Sunday, October 05, 2008

Summary of the Palin-Biden Debate

I watched the Palin-Biden debate and whenever Palin talked I kept forgetting what the question was because it was so much work trying to figure out what she was saying. It bugs me. I am a seriously over-educated woman. I can explain passages of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. I just can’t let this folksy woman from Alaska get me. So…here’s my best shot (or at least my current shot) at trying to understand Palin’s half of the debate. I include Biden’s responses when they are relevant to Palin’s. Mostly though, this is just trying to figure out what Palin said.

IFILL: Bail out bill, good or bad?

• A good barometer for the state of our economy is to go to a kid’s soccer game and talk to parents.
• John McCain represents reform, tried to prevent this, and is responsible for fixing it.

IFILL: Polarization in Washington, what will you do?

Biden says he has reached across the aisle and then asks if he can respond to Palin’s last answer. Ifill says yes. Biden says that McCain kept saying that the fundamentals of the economy were strong.

Palin responds.
• By fundamentals John meant the American workforce.
• I’ve worked for reform as a governor
• Obama isn’t for reform, he has always voted with his party.
• We need a maverick in the white house.

Having dealt with the whole polarization thing, IFILL asks: Who should we blame for the sub-prime melt-down?

• Darn right it was the predator lenders.
• John McCain and I will end corruption.
• Everyday people need to pledge never to be exploited again.
• We should demand from the federal government strict oversight of financial institutions.

Biden: discusses Obama and McCain on regulation. He segues into discussion of McCain’s plan to deregulate health care and how that will affect taxes.

Biden and Palin have debate about who has the worst record on taxes.

IFILL: says that is enough about the bailout, let’s talk about taxes. (I know, they were talking about taxes, but they were supposed to be talking about the bailout. Ifill’s next card is labeled "taxes.") To Biden the question is why the Obama plan isn’t class warfare. Biden says it is about fairness. Ifill asks Palin about McCain’s plan to tax health care benefits.

Palin: Obama is going to raise your taxes!

IFILL: Governor, are you interested in defending Sen. McCain's health care plan? (Ifill asks a follow-up question! Mark it folks!)

• It is great.
• It will allow people to go across state lines (translation: undercuts state regulation)
• It is budget neutral (translation: will be paid for by tax on health care benefits).

IFILL Given the crisis, what promises will you not be able to keep?

Palin: I want to talk about energy! I took on the oil companies in Alaska!

IFILL: So there aren’t any promises you would be unable to keep? (SECOND follow-up!)

• I’m too new and inexperienced to have made any promises.
• Me and John will do what is right, put government on the side of the people, and end greed and corruption. (That’s a theme folks, also known as a talking point. You will hear it again.)

IFILL asks about the bailout bill. Palin and Biden both answer. Biden says there are ways to help people now which Bush, McCain and Palin don’t support.

IFILL: Is that true Governor?

Palin: No, but I want to talk about energy! She does.

IFILL, having given up on follow up questions, asks about the causes of climate change.

• I’m not one to attribute “activity of man to the changes in the climate” (Really, that is what she said)
• I don’t want to talk about the causes. (Since we all know that the cause of a problem is irrelevant to the solution.)
• We just need to clean up the planet, which is why we should talk about energy!

They all talk about energy for a while.

IFILL: asks about same-sex marriage

Biden wants to give all the benefits of marriage to same sex couples, just as long as we don't call it "marriage." You know, so they can visit each other in the hospitals and stuff.

Palin: Marriage is between a man and woman but I’m a really tolerant person.

IFILL: What should our exit strategy in Iraq be?

• I support the surge.
• Great Americans like McCain and Petraeus support the surge.
• Obama did not support the surge.
• The surge is working.

• “With respect, I didn’t hear a plan.”
• We are spending too much money on the war and we need a plan. (With respect, Biden didn't give a plan either.)

• “Your plan is a white flag of surrender”

IFILL: What's the greater threat, a nuclear Iran or an unstable [Pakistan]? Explain why.

Palin: They are both really bad. Obama wants to sit down with evil dictators.

IFILL: “Governor and senator, I want you both to respond to this. Secretaries of state Baker, Kissinger, Powell, they have all advocated some level of engagement with enemies. Do you think these former secretaries of state are wrong on that?”

• I had a great conversation with Kissinger.
• McCain and I would engage in diplomacy
• Obama wants to sit down with evil dictators.
• Diplomacy is important

Next topic: Israel. Palin loves Israel and wants to build the US embassy in Jerusalem. Biden is Israel's BFF, and so is Obama. It is Bush's fault that Hamas and Hezbollah have gained power.

IFILL: Has this administration's policy been an abject failure, as the senator says, Governor?

• Not a failure, there were just many "huge blunders."
• John is a maverick.
• We will learn from the mistakes of past administrations and “forge ahead with putting government back on the side of the people”

IFILL: Governor, on another issue, interventionism, nuclear weapons. What should be the trigger, or should there be a trigger, when nuclear weapons use is ever put into play?

• “Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be all, end all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet, so those dangerous regimes, again, cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, period.” (Translation: Bad regimes shouldn't have nukular weapons, and I don't really have an answer to that "trigger" question. Do nukular weapons have triggers? I thought they had red buttons. Okay...sorry...that was just snarky.)
• I want to talk about Afghanistan because I have some Obama quotes I can take out of context that make him sound really bad.

They argue about Afghanistan. Ifill asks Biden if the American public has the stomach for Biden’s interventionist policies. Biden says they have “the stomach for success.” He discusses Bosnia, Kosovo, Darfur.

• “Oh, yeah, it's so obvious I'm a Washington outsider.” She accuses Biden of inconsistent positions.
• “But as for as Darfur, we can agree on that also, the supported of the no-fly zone, making sure that all options are on the table there also.”
• In Alaska we divested from Darfur (um…no, they didn’t)

IFILL: Is there a line that should be drawn about when we decide to go in?

Biden: yes, and John McCain was wrong about the war.

• Biden is a two-faced liar and we will just have to wait for the fact-checkers tomorrow to show that he isn’t. Right now though I am going to say that he is.
• John McCain “knows what evil is and knows what it takes to overcome the challenges here with our military.” He knows how to win wars.

IFILL: One heart-beat away question.

Biden: I would carry out Barack Obama’s policies.

• McCain and I are a couple of mavericks and don’t agree on everything. (Translation: it will be a great big surprise, but you know we are going to be drilling in Alaska!)
• I would “work to put the government back on the side of the people and end greed and corruption.”

They argue about who will create more jobs and who is in better touch with the American people.

Palin segues to education, not that we were talking about education, but she memorized an answer on that and gosh darn it, she's givin' it. You betcha!
• She and Joe are related to teachers!
• Bless their hearts. Their reward is in heaven. (Translation: don’t expect us to support pay raises here on earth.)
• “Education credit in American has been in some sense in some of our states just accepted to be a little bit lax and we have got to increase the standards.” (Palin would have better syntax if the education credit in American wasn’t accepted to be so lax.)
• Yay for No Child Left Behind!

IFILL: Govenor, did anyone explain to you what the VP does? ‘Cause you said you didn’t know.

• Oh, that was just a lame joke.
• The VP presides over the senate.
• “I'm thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president's policies and making sure too that our president understands what our strengths are.”
• John says I can talk about energy!

IFILL: “Governor, you mentioned a moment ago the constitution might give the vice president more power than it has in the past. Do you believe as Vice President Cheney does, that the Executive Branch does not hold complete sway over the office of the vice presidency, that it is also a member of the Legislative Branch?”

• “Well, our founding fathers 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.”
• (I quote at length here and above because it sounds like she wants to say that she agrees with Cheney that the VP can seize whatever power he or she wants, but I’m not sure Palin understood the question. Maybe I just HOPE she didn't understand the question.)

IFILL: Governor, the conventional wisdom is that your Achilles heel is that you lack experience. Is that your Achilles heel?

• My experience is great!
• Lots of things about me are great!
• I understand the problems of real people!
• I have a special needs child!
• John and I are a team of mavericks.
• ("Achilles heel" is what you elites call a strength, right?)

Biden uses standard interview technique of describing a strength as a weakness naming “an excess of passion.” He says that he understands real problems too, and gets choked up briefly when he mentions being worried that his son might not make it.

• John McCain is a maverick!
• (She does not respond to Joe’s emotional moment. Some people say that he faked it. Even if he did, some faked human empathy would be appropriate. I’m willing to assume she was too nervous to notice, not that she is uncaring, but I could be wrong.)

Biden: I’ve known mavericks, and John is no maverick.

IFILL: Give one example where you had to change your mind.

Biden: I used to think the ideology of judges wasn’t important.
Palin: Sometimes I had to sign budgets that I didn’t completely approve of. (Translation: I really didn't like all those earmarks, but they made me sign it.)

IFILL: How would you work to create bipartisanship?

Biden: I’ve been able to do it. I have learned not to question people’s motives.
Palin: I did it as governor. And I have a really diverse family.

IFILL: Give your closing statements.
• “I like being able to answer these tough questions without the filter” (translation: being able to avoid the question whenever I wanted.)
• John and I are mavericks.
• I understand your pain.
• Now let me give you this great quote from Reagan about freedom when he was arguing that Medicare would lead us to totalitarianism.

Biden: This is most important election ever. I understand your pain. Barak Obama and I will be great. God bless America.

This summary is based upon the CNN transcript.


  1. This is fabulous!! Very well done.

  2. This is spectacular and captures a bit what I felt listening to the debate on the radio--that she wasn't even on the same planet as the other participants. I was listening to it while grading papers from first-year students and there was a real irony, insofar as I kept writing things like "this sentence doesn't make sense," "this paragraph is not coherent," "this evidence does not support your point," "this paragraph does not support your thesis." It's disturbing how much she sounds like a freshman comp student from the big red state I teach in.

  3. I was so disappointed in the debate, I was hoping to actually learn a bit about Palin but between the flirting with the camera, the 'folksy' language, her inability to actually answer the question and her bizarre "This is talking like words! It's a buzzword! Say it ain't so Joe! We're a team of Mavericks!" I did not understand most of what she actually said. So thank you for your translation. :)


Comments will be open for a little while, then I will be shutting them off. The blog will stay, but I do not want either to moderate comments or leave the blog available to spammers.