Bottom line: Sarah Palin did FINE in last night's first and only vice-presidential debate, held at Washington University in St. Louis. Although clearly nervous (and who wouldn't be?), she stayed on message, didn't make any major gaffes, looked good (more about that in a minute), and even sounded good (though what is the deal with Republicans being unable to pronounce the word "nuclear"?).
Similarly, Joe Biden, who had me totally tearing up when he talked about the death of his first wife and daughter (at Christmastime no less!), being a single parent, and nearly losing his sons, did FINE. Actually, I thought he did better than fine. But Palin's proverbial bar was set much lower for this debate and let's face it, everyone was watching and focusing on her and what she would say or wouldn't. So no matter how erudite or knowledgeable or thoughtful Biden was or sounded, pretty much no one cared.
So what are my takeaways from last night's debate?
* Coaching and practicing goes a long way -- possibly all the way to the White House. And clearly both of the VP candidates were coached and practiced their lines, many times, before going on stage last night. Perhaps a little too much. As my friend and neighbor, G., said this morning at the bus stop (in exasperation), their performances bordered on the robotic. You could ask these two pretty much anything and they would just spit out some piece of party rhetoric, no matter what answer the question called for (though Biden actually did answer most, if not all, of the questions before veering off; something Palin did less often).
* Palin looked NERVOUS and was actually shaking at the beginning, which made me feel sorry for her -- and really angry at the people who shoved her into this role, including John McCain. I do NOT want to feel sorry for the person who is running for VP and could very well be president in a year or five. That scares me. And Palin, in the beginning, and at other points, looked SCARED, though she did fine. She also seemed awestruck by the whole thing and in meeting Joe Biden (who, when I last checked, was not a rock star or celebrity, though he is kinda cute with those twinkly blue eyes and big ole toothy smile).
So, is Palin Dan Quayle in a skirt? I'm not willing to go that far. But I like my vice presidents to look confident and secure and, dare I say, vice presidential, not like a starry-eyed teen on her first trip to the big city. (Speaking of which, in "Gidget Grows Up," which starred a very Sarah Palinesque-looking Karen Valentine, shown at right, Gidget goes to the United Nations, where she meets all sorts of foreign dignitaries, just like Sarah Palin!)
* Sarah has lost weight. Could it be the stress of the campaign has gotten to her? Hey, women notice these things! Not saying whether it is a good thing or a bad thing. Just a woman thing. Clearly, the last few weeks have been stressful for her, and she probably hasn't had a lot of time to eat or eat much. That or she was wearing Spanx.
* And did you check out the shoes Governor Palin was wearing?! Those babies must have had four-inch high stiletto heels on them! Amazing she could think straight in those things. And my were they shiny! Back in the day, my friends and I used to call those type of shoes "kiss-me f**k-me's." And I am sure there were plenty of Republicans in the audience, both at Wash U and at home, who would like to have (and probably some Dems, too).
* I genuinely think (from watching last night's debate) that Palin truly believes her ticket is going to really help working class families -- and that she, personally, really cares about education (which may be why she spent time at not one but six different colleges). OK, but SERIOUSLY, I felt she was genuine and sincere when she spoke about helping working class families (though I didn't hear a lot or any specifics, except for drilling more in the U.S., including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) and education, though I literally fell off the bed when she did the shout out to her brother's third-grade class. I am sure thousands of viewers found that endearing, but it was far more appropriate for a game show than a debate show, though these debates have plenty of gamesman-or womans-ship.
UPDATED AT 12:00 NOON: I was just sent this article from The International Herald Tribune, titled "Estimates show Palin assets top $1 million." To me (and probably a lot of you) that doesn't exactly sound middle class (or that the Palins are really struggling), though both Palin and her husband work (so could be considered "working" class, if you stretched the definition). But with an income of at least $230,000 and valuable property and a plane and the government paying her to stay in her own home, I think Palin's definition of "working class" and mine are different. Thanks to Lietzy for pointing this out.
* While at times looking and sounding a bit robotic or wonkish, Joe Biden looked and sounded knowledgeable, thoughtful, and yes, vice presidential. And, OK, there's just something about the guy that makes me like and trust him -- just as there are those of you out there who really like Sarah Palin and trust her, no matter what she says or said, did or does.
* I may be going soft but I found the scene after the debate ended with the families all going up on stage and chatting and shaking hands with each other very touching -- and sweet.
So, was this debate, as the pundits like and continue to say, a "game changer"? I don't think so. I think Republicans are breathing a HUGE sigh of relief today (except maybe those in the House who are going to have to vote on the "Rescue Plan," again, today) and many Democrats and pundits are disappointed Palin did OK (or worse, better than OK).
As Chris Matthews said the other day, "Que Sarah Sarah," whatever will be, will be.
Will Gidget and Moondoggie make it to the White House with the Big Kahuna? Or will it be that tall skinny black guy with the exotic name from Hawaii and Fightin' Joe who will go?
Stay tuned for the next debate, scheduled for October 7 (unless, of course, McCain decides to suspend his campaign again and refuses to debate Obama).
Btw, for those of you interested in knowing which slings or statements were true, mostly true, barely true, or false, got to Politifact.com, which is a non-partisan fact-checking service of the St. Petersburg Times and features the "Truth-o-Meter."
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