The Morning After

Ken AshfordElection 2008Leave a Comment

The winks.

That’s what stayed with me the most thinking about the debate this morning.  Palin’s winking.

It caused me to pose this question: "If Palin were a woman who looked like, oh, Helen Thomas or Margaret Thatcher or Hillary Clinton or even an actual typical soccer/hockey mom from middle America, would she get away with that?"

I don’t think so.  It would be creepy.

Look, I’m a feminist.  And I like it that women are progressing in all areas of society, especially politics.

And I don’t really mind when politicians — men or women — use their intangibles (personalities, looks) to win over voters.

But with Palin, there is (or should be) a serious question as to whether her flirting with America (really, there’s no other word for it) is being used to enhance her substantive political skills, or to mask the fact that she lacks them.

I (as you might expect) lean toward the latter.  And the way you can verify this for yourself is to do this: read the transcript of the debate, and then ask yourself who is better suited to be a heartbeat away from the most important job in the world, and perhaps the most crucial moment in this country’s modern history.

Does Sarah have substance?  Is she politically skilled and knowledgable?  I would say "Yes."  But enough for that position?  No.  She’s well-suited for mayor.  In fact, I’m convinced that she would never have obtained the governorship of Alaska had it not been for her looks and charm (i.e., if she had looked like Margaret Thatcher).  But that’s Alaska’s problem.  Let’s not make it America’s.

I think this assessment said it best:

She looked like she was trying to get people to take her seriously. He looked like he was running for vice president. His answers were more responsive to the questions, far more detailed and less rhetorical.

On at least ten occasions, Palin gave answers that were nonspecific, completely generic, pivoted away from the question at hand, or simply ignored it: on global warming, an Iraq exit strategy, Iran and Pakistan, Iranian diplomacy, Israel-Palestine (and a follow-up), the nuclear trigger, interventionism, Cheney’s vice presidency and her own greatest weakness.

Asked which is a greater threat, a nuclear Pakistan or a nuclear Iran, Palin seemed to be stalling, or writing a term paper, when she said: “An armed, nuclear armed especially Iran is so extremely dangerous to consider.”

Biden was crisper, with a dose of realism: “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be very, very destabilizing. They are more than — they are not close to getting a nuclear weapon that’s able to be deployed.”

Biden relentlessly and clearly delivered a specific message he had been assigned to hammer home: McCain-Palin would be four more years of Bush-Cheney. Biden mentioned President Bush more than a dozen times.

Fortunately, according to the CNN poll, the debate did nothing to convince uncommitted voters that Palin was fit for office:

Palin qualified to serve as President?

Before debate:
42% yes
54% no

After debate
46% yes
53% no