The “Debate”: Epic Failure, You Betcha

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After the non-stop working of the refs and lowering of expectations, it has to be considered a victory of sorts for the McCain camp that Sarah Palin did not either walk off stage or, to quote Tina Fey, ask for a lifeline. No doubt Chris Mathews and conservative pundits will describe her performance as adequate or even dynamic, but the reality is that it was a shameful embarrassment and a clear repudiation of the idea that John McCain has good judgment.

Governor Palin typically spent less than 15 seconds actually answering the questions that were presented to her, when she deigned to actually respond to the issue, before launching into inane prattle and talking points from advertisements. She could offer no specifics about taxes, energy issues (her area of expertise now!) or the bailout, and wandered aimlessly around questions, desperately looking for a half-memorized talking point to save her.

She couldn’t even answer questions that should have been softballs. Governor Palin’s response to the issue of gay marriage was perfectly illustrative of her lack of basic facts beyond talking points. She clearly had no idea what civil rights issues were involved. For no reason, she told the American public that she is tolerant. In my experience, truly tolerant people don’t ever feel the need to say that. She clearly had no idea that there could be a position between not allowing gay marriage and mandated free love parades in every Alaskan community, so she refused to answer the question.

Her answer on the use of nuclear weaponry might well have been the least intelligent response in a modern Presidential debate. When the transcript is available, please read it for yourself, and ask yourself if she had any idea what the issue being raised was. Senator Biden immediately was able to refer to relevant policies, like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and U.S. arms control policy. Just read the transcript of her response:

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?
PALIN: 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.
Our nuclear weaponry here in the U.S. is used as a deterrent. And that’s a safe, stable way to use nuclear weaponry.

Every American should watch the exchange between Senator Biden and Governor Palin about military intervention in the rest of the world. On one hand, practical experience and a record of supporting effective intervention, on the other, a throwaway line from the 2004 election and vague references to “all options on the table.” I’d expect a more sophisticated response from a high school student delivering an extemporaneous speech.

Don’t even get me started on her response on the role of the Vice President.

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.

Sarah Palin is not qualified to be Vice President. That is the fundamental issue of this debate. It’s become a core issue of this campaign, because her selection shows that we  can’t trust John McCain.

Hers is a worldview devoid of nuance. It’s a combination of vapid ideology, half-digested briefings, and absolutely undeserved confidence. Sound familiar? The American public has gone down this road before, and recently, with devastating consequences.

We live in complex times, and can no longer afford leaders with a simplistic world view. Senator Biden demonstrated tonight that he has the expertise, experience, and judgment to not only provide sound advice to the President, but in the event of tragedy, to assume the office of President.

Can even the most ardent supporters of Governor Palin possibly claim either of those things are true?

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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