Thursday, October 02, 2008

LiveBlog of the VP debate @ WUSL

Hello all, welcome to the Theory Bloc's LiveBlog (I'm not sure if that is a word/term that has been coined/trademarked yet) of the VP debate!

First thoughts:
Sarah Palin is pumped. You can hear her ask Sen. Biden "Can I call you Joe?", but can't hear Biden's response. Biden's is clear and concise to start focusing on Democratic boilerplate "the economic policies of the past 8 years have failed", etc. Sarah Palin is working it early on by not speaking about specifics, rather attempting to speak to voters directly, using the term "fear" four times.

Ifill, partisanship:
Biden notes he is bipartisan, but doesn't supply any evidence, and then moves back to economics and John McCain's failures in this area. Smart move. Sarah Palin responds quickly and decisively with a decent response "By economy he meant American workforce". Biden is doing a great job smiling at Palin without looking like he is checking her out.

Ifill, economy:
Palin notes Wall Street greed and blue collar exploitation, even mentioning greater oversight. Biden mentions Obama's advance notice of the subprime situation (similar to Palin's earlier mention of McCain's advance notice of Freddie/Fannie). Biden points out the many times McCain has been interviewed citing deregulation as a central tenant. Palin changes the subject to tax relief, which is probably smart as she did it quite subtly (Biden barely touched on taxes at the end). She has shown in previous interviews that she is does not excel at citing specifics of McCain's record. Biden tears up Palin, and is starting to show some fangs. He may want to pull it back. He has shown that he can effectively work Palin over without going down this path.

Ifill, stances on taxes:
Biden says the Democratic tax plan can be boiled down to fairness. Biden notes McCain's tax plans favor the wealthy and corporate interests. Palin notes that millions of small businesses fall under the Obama/Biden $250K 5%, lowering the amount of jobs created nationwide. Sarah Palin notes DETAILS on John McCain's health care plan (with Bush-like emphasis). Mentions that the healthcare plan will be allowed to cross state lines, using nice buzzwords 'affordability and availability'. Biden notes that John McCain will tax people to give people a $5000 credit. Sarah Palin looks either uncomfortable or enraged (her smile does not look happy). Oooo Biden dropped a 'Bridge to Nowhere' line that just drew big laughs.

Ifill, promises you cannot keep:
Biden notes a multitude of items that are supported by the current regime that they would not support, which sounds like it is answering the question, but really is not. Palin notes that McCain is a straight shooter. Palin notes that the energy plan Obama voted for gave the oil companies huge tax breaks (point for Palin as Biden recently stressed this issue). Palin then ties in her experience with energy and big corporations in Alaska. Biden notes that Obama voted for the energy bill because it had real alternatives for energy (Biden parries nicely, not surprisingly). Biden is stressing that Palin did a good job with a windfall profits tax in Alaska. Its a good point for bipartisanship on his side, but props up Palin more than he needs to.

Ifill, bankruptcy changes:
Palin's boilerplate response when she doesn't know the answer: "Greed and corruption". Biden keeps it concise, and noted the difference between he and Obama. He's clearly not afraid of any of his votes, or the difference between he and his ticket partner. Palin jumps back onto energy again. The wife is annoyed. Palin mentions the need for energy independence, both for economic and security purposes. Ifill deftly changes the subject to... energy!

Ifill, energy and climate change:
Palin acknowledges global warming, kind of, and notes the nature of cyclical global changes in temperature. She also nicely moves away from the fact that people might skewer her on this and says that she wants to focus on solutions. She notes conservation and alternative forms of energy. Biden notes that the cause is manmade. He clearly emphasizes this to delineate between himself and Palin. He also notes the Republican chant of 'Drill, drill, drill'. Sarah Palin smugly notes that is correctly chanted as 'Drill baby drill'. Could she be trying to tweak the debate beast? A nice touch with 'Senator O'Biden', probably a mistake. Palin/McCain supports capping carbon emissions. Biden notes the seeming hypocrisy of McCain voting against supporting alternative energy sources 20 times.

Ifill, same-sex couples:
Biden's for it, fairness is noted again. He uses the term 'Same-sex marriage'. Palin does not support changing the 'traditional definition of marriage' but is 'tolerant' of adults in America making their own choices for their partners. Now Biden says he does not support gay marriage. Maybe the previous use of the term 'same-sex marriage' was a misstatement'.

Ifill, foreign policy:
Palin loves Petraeus "Great American Hero". Oooo Palin notes that Biden called out Obama (before he was VP of course). Palin thinks we need to win in Iraq as badly as we need to win in Afghanistan. She notes Al Qaeda and the Shi'ah extremists (no Sunni extremists?). Biden wants a plan, and says McCain does not have one. Biden says McCain voted the same way as Obama (voting against the funding of the troops because there was a timeline), but then says that Obama wants a timeline (so did Obama vote against the specific timeline then? I'm confused). Biden wants to END THIS WAR. Palin says that Obama/Biden are quitters (after a long pause). She also says the time to leave is when the Iraq government is ready. Palin notes that Biden would have run with John McCain and that Obama is not ready to lead. She showed some respect for Biden, but says that Obama is another story. Biden rehashes the McCain voted against funding the troops line. Lots of respect between these two candidates.

Ifill, Pakistan vs. Iran:
Biden refuses to answer her question, instead speaking of McCain... oops maybe he is answering the question. I think he just answered Pakistan as being more dangerous, but the answer was too roundabout to know for sure. Iran is Palin's pick. She begins to pull in Ahmadinejad quotes about Israel to hone her detailed knowledge of Middle East policy. She notes that Obama's views on the Middle East are dangerous.

Ifill, engagement of enemies:
Palin brings up Kissinger, which is a mistake. Everybody paying attention knows Couric reamed her on this. Palin says diplomacy is the first objective, using sanctions before the President sits down. Biden is going after McCain/Palin, saying the attacks on Obama are not true. Biden notes that friends and allies are looking for more talky less fighty. Biden brings up the Spain comment in seeming genuine awe.

Ifill, Israel and Palestine:
Palin is for the two state solution. She says it will be at the top of the agenda of a Palin/McCain administration. She wants to build the embassy in Jerusalem. Biden says he is the #1 guy for Israel in the Senate. He thinks Sec. Rice is 'trying to turn around' the 'abject failure of this administration'. Palin is encouraged that she and Biden 'both love Israel'. Biden is drawing deeper breaths. Will he explode? Palin acknowledges general failures of the past administration without being specific. Biden says "Past is prologue". I'm too busy to decipher what that means. Biden says McCain's foreign policy is going to be the same as Bush's across the board. Biden implies that change to Obama will be for the better.

Ifill, nuclear trigger:
Palin says nucular. How will Biden respond? She essentially sidesteps the question but adds that she wants a surge in Afghanistan. Palin is going to TOWN on Obama. Its unclear how much is true, but she has a pinpoint focus on the guy. Biden says the commanding general in Afghanistan said that the surge principles will not work in Afghanistan. 3 weeks in Iraq = 7 years in Afghanistan. Interesting point. Biden does not emphasize nuclear. Good call. It's only important to the Democratic base, you won't independent voters by making Palin look stupid. Palin attacks Biden's premise that the commanding general does not believe a surge will work. Biden says "Did too".

Ifill, interventionists:
Biden thinks Americans love winners. Implying that Americans hate Iraq, maybe? Biden brings up Darfur and the U.S. ability to control genocide there. Palin paints herself as the outsider, trying to label Biden a flip-flopper. She notes that Biden was with McCain and against Obama until recently. She notes her experience as governor and divestment of funds Alaska had tied up with Sudan. Good point. Biden said he never supported John McCain's stances on the war. Palin is either correct or completely out of her league because she doesn't look like she knows how to respond to Biden's denial of McCain support.

Ifill, VP to President:
Biden will carry out Obama's policies. This gives him a chance to restate the platform of the Democratic party. Biden says this is the most important election since 1932. Palin says that she wouldn't agree on everything that McCain has stood for, and that she respects McCain has not asked her to check her opinion at the door. Joe Biden spends a lot of time at Home Depot. Palin says "say it ain't so Joe", good line. Shout out to Gladys Wood Elementary School and a wink to dad (Democrats are right, she's the devil!). Ifill notes that everybody gets extra credit tonight (she's on her game).

Ifill, VP job:
Palin absolutely kills Ifill, saying her joke was lame and nobody laughed. Damn. Biden wants to talk about education. Biden does a good job of noting his position on the ticket (point man on legislation, and keeping in the loop for independent judgment on issues).

Ifill, VP job not held under the executive office but legislative:
Palin agrees with Cheney and notes that the VP office should be flexible. Biden thinks that Cheney is the most dangerous VP in the history of the United States. Bold statement, but he's winning the debate, so he's probably feeling it right now. He is speaking over 80% of people's heads right now.

Ifill, achilles heels:
Palin notes her experience, but doesn't note what her achilles heel would be if not for experience. Alaska is apparently the heartland of America. Biden notes that his other issue is 'excessive passion' which is either really ridiculous or a veiled way of saying that he gets angry easily. Biden notes how awesome he is while tying it in... whoa! Biden started choking up! Fantastic piece of emotion. Interesting! Biden was trying to tie himself to the working class voter, noting that while he was well-off, he still could understand that people were suffering. Palin said 'Greed and corruption' for 12th time tonight (probably only the 6th time really). Biden says McCain is not the maverick that he claims to be, and cites examples in budget, healthcare, and war votes.

Ifill, changing a vote on a value:
Biden notes that he fought against Judge Bjork (sp?) and that he knew after 5 years that he would have to fight against judicial ideology. Palin says that she caved on several budgets, which is a good answer considering her lack of experience.

Ifill, bipartisanship:
Biden says he has the respect of all of Congress because he no longer questions peoples motives, instead questioning their judgment (good Jesse Helms story). Palin says there is a need to appoint people of different political persuasions while letting policies/proposals speak for themselves.

Closing statements:
Palin likes answering tough questions 'without the MSM analyzing what they just heard'. Rhetoric about fighting for freedoms on a generational basis. Biden notes the importance of the election, and that Obama/Biden measures progress by a host of blue/collar metrics (Democratic rhetoric). Oooo, Biden says "from both of us (motioning to Palin), may God protect our troops".

Wow! Palin needs a mic check. Someone has jacked the volume WAY up on her mic. Let's take a look at the victories by category:

Partisanship - push; Palin starts out strong, and Biden refuses to attack too quickly (also a good move)

Economy - push; Biden starts to seem a bit petulant at the end of this topic (ends up fading) which is a shame because he was really tearing up Palin.

Taxes - Biden; killed with his 'Bridge to Nowhere' shot.

Promises - Palin; Biden made more points, but he loses here for propping up Palin with his 'windfall profits' tax while not refuting enough of Palin's points.

Bankruptcy - Biden; he is comfortable noting differences in the ticket, Palin doesn't want to touch this topic with a ten foot pole.

Energy/Climate - Biden; This was quite close, but Biden wins out by pointing out McCain's 20 votes on alternative energy, and because of a topic change Palin did not have a chance to respond.

Same-sex marriage - push; only losers here are the homosexuals.

Foreign Policy - Biden; Neither did a great job on this question, and it seemed to be a strange general topic question as Gwen Ifill had several probing questions that were specific foreign policy questions. Biden seemed more prepared to attack the current administrations setup than Palin was to defend it.

Pakistan/Iran - Palin; Biden got into Senate speak, thereby possibly answering the question, but not in a way that most Americans will understand. If you polled Americans watching the debate, I'm willing to guess a short answer survey would get all types of answers as to what Biden thought. Palin was concise in saying Iran, and noting specific examples of Ahmadinejad's quotes.

Engagement of enemy - Biden; Palin mentioned Kissinger which flashed me back to the Couric interview (me and everyone else watching).

Israel/Palestine - push; Palin did a good job answering the question, and Biden did not give enough specifics for someone who should know this issue backwards and forwards.

Nuclear option - Biden; not only could Palin not pronounce 'nuclear', but she couldn't find a way to answer the question.

Interventionists - Palin; Biden is a pro at foreign policy and did a good job answering this question, but Palin in a surprise move noted divestment in Sudanese business interests as Alaskan governor.

VP to President - Palin; Biden was good, and answered the question better, but you cannot, CANNOT mess with Gladys Wood Elementary!

VP job - Biden; No question that Biden concisely and explicitly noted what he would do in an Obama presidency.

VP executive/legislative - Biden; He went over everyone's head citing Article 1 and mentioning unitary power something-or-another, but it was dead-on.

Achilles heel - Biden; When he got emotional it was a truly fascinating moment. Neither did a good job of answering the question, but Biden did a better job of trying/acknowledging the question.

Vote on value - Push; Neither answer was particularly good. Palin was in a no-win situation, but managed to give a good answer.

Bipartisanship - Biden; Palin's answer was okay, and she didn't have a great way to answer the question, but Biden's Jesse Helms story was quite good.

Overall - push; Palin absolutely killed compared to expectations. Her main faults were changing the subject too often and moving to her safety zone (energy) more than necessary. On the pro side she cited specifics much more often than any of her interviews and added that dash of country charm on several occasions. Biden on the flip side did a terrific job across the board, occasionally failing to answer the question and/or speaking around the question, but usually giving clear and concise answers to Gwen Ifill's questions. His temperament only seemed to waiver once (that I counted). Biden's expectation threshold was higher though, so he had more to lose than Palin. I decided to wimp out and call it a push because while Biden did the better job (measured equally), Palin probably did more to help her ticket.