Friday, October 03, 2008

Debate hash

I often find myself rooting for a complete debate meltdown. Mostly I don't even really care who does the melting. There is lots of talk about the power of words in my line of work, and the thought of seeing words actually destroy someone before my eyes and a national audience has an evil appeal.

I figured Thursday night's vice-presidential debate might be the best chance I would ever have to actually see it happen. Sarah Palin was atrocious, in my view, but I can't argue with the consensus: She lost the game but beat the spread.

Two moments sent something close to a genuine shiver down my spine. One was when she picked up a Sean Hannity talking point attacking Obama for suggesting that airstrikes in Afghanistan kill civilians. I heard Hannity feed her the talking point in an interview with her on the radio Thursday (the interview was recorded Wednesday). Hannity has been pounding on that talking point for a while, but it's never been clear to me why what Obama said upsets him. Does he think it is untrue? Does he think that presidential candidates shouldn't speak unhappy truths? Because anybody who thinks airstrikes don't hurt civilians probably thinks that brain surgery is best performed with a hatchet. If you can't deal with the reality of wars, don't start wars.

But there it was Thursday night, big as could be, from Hannity's mouth direct to the mouth of the person who wants to be the second-most important American voice on foreign and military policy. A truly chilling moment.

The other chill was a response to her answer to the question about the constitutional status of the vice presidency. It seemed obvious to me -- didn't it to you? -- that she had absolutely no idea what the question meant. I could see the gears churning: Republican = good, Cheney = Republican, Cheney = good. Her lame answer should appall all Americans, especially conservatives who claim to take the Constitution seriously.

One side note: I made my journalism students watch the debate and write a live story afterward. They were pretty unimpressed by both candidates. The excitement I thought I detected about Obama on campus last spring seems to have gone. He has become just another politician. Regrettably, perhaps, that also is what has made him suddenly so electable.


Chuck Rightmire said...

David: what has surprised me is that none of the pundits seem to have picked up on foreign policy gaffs with the exception of her name slips on the general in charge of Afghanistan. When she got off her canned speeches, which she used to effect in refusing to answer questions, she seemed to say at one point that Shia extremists and Al Quaida are working together when people knowledgeable the situation know the two groups would only be found in the same arena if they were dead. She also seemed to say that our allies not only included Maliki in Iraq, but the Taliban. Off the cuff, without coaching, she doesn't seem to be sure who are enemies are.

Anonymous said...

I only saw her point her finger once. The second point, she caught in time and executed a quick hand drop. Obviously the coaching, and her history in pageantry have been effective. Thanks, I thought I must have imagined her middle eastern mix-ups.