October 1, 2008

Going into the VP debate, what are the expectations for Sarah Palin?

The NYT has a front-page piece telling us that, based on her old Alaskan political debates, Sarah Palin is perhaps not all that bad:
She staked out a populist stance against oil companies and projected a fresh, down-to-earth face at a time when voters wanted change....

Her debating style was rarely confrontational, and she appeared confident....

But just as she does now, Ms. Palin often spoke in generalities and showed scant aptitude for developing arguments beyond a talking point or two. Her sentences were distinguished by their repetition of words, by the use of the phrase “here in Alaska” and for gaps. On paper, her sentences would have been difficult to diagram.

John Bitney, the policy director for her campaign for governor and the main person who helped prepare her for debates, said her repetition of words was “her way of running down the clock as her mind searches for where she wants to go.”

These tendencies could fuzz her meaning and lead her into linguistic cul-de-sacs. She often used less than her allotted time and ended her answers abruptly.

When questioned about the nuts and bolts of governing, Ms. Palin tended to avoid specifics and instead fell back on her core values: a broadly conservative philosophy and a can-do spirit.
Actually, that sounds bad. Based on the headline -- "Past Debates Show a Confident Palin, at Times Fluent but Often Vague" -- I was going to accuse the NYT of trying to raise expectations of Palin so that she wouldn't be able to impress us by just showing up and minimally standing her ground. But the text of the article -- by Katharine Q. Seelye -- doesn't deserve that accusation.

47 comments:

Salamandyr said...

I just gotta do it...

"at times fluent but often vague" sounds like a pretty good description of Obama too.

Bart DePalma said...

The GOP should be thankful that the NYT is lowering expectations for Palin.

In any case, during a call in interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio program, Governor Palin may have given a preview of her debate strategy - a Hockey Mom goes to Wasington.

peter hoh said...

It's not a quiz show. It's a debate. I think she has the ability to perform well enough to please the conservative base.

I'm going to a debate party thrown by a conservative radio station. I expect that vague generalities and clever culture war cquips will go over big with the crowd.

peter hoh said...

I do know how to spell "quips."

peter hoh said...

Yes, salamandyr, we get it. Palin = Obama. Except that I'm pretty sure that Obama has a working knowledge of significant Supreme Court decisions from the past 20 years.

erniecu73 said...

Has he been asked that question, peter?

I think she will do well, but not well enough for the MSM and the Obamabots.

I need to go to the liquor store today. I am out of rum for the debate.

Salamandyr said...

Peter, it was the first thing that popped into my head--too good not to post. Personally, I think it's nice that both sides now have a fresh new face upon which to hang all their hopes and dreams.

Meade said...

Who the heck is sarah palin? I google the name, comes up bupkis.

Rich B said...

I saw one of those debates on CSPAN and she handled herself pretty well. I think she'll look good compared to windy Joe.

EDH said...

It’s called “damning with faint praise,” isn’t it?

The reporter raises expectations about Palin's superficial performance, but tries to instill public doubt about her substance.

Apathetic Citizen said...

The more Biden talks about his profoundly deep knowledge of policy and foreign leaders, the worse he makes it for himself.

In other words, the more he knows, the worse he does.

The less our Sarah knows, the better.

Biden is Sen. Joseph Paine, the corrupt white-haired politician in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." (1:58 in the clip)

What she lacks in experience, she makes up in fight!

Take a look at this country through her eyes if you want to see something! That lady stands for liberty! You won't just see scenery. You'll see what man's carved out for himself after centuries of fighting...to be free and decent.

I hope she gets into some good BIble talk, too, the same way Jimmy Stewart talks about lovin' thy neighbor. Somebody will listen to her....

Henry said...

"Going into the VP debate, what are the expectations for Sarah Palin?"

Nice lipstick?

I'm debating with myself whether or not to watch the tedious affair. Beyond the gaffe watch, what's the point?

Richard Dolan said...

Expectations? Not high. Too much platitudinous Ms. Congeniality, not enough "here's what the problem is and here's why what we'll do about it is so much better than what Team O would do."

Trevor Jackson said...

"Perhaps her strength in debating was coming across like an average person who understood the average person’s needs and would not be expected to have detailed policy prescriptions."

This, in a nutshell, is the appeal of Sarah Palin.

Is it wise for people to want that common-person perspective in the executive? I think it is. But I don't think it's too much to ask to have that AND the ability to describe detailed policy prescriptions.

Am I asking for too much?

EDH said...

Seems to me Palin's best rebuttal to Biden is:

"well, I haven't been running unsuccessfully for president for the last twenty-five years so Joe may have a leg up on me there."

rhhardin said...

On paper, her sentences would have been difficult to diagram.

Most real sentences won't diagram correctly. What you learned in school was a sham.

Sentences make a convenience of grammar, but cast a general tone over the whole situation with interacting semantic and lexical incidentals that grammar simply does not capture or predict.

Sloanasaurus said...

What about the fact that a rapid Obama supporter, Gwen Ifill, will be the moderator.

Ifill is not just an Obama supporter, she actually has a financial interest in Obama winning because she has a book on Obama scheduled to come out on Jan 20. If Obama loses, that book will be a loser too.

So in the back of Ifill's mind will not be just I want Barack to win. I want barack to win so I make lots of money.

The MSM is not only pathetic, its corrupt.

Jon Swift said...

What accusation does it deserve, Ms. Althouse? Please don't leave us hanging.

ricpic said...

Sarah, just let Biden step in it and don't interrupt him as he steps further in it and you'll win.

AllenS said...

Peter--

Are you going to be at Trocadero?

reader_iam said...

On paper, her sentences would have been difficult to diagram.

Do people still diagram sentences? I mean, I'm using a curriculum in homeschooling which teaches that skill (weirdly, my son seems to like it--it must appeal to his sense of patterns and puzzles), but that approach has pretty much been out of style for, what? 40 years?

Usually, at least in my experience, the mention of diagramming sentences draws blank stares at best, disgust at worst.

That digression aside, it strikes me that relatively few politicians today are all that gifted, rhetorically, even in terms of speeches, much less in the context of debates. In this sense, Palin doesn't stand out all THAT much, at least to me. (This is not to say that I don't think there are substance issues with her; to the contrary. The same goes for Obama and, for that matter, McCain in a number of areas.)

As is traditional for me in election years, I've been re-reading all of the inaugural addresses given by all of our U.S. presidents, in order, as well as an assortment of other addresses. It's an illuminating exercise, not just historically, but in terms of language and style.

I highly recommend it. You, too, might find it revealing--and sometimes even amusing.

Arturius said...

Personally I think Palin seems to be a nice enough person and based upon her record and popularity in Alaska seems to be a competent governor. That said, I don't think she is any more fit to lead from a national level than the very Junior Senator from Illinois who has a thinner record than she does.

But to somehow raise the bar for her when the very senior Senator from Delaware is given a pass every time he sticks his foot in his mouth is a bit rich.

I'll repeat; how this nation ended up with these two tickets is beyond my comprehension.

Bob said...

She needs to give short crisp answers and pound home on the theme "she's one of us". Let Joe do long winded answers. And send in a few digs at Biden. Sharp. Joe will get pissed "this lightweight" is taking down to him. Then he'll start digging.

Ifill needs to step aside. She has a clear appearance problem. Why wasn't this surfaced before? It will color her performance as moderator irregardless of how she plays it. The Debate commission blew this one.

Michael_H said...

NYT Headline:

'Sarah Palin Loses Tomorrow Night's Debate'

Daniel said...

Sounds like this crowd has some pretty low expectations of Mr. Biden, as well.

Perfect!

Doyle said...

Whatever the expectations, she doesn't know anything, and for that if no other reason she'll have a hard time "winning" the debate.

Michael_H said...

I'm really hoping she shows up for the debate wearing a red swimsuit and black high heels.

I would not have the same hope if Barack Obama had selected Hillary Clinton as his running mate.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Whatever the expectations, she doesn't know anything, and for that if no other reason she'll have a hard time "winning" the debate.

Doyle, honestly Biden could be pissing down his leg, saying Hillary should have been VP and that Lincoln did a podcast of the Gettysburg address and you'd still think he won the debate.

Lawgiver said...

Palin represents everyman. She is not a lawyer or a lifelong politician which is a good thing. She will have prepared hard and do a good job.

Lawgiver said...

Whatever the expectations, she doesn't know anything, and for that if no other reason she'll have a hard time "winning" the debate.

What do you need to know to win a debate? GWB didn't know anything, and many think he still doesn't, yet he won some debates. It's not all about the knowing.

SteveR said...

With all due respect to the great legal minds around here, and I emphasize "due", her knowledge or lack of knowledge of court cases is far less important to me than her actual beliefs about certain issues. People who do things, hire lawyers.

So unless you went to some big time law school, you can't be a politician? So if you don't know the ins and outs of Morgan Stanley v. Public Utility Dist. No. 1 of Snohomish County, you're just some backwoods doofus deserving of mockery?

I am not sure about Sarah Palin, but I am sure about the elitist snobbery shown by many over the last 5 weeks.

Original Mike said...

She often used less than her allotted time and ended her answers abruptly.

And this is bad, why? She should give short answers and then remark: "I cede the remainder of my time to the Senator so he can finish his previous answer."

chickenlittle said...

Message: they care

The NYT, once a flaming partisan bastion, has caved.

Invisible Man said...

It's not a quiz show. It's a debate. I think she has the ability to perform well enough to please the conservative base.

Let's be honest. Complete sentences with nouns, verbs and adjectives will please the Palin base at this point.

bearbee said...

Currently reading Joseph Ellis's 'American Creation' in which he writes of the Virginia ratification debate between Patrick Henry and James Madison over the propose Constitution and in describing Henry's power to persuade Ellis writes,

Jefferson explained to Madison that Henry's oratorical power was an inexplicable and unpredictable force of nature, like a hurricane, and the only thing to do when confronted by it was to "devoutly pray for his imminent death."

It would be my pleasure to hear either candidate or, in deed, any candidate rise even close to such a level.

MadisonMan said...

I'm just hoping she doesn't have a wardrobe malfunction and expose a nipple. That would be the end of life as we know it.

harold said...

Palin's success will depend on her demeanor and common sense, not her knowledge of details.

If viewers see and hear the lightweight portrayed by Tina Fey, she'll lose. If she can handle Biden's long winded patronizing with humor, she'll win.

The stage of expectations is set for us to see Biden at his most voluble. That's good for Palin. His advisers are probably warning him about talking too much.

Leland said...

Ann,

I think your instinct that expectations are being set are correct. See here were the NYT is suggesting Biden is easily tripped up in a debate.

Original Mike said...

His advisers are probably warning him about talking too much.

Good luck with that.

blake said...

This is just a set-up for tomorrow's story where Biden is described as clumsy but fundamentally substantial and Palin is glib but shallow.

Right?

Larry J said...

Biden comes from over 30 years in the Senate, the self-described "World's greatest deliberative body." A debate is a form of deliberation. However, an executive needs to make decisions, not debate endlessly on the issues. Neither Obama or Biden have any executive experience worthy of the name.

The Exalted said...

Jefferson explained to Madison that Henry's oratorical power was an inexplicable and unpredictable force of nature, like a hurricane, and the only thing to do when confronted by it was to "devoutly pray for his imminent death."

brilliant

Peter V. Bella said...

Neither Obama or Biden have any executive experience worthy of the name.

Obama was a community organizer. Doesn't that count for something?

Apathetic Citizen said...

The more she is mocked, the more powerful she becomes.

The fewer details of legislation she knows, the wiser she is.

I don't know whether she's the Little House on the Prairie mom, Mrs. Walton, Sarah Connor, or Ripley from 'Alien,' but the media has been programming people for the past 20 years to respect normal women in powerful positions, the same way we've been programmed by beer commercials to think that regular ol' black guys and regular ol' white guys hang out in bars together.

It's one archetype pitted against another. Palin should be debating Obama.

harold said...

"The more she is mocked, the more powerful she becomes."

It depends on how well she handles the mocking. It'll start when Biden forgets his coaching and slips into his overconfident mode.

Donn said...

I think Palin's whole *national* political career hangs in the balance with this debate. If she appears as dumb as some of the interviews seem to indicate, she's toast. OTH, if she does well, it will bolster her political future, regardless of the outcome of this election.

peter hoh said...

AllenS: yep I'm headed to the Trocadero.

Someone got a transcript of Biden's debate prep sessions.