With a brilliant smile and a confident swagger, Sarah Palin faced Joe Biden, and America, in the first and only vice presidential debate. But the face she presented was that of shallow Pollyanna with a woefully insufficient grasp of issues and facts.
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Let’s set aside for the moment that she was flatly wrong when she said that there were fewer troops in Iraq than before the Surge. And never mind that she doesn’t know the name of the American commander in Afghanistan. Palin’s big problem was that she outright refused to answer the questions that were asked. Now, that is a venerable debate tactic and, when used skillfully, can be quite effective and undetectable. However, when Palin did it she clumsily announced that she was changing the subject, and then proceeded to deliver her memorized talking points.
What might have been an enlightening exchange between the candidates was severely constrained by a format and a moderator that discouraged direct interaction. The question arises as to whether Gwen Ifill was cowed by allegations that she would be partial due to the upcoming publication of her book on race in American politics. We may never know if that’s the case, but we do know that Ifill was a virtual non-entity on the stage and failed to ask probing follow-ups of either candidate. That could explain why Palin expressed such satisfaction with the event in her closing remarks:
“I like being able to answer these tough questions without the filter, even, of the mainstream media kind of telling viewers what they’ve just heard. I’d rather be able to just speak to the American people like we just did.”
First of all, she wasn’t asked any tough questions and I suspect that that is what she really liked. Secondly, the Mainstream Media to which she refers doesn’t apply filters to her interviews. The Gibson and Couric affairs simply allowed her to speak on her own, and any resultant embarrassment was of her own doing. Thirdly, her impression of speaking to the American people appears to rely heavily on the help she receives from her speech writers and a teleprompter.
Her statement above is a thinly veiled declaration that she intends to have no further association with the media for which she is so dismissive. I predict that she will have maybe one more interview with a reputable national journalist (probably Brian Williams), then will scurry off to the more comforting embrace of comrades like Hannity and Limbaugh and the Washington Times. By November 4th, she will not have had a single open press conference for the entire election cycle.
The fact that she relates so closely to Dick Cheney, whose warped and unconstitutional view of the Vice Presidency she shares, alarmingly foreshadows the sort of secretive cabal she seems even now to be shaping. The last thing this country needs is another administration that aspires to conceal itself and its actions at every turn and reside outside of public view in a secret undisclosed location.