Debate Impressions

So Now What?

Bottom line: Under an enormous amount of pressure, with the McCain campaign slowing, Palin did a good job. Very good. If the loan guarantees stabilize markets and restore liquidity, and if McCain can do as well against Obama, then McCain/Palin can once more pull even. A lot of ifs. Yet the voters want reasons to vote for them, since they have greater trust in their authenticity rather than in the elegance of lawyers.

She 'Doggoned' him

Let me elaborate. Sophisticates would rather listen to the six-term Senator Biden suavely and masterfully mislead (on every thing from the legislative responsibilities of the Vice President and confusion about Article I of the Constitution to Hezbollah in Lebanon) than an honest and sincere Palin speak directly to the people. Everyone else would not.

So yes, Biden sounded the more impressive in terms of recall and facts, but it was the transitory experience of a mint that melts almost instantaneously—once you realize that almost all of the sweeping sweet assertions you just heard were, on reflection, simply untrue and so now gone and forgotten. The story today is an embarrassing fact-checking of Biden’s bombast to a far greater degree than is true of Palin’s assertions.

Listening to Biden was like hearing a probate lawyer who pounds you with facts and figures to convince you why his fee is larger that the size of the estate, expecting that you will leave the office reluctantly convinced, depressed, and broke, even as you realize that all his talents were put to no good use.

So the debate had the character of one of those 1940s “champ” fight movies, in which the deft, cocky and more refined puncher beats up—at the beginning—the nervous sweaty challenger with the far greater heart. A man with three decades in the Senate, who reminds us ad nauseam of where he was and what he has done almost every second, in theory should have easily won; but this simply did not happen, in part to Palin’s charisma and Biden’s pontifications and distortions.

What worries me is not that Palin could not do the job of Vice President, but that Obama may well be President, a man of dubious associations, a hyper-partisan voting record, a disturbing if not vicious campaign history in Illinois, with large lacunae in his past at Columbia, and before and during Harvard, and a record of very little accomplishment if not frequent failure as an ambitious community organizer, while a politicized professor at Chicago Law School without a trace of scholarly publication. The pattern is the same: rhetoric, identity politics, and charisma substitute for accomplishment as he goes from one position to the next before the assessment of the last is in.  In contrast, the mayorship in an Alaskan outback, local politics, the governorship of Alaska, at least suggest she had to perform in the give and take of rough and tumble Alaskan politics and be responsible for budgets, decisions, and hiring and firing. In that regard, Obama reminds me of a lot of the very bright people I went to graduate school with, and Palin the very independent and reliable people I farmed with.

…And 'Aw-shucked' ‘em

Back to the debate: as the rounds wore on, Palin lost much of her nervousness, smiled, and finally came into her own as the voice of an outsider who was not impressed by the same old, same old DC smugness. And as she did punch back, Biden began losing his composure, sighing with occasional break-ins and interruptions.

The more data he cited (much of it, again, less than factual [e.g., Biden really did, as Palin noted,  rule out coal-generated power; he really did once deprecate Obama’s Iraq suggestions as ill-founded and dangerous; and he really does wish to create a trillion dollars in new spending entitlements; and senior commanders really do think the tactics in Iraq, mutatis mutandis, are of enormous advantage in Afghanistan]), the less effective he became. He’s a good debater, but he ended up out-pointing Palin and still clearly losing.

The people, in the sense of those outside DC, wanted for some reason for Palin to do well, as much as the media wanted her to lose.

…And she 'you betched' him too

I cannot think of any presidential or vice presidential candidate who talked—manner, accent, gesture—in an authentically Middle Class fashion, and did so unapologetically. Bill Clinton could do it, but it was a performance to be turned on and off as needed. She sounds like voices in America (I’m in rural Michigan as I write this); but compared to life in the DC/NY nexus, she sounds like she’s from Mars as well. Biden often looked like an anthropological grad student on a South Pacific island doing his field work, both intrigued and taken back by the quaint habits of the otherwise inferior natives. I almost thought in the fashion of John Kerry he would sigh "I can't believe I'm losing to this....."

We are so ready to adjudicate political wisdom in terms of instant recall of facts, clever political response, repartee, and spin, to the point of never asking cui bono?  What did all that learning and recall of Biden’s matter when he could not even admit honestly that McCain wants to do all that it takes to win in Iraq and leave a stable government behind and Obama all that he can to get out as soon as possible?

No one believes McCain cut off funds to deny the troops; everyone knows that a cessation of funds was one of the ways Obama wished to get us out of Iraq: rightly or wrongly, Obama wanted us completely out by March 2008.

Why not simply admit that in the heady days of March 2003, Biden was all for charging into Iraq, (that was why he voted for authorization, contrary to his debate spin), then bailed when things got bad (about the very time when Obama, in contrast, for a moment said he had no substantial differences from George Bush on Iraq), and then wanted to trisect the country, and now, in his fourth incarnation, claims he never really said Obama’s views were dangerous on Iraq.  Why the contortions? No wonder we empathized with Sarah when she too was confused by Bidenism.

It's up to McCain now in the next two debates. If he does the "We are all members of the brotherhood of the Senate" stuff, he will lose. If he takes on Frank, Dodd, Obama and others for Freddie and Fannie collusion, asks why Obama won't release his transcripts, asks why there is always an Ayers, Pleger, Wright, Rezko, etc. in Obama's past, he can turn it  around. McCain must realize that he is running against someone who got both the primary and general election opposition candidates, both Democrat and Republican, for the Illinois Senate to pull out, by leaks and smears from sealed divorce cases. Obama is ruthless; and  he will hope and change McCain to the gallows, as he runs a tough campaign of character assassination and anything goes under the mantra of there are no red or blue states, come together kumbaya.

The Road to Perdition

I was reminded last night how tired we’ve become by all these professionals who pontificate, strut, and then say nothing or utter nonsense.  Let me illustrate: I have watched the demagogic Rep. Barney Frank for the last two weeks panicking like a teen-driver who was caught with an open container, screaming and crying that conservatives in DC caused all of Wall Street’s graft—when any one who saw tapes of the past Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac oversight hearings could see the pompous Frank obstructing needed regulation in service to his political agenda, with no concern about the public purse or the poor investor, only the heady notion that he, the anointed, was advancing liberal doctrine at someone else’s exposure in getting “the poor” into houses by hook or crook.

Of those many embarrassing committee moments,  my favorite exchange was brilliant Rep. Frank, as the Harvard Law Graduate, genuflecting to another Harvard Law School graduate, the equally proclaimed brilliant Franklin Raines, who profited in the millions as he helped to ruin a once hallowed housing agency—both smug as they engage in just the sort of skullduggery that caused the meltdown and cost millions of Americans hundreds of millions of dollars.

Both should read their Hesiod to learn why sometimes with intellectual progress can come moral regress:

Rep. Frank: Let me ask [George] Gould and [Franklin] Raines on behalf of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, do you feel that over the past years you have been substantially under-regulated?

 Mr. Raines?

Mr. Raines: No, sir.

Mr. Frank: Mr. Gould?

Mr. Gould: No, sir. . . .

Mr. Frank: OK. Then I am not entirely sure why we are here . . .

Presto! There it is. The two legal eagles agree Mr. Raines is not underregulated, so ipso facto, of course, the dishonest Mr. Raines is NOT underregulated, the dazzling disingenuous Mr. Frank is vindicated—and we are all on the road to perdition as Freddie and Fannie cascade and start the avalanche.

And you wonder why people root for the likes of a fresh, but nervous Palin against these cool composed geniuses?

A note

No apologies on the Palin parody I wrote for NRO. A careful read will easily reveal the essay’s intent: had Palin simply said the nonsense Biden has voiced we would think she was lunatic and she should be gone from the race–and that disconnect reminds us again how the media sadly ignores the most unhinged things if only they come from the politically-correct. Imagine this: If Sarah should say, as did Biden, that Americans once watched "President" FDR on TV in 1929 rally the public after the Great Panic—Sarah is history. Fact. End of story.

All welcome

No one censors any comments on this site. A pajamas editor, I think, scans all postings for obscenity and the usual hate trash, but no political ideas are cut out by me, however strange some of these read. I don’t mind the criticism from the Obama supporters. That’s democracy and we all must take our hits in the arena. My only observation from my angry email at victorhanson.com and personal email accounts, is that there is a sort of regimentation to this bloc outraged opposition, (reminding me of that creepy school girls singing tape glorifying the hope and change prophet) in which any doubt about Obama’s apotheosis earns a massive orchestrated response--as the legions march out lock-step to the internet to kill the barbarians who doubt the divinity of the emperor, and then dutifully report back to their legates that pila are thrown in unison and swords properly drawn and used.