Monday, October 6, 2008

Second Thoughts about Sarah Palin

I remember when I was first introduced to Sarah Palin. I had just watched Barack Obama’s convention acceptance speech tuned to Fox on my parent’s TV while visiting in Southwest Iowa. “He’s clearly very well educated, where did he go to school?” my father asked. Looking at the words on all the Obama signs in the Denver stadium crowd, my mother remarked, “That’s a lot of change.” Then John McCain came on, congratulated Barack, and said he had a surprise for us.

The next morning on Fox, the news was all about a plane from Alaska that had landed the previous night in Ohio, where John McCain was to announce his running mate. So we met Sarah. And then we went to visit my 96-year-old grandmother. She had been watching Fox on her new wide-screen TV. “I don’t know,” she said. “It looks like the political parties are going to fool around and get a woman in as President. I don’t think I like that. I can’t explain why.”

70 million people tuned in last Thursday to watch the VP candidate debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, and they didn’t tune in to watch Joe. The debate audience was second only to the 80 million who tuned in back in 1980 to watch Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter debate. That was back when the debates were on all the channels, and you couldn’t switch to watch a movie on AMC. Just 52 million tuned in to watch John McCain and Barack Obama debate the week before last. So, for now at least, Sarah seems to be the star of the show.

Who won the debate? David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register says that Sarah failed to prove her qualifications and shed her image as a lightweight. But he said the same thing about Barack Obama in the first debate. I don’t agree. Here’s how I scored it:

First, I give Sarah and Joe 5 points each for substance. That’s what these debates are supposed to be about, right?

Sarah proved she could handle the pressure. If you tuned in expecting Joe Biden to make her cry, you were disappointed. Well, Joe did choke up at one point, when talking about the car accident that put his two boys in the hospital and took the lives of his daughter and first wife. So does that count as Sarah making Joe cry? Not quite, but I still have to take a point away from Joe.

CNN calculated that Joe was talking at an 8th grade level, while Sarah was talking at a 10th grade level. Note to Obama: you can’t talk much higher than that and expect to get elected in this country, but don’t talk down to us or the country won’t elect you either. In any case, that’s a point for Sarah.

The regional accent, syntax, and vocabulary of Sarah’s sentences would make your high school English teacher dizzy and the Queen of England cringe. Hey, this is America and it’s not the Queen’s English anymore. We Americans are revolutionaries and innovators. That’s another point for Sarah.

For using 10th grade words like “heck” and “doggone” I’ll give Sarah another point.

For telling the African-American moderator Gwen Ifill that she wasn’t going to answer her questions without that sounding the least bit racist or otherwise condescending (see how far we’ve come, I’m guessing that how racist that was never even occurred to you), Sarah gets another point.

Sarah gets a point for best delivery of a pre-planned zinger. At the very beginning of the debate, Sarah turned to Senator Biden and asked, “Hey, can I call you Joe?” And so how many times did she call him Joe? Exactly once, about an hour later, when she turned to Biden and said: “Say it ain't so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again.”

Joe loses a point for beating the drum too hard on John McCain’s statement two weeks ago that the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are strong. Joe, we’re in a banking crisis, you can’t be badmouthing the broader economy. The foreign investors are listening.

Sarah gets a point for most emphatic statement on the financial mess:

“I think we need to band together and say never again. Never will we be exploited and taken advantage of again by those who are managing our money and loaning us these dollars. We need to make sure that we demand from the federal government strict oversight of those entities in charge of our investments and our savings and we need also to not get ourselves in debt. Let's do what our parents told us before we probably even got that first credit card. Don't live outside of our means.”

I don’t have the credit cards records, but I’m guessing I may now know why Sarah had to change colleges so many times:

Hawaii Pacific University, Honolulu, Hawaii – one semester
North Idaho College, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho - two semesters
University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho - two semesters
Matanuska-Susitna College, Palmer, Alaska - one semester
University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho - three semesters

Actually, here’s what I suspect: Sarah enrolled in a private school in Hawaii she couldn’t afford and had to drop out, then moved in with her grandparents or some aunt or uncle in Idaho to establish state residency and get cheap credits at the nearby community college (best educational value in America), transferred to the flagship state university in Idaho on the in-state tuition plan (that was the plan when she started the community college), went home to Alaska for a another semester of cheap community college credits and to keep her high school boyfriend Todd on the hook, and then went back to Idaho to finish her BS degree in communications-journalism at the big university.

But I digress. For not even being asked to explain her college career and putting her BS degree to good use, I give Sarah another point.

On the question about same-sex marriages, Joe uttered the word “same-sex” 4 times while Sarah avoided saying it at all. That’s another point for Sarah, and Joe loses a point.

Overuse of the word maverick? According to the official transcript, Sarah said the word maverick 6 times but Joe said it 9 times. OK, maybe he said “not maverick”. Still, we have to take the point away from Joe.

Joe also loses a point for getting confused about the U.S. Constitution. Joe, the executive branch is defined in Article II not Article I and the Vice President gets to preside over the Senate all the time, not just when there is a tie.

Joe Biden smiled a lot, but he didn’t have the best smile, so Sarah gets the point for flirting without getting caught. Ok, maybe she did get caught winking at us, but I’m giving her the point anyway. I know she was really winking at me. Heck, make that a doggone two points.

Final score: 15 points for Sarah and 0 points for Joe. SNL is moving to primetime on Thursdays and I have suspected from the beginning that Tina Fey is rooting for Sarah. Too bad for the Republicans she’s only running for Vice President. I’m coming to the conclusion that win or lose in 2008 we’ll see her again at the top of the ticket in 2012 and 2016.

Meanwhile, the financial crisis has sunken John McCain’s chances. He trails 7 points in nationwide polls and even further in electoral vote counts. One projection shows McCain losing to Obama 164 to 364. Another projection shows him losing 194 to 329 with North Carolina tied.

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