when Biden talks about his late wife and seriously injured kids (from a car accident in the early ’70s). Best emotionally connected point of the night thus far for either candidate.

In the end, Palin comes off as…well, a small-town mayor. The platitudes and lack of specificity are crushing. (Is wrong to note that she appears to have great legs?) She didn’t have as many mangled sentences as I expected, but after eight years of Bush how could she compete. Still, the lack of policy specifics and ideas were glaring by the end. I have no idea what she thinks or how specifically and substantively McCain/Pallin is different than Bush/Cheney.

After a slow start Biden won the debate going away. Once we hit foreign policy that was the ball game because it was clear Palin was miles out of league. Biden successfully, I thought, tied McCain to Bush on numerous occasions.

I don’t think most people will come away from tonight’s debate thinking that Sarah Palin is remotely qualified to be vice president or president, but as I’ve said before about these debates, Bush was destroyed repeatedly by Gore and Kerry and look what happened there. The GOP will claim there was no train wreck, and by that standard they’re probably right. It doesn’t mean this woman belongs anywhere near the White House though.