The VP debate: the politics of repetition
Do talking points a candidate make? That question was addressed in tonight's debate between VP nominees Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Joe Biden. I expect that the narrative will be that Palin "won by not losing." This is bosh.
Her repetitive way of speaking ground down my attention and finally irritated me. She spoke in vast generalities and referenced a stockpile of clichés, sometimes thrice in one sentence. Her "folksy" or colloquial pronunciations annoyed me -- in one instance, a "shout out" to a grade school class. Her appropriation of the phrases "equal rights" and "women's rights" did a gross disservice to decades of progressive political action.
Sorry, women's rights means being able to get an abortion if someone rapes you and you get pregnant. (Palin holds this Gary Bauer-esque position.)
In a word, Sarah Palin was cloying.
Each time she depicted herself as an outsider with the help of a "trailing -ing," such as her pronunciation of the word "changing" as "changin'," I was reminded of the specter of the "folksy" George W. Bush. And please -- could we pronounce "nuclear" correctly? It's not "nu-ku-lar."
One rule in debate and interviewing goes thus: "Don't answer the question you're given; answer the question you would have liked to have been given." Palin took this to extreme lengths, refusing to answer basic questions and filling her time with stalling and repeating annoying, paternizing talking points: "main street," "main streeters" (a first for this phrase?), "greed and corruption," a dizzying array of expressions using the word "maverick," among others.
So she "won by not losing." And this is what we get? If incompetence is what you seek, you'll "find a place in heaven" with Sarah Palin. (This was the phrase used by Palin when she mentioned how Joe Biden's wife works as an educator. Gee whiz, Reader -- guess this writer, educator, and avowed atheist will shake St. Peter's hand after all.)
What was Biden? Seasoned, veteran, confident, on point, thoughtful, forceful, comfortable. He included the talking points as an aside, and not the main thrust, because he takes the issues seriously. He could talk and talk about all of the debate's discussion points -- a minute or two doesn't fit his mind. Palin struggled to fill the time -- her mind is a blank slate, and if she's elected, what whispers will replace the talking points she's learned in the last couple weeks? Dick Cheney's? Big Oil's? We just don't know -- and that makes Palin dangerous, in the same way George Bush, was, and is, a danger to our country.
To her credit, Sarah Palin knows she is in unfamiliar territory, and deals with what she can talk about -- although calling herself an "energy expert" is ludicrous. But, like a sports team who barely made it into the playoffs, she isn't hungry -- she's only begun to taste national politics. My hope is that she becomes a forgettable political personality.
It's often said that Democrats "don't know 'regular folks.'" Well, I'm a regular person, and after being fed a night of drivel from Sarah Palin and her GOP talking points courtiers, my pro-Obama/Biden sentiment has grown, and my regard for McCain/Palin has plumbed new depths.
The question is: do we deserve someone better and expert, or someone "like us" but unfamiliar with in-depth thinking? We voted Bush into office -- and we got what we deserved. May we learn our lesson.