October 6, 2008
Beat Me in St. Louie: Palin Outpunches Biden
in Debate Thrilla
“Candygram for Sarah!”
That supersized box of chocolates – oh, and
roses, too? – in Governor Palin’s dressing
room just arrived courtesy of Gwen Ifill.
book on Obama?
Because the great whooshing sound you heard
was the air being sucked out of any other
issue in the presidential race by the
supernova that is the GOP veep nominee.
As the First Hockey Mom might have put it,
didya notice the helpless grin that kept
appearing on Joe Biden’s face?
Hmmm. I’d seen that telltale look before.
Oh, yeah. 1984. When Fritz Mondale was
watching his presidential ambitions being
knocked out of the park by the Gipper’s riff
that he wouldn’t “exploit the youth and
inexperience of my opponent.”
And just as was the case 24 years back, you
could read the body language in the
reluctant but appreciative chuckle.
The previous week’s Obama-McCain debate,
though admirable in its depth and
informative nature, was an Olympic boxing
match – an elegant affair where the
protagonists are cocooned in headgear and a
touch counts as much as a roundhouse right.
Unfortunately for the senior senator from
the First State, this one was the Thrilla in
As in that epic battle, no knockout . . .
but blows raining so fast and furiously that
one fighter was ultimately unable to answer
the bell for the final rounds.
Say it ain’t so, Joe.
After a painful week trapped in the goldfish
bowl – and being nettled by Tina Fey, Katie
Couric and a covey of cowardly conservative
commentators – Sarah Barracuda was on the
prowl again. And putting a badly off-balance
McCain campaign back on track.
There she was . . .
Confidently bouncing into the ring and
breaking pre-debate protocol by asking
over a live mike if she could call the
veteran solon “Joe.”
Shredding Biden’s listless laundry list
of Obama’s requirements for the bailout
bill – by speaking to soccer parents’
and small businesses’ fears about
sending the kids to college or financing
Alchemically transforming her running
mate’s seemingly mistimed assertion of
the economy’s fundamental strength into
a song of praise to American workers –
while slipping in a stinging jab
comparing Mr. Biden’s 30-plus years in
the Senate with her fresh energy.
Indicting “predatory” mortgage lenders –
then movingly appealing for personal
responsibility for our own financial
Smashing back charges that John McCain
was a rampant deregulator with a
reminder of his lonely quests on tobacco
and campaign finance – and invoking her
own well-earned unpopularity with energy
Zinging the Senator on his suggestion
that paying taxes is patriotic – while
driving home the opposing ticket’s
record as big-spending revenuers and
Biden's as a flip-flopper on Iraq.
Confidently pricking the Fey-inflated
“airhead” bubble – by offering to
provide “details” on McCain’s health
Unabashedly chiming in with her party’s
“drill, baby, drill” mantra – while
tweaking “East-Coast politicians” who
want to lock up abundant offshore energy
Adroitly turning a question on Alaska’s
same-sex benefits policies into a
mini-referendum on gay marriage –
complete with a politically correct bow
to tolerance – that forced Biden to
“me-too” her position.
Holding her own with the Senate Foreign
Affairs chairman on issues ranging from
Israel to Iran – while displaying enough
pot-calling-the-kettle-black chutzpah to
repeat McCain’s charge about Obama’s
“dangerous” inexperience. And even
showing sufficient confidence to ask for
extra helpings on Afghanistan.
Charmingly reminding the Dem VP nominee
of his past offer to serve as McCain’s
running mate – devastatingly putting him
in his place for his constant backwards
references to Bush policies – and then
touchingly suggesting Biden’s wife will
earn a “reward” in Heaven for her
devotion to a teaching career.
And up she soared . . . inspiringly holding
forth on the creed of American
Exceptionalism – and not once, but twice
invoking Ronald Reagan.
All the while, she punctuated her
presentation with those folksy “betchas,”
“darns” and “doggonits” – not to mention
disarming, Reaganesque head shakes. And she
lovingly used the camera to direct-connect
with Middle America via those big doe (no,
not moose) eyes and that megawatt smile.
Two words – hubba, hubba. And I mean that in
a purely political sense.
This is to take nothing away from a
well-prepared and game Senator Biden. He got
his swings in. Joey Danco’s unfilled gas
tank. A choking reference to his son’s
serious accident. His priceless putdown of
McCain’s health plan as the “ultimate bridge
to nowhere.” He may have even led on
But his worn, squinty countenance and
lecturing manner – versus her combination of
adept counterpunching, sunny optimism, and
youthful energy (including a hip “shout-out”
to a class of third-graders)? No contest.
His too-clever-by-half insistence that he
and Obama were budget-reforming tax-cutters
and anti-terrorism warriors – and laughable
insistence that McCain, of all people, was
wrong on Iraq and Afghanistan – versus her
admittedly rehearsed but still resonating
recitations of her running mate’s
convictions and record of reform?
Like Joe Frazier at the close of his classic
third bout against a faster, fitter Ali,
Biden was pretty much in punching-bag mode
by the time he wearily slogged through a
repetitive and pedestrian summary.
Ding, ding, ding.
Unlike Ms. Ifill, not saved by the
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