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Oct 02, 2008

Biden - Palin debate: The BAG's Top Pics Of The Night

Biden-Debate-Emotional  Palin-Debate-1

1.  Feeling It

There are hockey moms and there are single dads. 

The tone of last Thursday's debate completely shifted in the last five minutes when Joe Biden became emotional  about his family.  Until then, it seemed Palin would clearly emerge on top through her continuous eye-contact with the camera and her cloying engagement of the home audience with the "you-and-me against him-and-Washington" schtick.

But Biden's escape from Washington-speak shifted the whole basis of comparison.  His emotion in the last few minutes set up a new measure, between genuine feeling and folksiness.  If Palin was winning the audience up to that point, the difference in emotional depth would not have escaped anyone.


2.  Family Affair

Sleeper highlight of the evening?

Surprisingly, it was how the Biden family neutralized the PR power of the Palin family in the post-debate milling around.  Who woulda' thought?  Thursday night's "post game" visuals recast the RNC Palin family extravaganza (1, 2, 3) as just that, an overly self-conscious series of manufactured photo-ops.

If partly calculated, it was also touching the way the Biden clan hung out with Gwen Ifill in light of the pounding she took from conservative pundits the past few days.

Palin-Reading  Palin-Writing

3.  Reading And Writing

Palin, the former sportscaster, did an impressive job sounding spontaneous while working from a combination of rote memory, as well what seemed like both pre-written and written notes.  The delivery was pretty good, although the lack of follow-up questions allowed her to avoid most specificity and change the subject at will. If you watched Palin when she wasn't speaking though, you'll see she spent almost the entire debate making notes.

(Like Bush, I think Palin is probably quite skilled at working off a combination of memory and a written script.  Apparently, she thought she could get away with same in the Couric interview, but didn't expect follow-ups asking for specifics and examples.)


This Biden family gathered around Ifill melts off the page with sincerity. I never expected to see this on the site, and I'm impressed. Very encapsulating of the evening. Two things: Joe lived up the the political Hippocratic Oath, Do no harm. And as someone analyzed earlier, Palin, like Bush before her, showed no shame or remorse for this weeks gross ineptitude. No hesitation, but also no soul or social conscience, just an agenda.

Biden was beautiful tonight. I felt the same way seeing his family up there after the debate. Definitely out-familied the Palin clan. There was much hand-wringing about Biden coming off like a mean old sexist against Palin. I thought he struck the perfect tone: compassionate, as the above shot illustrates, gentlemanly, and yet fiery and combative when it was needed. And always authentic. Biden's a pro.

Ifill is in the same place as anyone else who stands as an "outsider" in relation to the GOP; she'd have been damned if she did, and damned if she didn't. The point was made that both the Democrats and the Republicans had a say in her selection as moderator. Neither objected. Further, the ground rules of the debate - the debates structure - was reportedly benign to Palin. Of all of the formats, the one selected would provide Palin with the best opportunity to shine. Finally, there was some speculation that if Palin went on her nose, having Ifill as the moderator, gave the McCain campaign a ready made scapegoat.

I could tolerate the debate for all of about 5 minutes. Palin's personal style drives me up the same wall GWB's did. So, I had to rely on those doing the live-blogging.

This photo is a nice one. The expressions on the Biden clan toward Ifill communicate a genuine compassion for the woman and an appreciation for the tough spot she was in. The right wing trolls have been out in force all day pounding a "conflict of interest," given Ifill's book contract, in every blogger's thread I've read. I expect Gwen Ifill is glad it's over.

I'll be glad come October 6/7, too. That's when my mail-in ballot for the GE is supposed to arrive. I'll get a reprieve until I have to hold my breath for 24 hours from Nov 4 to Nov 5.

Several times I've found it disturbing to see the Palin baby appearing floppy in the arms of multiple family members. Tonight I watched the live feed continue on the NYT site and was really disturbed to see that baby still floppy. (I'm a nurse and watch for parent child interaction as a sign of bonding - especially critical with special needs children). Sarah never looked for or at her child when the family went on stage. She ignored the baby, as did Todd. Fundamentalists often believe that special needs children are a punishment from God, and I'm really wondering if the lack of interest by them in this baby isn't a manifestation of rejecting the child.

If you can get photos of Sarah with the baby I'd be interested in your take. When she did hold him, she never looked at him, didn't do anything other than fast pat his back (pat, pat, pat, pat, pat) as if she was burping him. But he appeared totally floppy - he didn't cry, he didn't open his eyes - he didn't react in any discernible way. She quickly handed him off to her next youngest without any look to assure that she was holding him safely. That was the last the baby had any attention from either parent.

The six year old stood between her and Joe Biden at one point, and Joe had his hands on her shoulders in a grandfather type gesture. Sarah was too busy talking to Joe to take notice of her daughter, who was looking away from both of them and smiling at someone off camera.

There doesn't seem to be any overt warmth between Sarah and her children. Todd just seemed starstruck and was basking in his testosterone fueled glow.

Here is the link to Biden choking up:
notice Palin shuffling her notes and responding in the only way she can, with a talking point.

i can't believe palin had the opportunity to address an issue she supposedly personally invested in with having children in school and family members who work as teachers. she would have been able to strike a cord with her hockey mom friends and speak to an issue which is real and relevant, yet she took the opportunity to "shout out" to her home town. now really, this woman needs to get back on the pagent circuit and out of politics.

Thanks Charlie! Many hands make light work.

Continuing on the subject of education, here's the transcript of what Palin said:

Say it ain't so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again. You preferenced your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now doggone it, let's look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future. You mentioned education and I'm glad you did. I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and god bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right? I say, too, with education, America needs to be putting a lot more focus on that and our schools have got to be really ramped up in terms of the funding that they are deserving. Teachers needed to be paid more. I come from a house full of school teachers. My grandma was, my dad who is in the audience today, he's a schoolteacher, had been for many years. My brother, who I think is the best schoolteacher in the year, and here's a shout-out to all those third graders at Gladys Wood Elementary School, you get extra credit for watching the debate.

If you ddidn't know the context, you'd be hard-pressed to guess such drivel came from a candidate for national office.

I think that Biden's emotional moment really did strike a cord, but I thought that she would make some acknowledgement and feed off that tone of personal feeling. When she pointedly didn't, she came across as robotic, prompting someone at a near-by table (I was watching the debate at a bar in Anchorage) to ask the question,"Is she some kind of fembot?"

Up to that point, her direct gaze seemed like it might work and be a plus, but in the end Biden came out looking more human and she seemed more cold and distant.

ken,alas, pismired, "cold and distant"

“Forget the tight stripper skirt, forget the metallic eyeshadow inappropriate for anyone over the age of 40, forget the cloying sitcom delivery, the lies, the cruel and calculated needling of Biden by calling his college professor wife a "school teacher" and saying "she'll get her reward in Heaven" (to a man whose first wife died in a car accident) -- she's an idiot.” ~ Jane Hamsher

Joe struck a blow against sexism by noting that a man could have feelings and experience about raising children.

Palin's best tactic was looking directly into the camera. It was very favorable to her. The other thing that worked was her use colloquialisms. Sure, it may not play well with wonks, but too many folks are looking for someone "just like me", and you betcha is an effective way to do that.

Biden was very strong with the facts though, not wanting to belabor things, he let several exaggerations and inaccuracies from Palin go unanswered. His family, in his talk and with their presence, was by far and away his strongest positive. His "single father" story has a lot of resonance, especially (not surprisingly) with men and can go a long way in offsetting the "she's hot" factor that many guys only acknowledge in private.

He won on points, but the soft bigotry of low expectations aspect, though played by both sides, ended up favoring her in the end. Given the recent stumbles she has made in interviews, I think people really thought she was going to blow it. She didn't, and gains points because of it.

"He won on points, but the soft bigotry of low expectations aspect, though played by both sides, ended up favoring her in the end."

Assuming this is about winning the presidential election, it's clear that Obaman/Biden came out of the VP debate stronger than they were going in. With a the current lead in the polls, all that Obama/Biden really want in the debates is not to lose. IMHO Biden came off as more sincere, more personable, smarter, more experienced and more informed.

The rules were dumbed down in Palin's favor:

At the insistence of the McCain campaign, the Oct. 2 debate between the Republican nominee for vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin, and her Democratic rival, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., will have shorter question-and-answer segments than those for the presidential nominees, the advisers said. There will also be much less opportunity for free-wheeling, direct exchanges between the running mates.

McCain advisers said they had been concerned that a loose format could leave Ms. Palin, a relatively inexperienced debater, at a disadvantage and largely on the defensive.

Even though McCain Camp sucessfully neutered Gwen Ifil by a predebate attack on her credibility, we should not be fooled by Palin’s Acting/ sparring abilities (although she had her Notes with her) to sucessfully weave and bob and her canny ability not to answer questions she does not like in contradiction to her also not being able to intelligently answer complex questions on the spot! It seems as if she feels the American people have no need to be given intelligent, thoughtful answers to the pressing questions of today, and that we would rather be winked at and called hockey moms and Joe Sixpacks while our economy is in ruins! We need our candidates to present truth, not lies and talking points of lies which have nothing to do with reality. We have been lied too enough in this country. We need leaders who are of high moral character and who think their word is thier bond.

Starting to question McCain’s mental fitness

McCain’s interviews have become increasingly angry, hostile and unhinged. He seems to be on the verge of some kind of mental collapse. A big part of McCain’s erratic behavior is due to Obama having gotten deep, deep, deep inside his head. If McCain’s brain was x-rayed, it would reveal Obama sitting comfortably upon McCain’s cerebral peduncles. But, it is more than that. I believe McCain’s increasing instability is being caused by the stress of the campaign and his 72 year old body not being able to get the rest that it requires to function properly. That isn’t ageism—that is a simple fact of life. I wondered how McCain, being in advanced years, would respond under the grueling pace of a general election. I think we are all beginning to find out and it really isn’t a pretty site. He is on the verge of some kind of mental collapse.

My god! How are they going to make her look ‘Presidential? ” she asked. That's what everyone's saying over here.

They don't want her to look ‘presidential’. They want her to look ‘identical’.

. . .

My god! How are they going to make him look ‘Presidential? ”

BAGman : “The tone... completely shifted in the last five minutes when Joe Biden became emotional about his family.

"his family" : “Philosophers and psychiatrists like Deleuze, Guattari, Laing, and Reich ~ explained that the patriarchal-family conceived in the West tradition (ie., husband-wife-children isolated from the outside) serves the purpose of perpetuating a propertarian and authoritarian society. The ‘child’ grows [becomes] according to the Oedipal model typical of capitalist societies and he becomes in turn owner of submissive children and protector of ‘the woman’.

The [American] Conversation is... "his family" (?) “My god!” she exclaimed.

How utterly vapid : "lifeless, dull, banal, bland or insipid".


I honestly felt she was trying to anger Joe with her remark about his wife, to get him to attack her. His response, so real, was beyond anything the cynics in the McCain campaign could imagine. It made Biden real to America and Palin's fakeness even more pointed. Biden will get strong reactions wherever he goes now, and this will win the Obama camp much support.

Thanks, Sarah, for showing us who you really are.

The perpetual smiling (as if she's still in a beauty pageant), the plowing ahead with talking points after an emotional moment, the coldness and self-absorption around her family--everything about her just gives me the creeps. Even if she were the wonkiest, most knowledgeable person on current affairs and foreign policy, I would feel that she's not emotionally equipped to deal with crises of any magnitude and wouldn't vote for her. McCain, although he has different social difficulties, similarly frightens me with his loose-cannon approach. All other politics aside, I don't want a candidate with no self-control, backed up by a VP nominee with no empathy or depth, running my country.

Now, Barack Obama and Joe Biden most certainly have multiple flaws and weaknesses, but they come off as comparatively much more normal and well-adjusted. If there's anything that's swaying those elusive "undecideds", I suspect it's something like that.

I expect Gov. Palin's horrible favorable/unfavorable slide will have an uptick; she may even get as high as McCain's -4 rating, but it won't be enough. The point spread is near the steal-proof range and seems to be holding.

I'm glad Biden didn't buy into the "Can I call you Joe? wink wink" flirts. I hope the independents don't. Everyone was so fixed on Biden not being disrespectful that they gave her a free pass on her own (E.g. references by her to "Barack").

Biden's emotional moment was just too damned genuine; I think he might have surprised himself since he doesn't normally play that card.

I'm just bracing for the October Surprise, and hope there aren't too many casualties.

Yes, I do think they're that desperate.

Yes, Bag. Your reactions resonate very much with my own.

I'm a little surprised you didn't take on the eye-wink ("Betcha" Tina Fey is working on that right now.), which - while superficially (cartoonishly) "connective"? - is just plain goofy, and more to the point a cheap ploy. And so many of them?!

I was mesmerized by the Big Reveal in that post-debate milling. The familial body language in the Biden clan was the real-est thing of the night. They radiate "healthy family." I kept looking for a shot of Palin mustering the same natural ease with the Biden family as he was showing to hers but never caught any.

And about the baby. First reaction: Why is the baby even in the crowded hall this late at night? Wouldn't any other candidate's baby be in bed with a grandparent or aunt nearby? Second: They all pass the baby around, but I never see anyone relating to the baby's face. It actually makes me sad. They might as well just get some floppy doll as a fill-in prop. When does this baby-as-prop start becoming a turn-off in the collective psyche?

(Is this child so diminished that it never makes any noise, that it just flops there...making it possible to drag it anywhere because it will never make a noise or disturb? Is this how to treat such a child? AS IF it has no consciousness? What's going on here?)


She asks at the start, "Can I call you Joe?"

Sounded like good manners.

For the purpose of a set line: "Say it isn't so, Joe."

If you were watching on CSPAN, they did something actually kind of fascinating where they set up a split-screen with Biden's head on the left side and Palin's on the right-- and then left it there for nearly the entire debate. This revealed some interesting things that I suspect a more traditional camera placement might have overlooked-- Biden making some funny faces in the first half before he got into his swing and then starting to actually laugh at most of Palin's responses once he did get into his swing, Palin looking uncomfortable, Biden taking notes furiously whenever Palin talked-- but it also set up a really fascinating constant visual contrast. I kept wanting to make something of the moments where the two were facing toward each other as opposed to away from each other on the screen.

The debate reinforced Palin's image as an "ordinary hockey mom"--so those people who are looking for an "ordinary hockey mom" in the White House were reassured.

However, the debate did nothing to make her seem plausibly presidential or potentially respectable on the world stage.

The debate did not help McCain/Palin.

I think Palin did a great job impersonating Tina Fey.

the VP debate was stunning. Palin did a decent job faking about 20% of the questions and didn't even bother answering the other 80%.

i couldn't help thinking of the end of the movie Billy Madison, when the Principal says to Adam Sandler, "Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

God help us if Sarah ever became the shining light on that mythical hill

"But even more important is that world view that I share with John McCain. That world view that says that America is a nation of exceptionalism. And we are to be that shining city on a hill, as President Reagan so beautifully said, that we are a beacon of hope and that we are unapologetic here".

She's nothing but a beauty contestant and as a woman, I HATE her.

It is somewhat reassuring to see that Trig is loved as the Huffington Post picture of the baby with his sister and soon to be brother-in-law demonstrates.

Is it expected that Down's babies sleep all the time? The infant is hardly ever awake and never cries. Maybe he has hearing problems as well?

Annie: In response to your noting how "floppy" her infant is. One of the characteristics of Down's Syndrome is poor muscle development, i.e. they can appear floppy.They have difficulty turning over, grawl and walk at a later age, etc. I am more concerned about the fact I have never seen the child fuss even once --- at late late hours and over a long period of time (the convention for example) and wondered if someone is slipping him Benadryl in his formula. Also agree that the way the entire family relates to him is as if he is an object. It breaks my heart.

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