Thursday, October 02, 2008

One and a Half Hours That Won't Matter

I didn't get to watch the debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin but I listened to it on the radio. I have to give Sarah Palin credit for doing her best to stand by her maverick.

She can talk better than the interviews on ABC and CBS indicated. She seems best at broad generalities and did a good job of answering whatever question she felt she could answer - rather than always answering the questions being asked. Nothing new about a politician doing that.

I'd say she did well all things considered. She has some grit. I think she should be proud of her performance given the daunting task she was faced with, and the shock she must feel having been plucked from Alaska and thrust into a national election only a little over a month ago.

I think she was getting in some deep water when she said she thinks there is some constitutional flexibility that would allow her to expand the role of the vice president similar to what Dick Cheney has done - and that she agreed with Dick Cheney that the executive branch does not hold complete sway over the vice president. Not sure what that was about but it probably scares the hell out of a lot of people.

Cheney's record, and his claim that he is not part of, or answerable to, either the legislative or executive branch of government - or the American people - makes him a bad choice as Sarah's role model.

Joe Biden when asked his view on "Vice President Cheney's interpretation of the vice presidency" reminded us that Dick Cheney is probably the "most dangerous Vice President we've had in American history". Joe Biden cited Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution as clearly limiting a vice president's duties relative to Congress.

For people who like a simple sound-bite view she probably holds some appeal. The simple pictures she paints and the complexities of reality are not always in close connection, so they don't have much appeal for people encumbered by the thought process.

Waving a white flag of surrender in Iraq might be a vivid visual picture but it degrades the complexity of what is going on there and how we will bring our soldiers home. Talking about a government that's for the little guy and doing things to help families sounds good until she brings up Ronald Reagan as an example. Being seventeen years old when Ronald Reagan took office she may not be aware of the impact his policies had on unions and working class Americans.

I thought Joe Biden countered every talking point she made with a viable logical alternatives and made a particularly good point when he said if you don't accept the science on global warming it's hard to come up with a solution. One thing about that old Joe is you can't out six-pack him - for every mainstreet, hometown, family reference Sarah has - Joe has his own. I was a bit surprised that he spends a lot of time at Home Depot - maybe he's drinking free coffee back in the lumber section or something.

The best point in the debate for me was at the very end when Joe Biden brought up Mike Mansfield. You have to be my age or older to know who he was - but having been raised in Montana that reference made me feel good.

Mike Mansfield was the senate majority leader from 1961 until 1977. He left home before he graduated from the 8th grade and served in the Navy, the Army and the Marines. He worked in the Butte mines and went on to get his Bachelor's degree at Montana, Masters at UCLA, and become a professor at the University of Montana. One of his most memorable acts while in the senate was introducing, and helping to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After he retired from the Senate he was named Ambassador to Japan. He was a liberal democrat and a leader that people in Montana, and the nation, looked up to and remember with a great deal of respect.


Postscript October 3, 2008 - I'm glad to see the New York Times picked up on Sarah Palin's suggestion that Dick Cheney would be her role model.