Sen. John McCain committed a serious lapse in judgment in selecting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential pick. This was exemplified by her halting lack of comprehension of American history and foreign policy displayed in recent media encounters.
Palin by all accounts exceeded expectations with her performance at the vice presidential debate with Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden Thursday. Though in light of recent media appearances, not much was expected of the hockey mom in the first place.
She appeared much more coherent and prepared than in an Oct. 1 interview with Katie Couric of CBS News. In that interview she was not able to name a single specific Supreme Court decision, save the original topic of Roe v. Wade, she disagrees with.
The fact that an estimated 69.9 million Americans tuned into the debate, according to Nielsen Media Research ratings, shows just how much Palin has captivated the nation since she joined the race. Only 52.4 million tuned in to watch the presidential debate six days earlier, Nielsen ratings estimated.
When asked by debate moderator Gwen Ifill of PBS’s ‘Washington Week’ if there was anything she had promised as a candidate that would have to be axed due to the financial crisis, Palin’s response:
‘There is not. And how long have I been at this, like five weeks? So there hasn’t been a whole lot that I’ve promised, except to do what is right for the American people, put government back on the side of the American people, stop the greed and corruption on Wall Street.’
Despite her well-publicized debate preparation sessions with McCain’s campaign strategists, Palin role-played as the homespun hockey mom many in the media have portrayed her as, doing little to address concerns of her fitness to lead the country as president should the need arise.
Not-so-deftly dodging questions she did not wish to answer, Palin repeatedly returned to her most comfortable talking points at the expense of tackling the tough issues.
‘I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I’m going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also,’ Palin said at the debate.
One might think that Republican campaign strategists could at least train Palin away from her mispronunciation of the word ‘nu-cu-lar’ [sic] as the McCain ticket seeks to distance themselves from the unpopular Bush administration.
Biden answered the moderator’s tough questions more directly, even when quizzed about issues where he has clashed with Sen. Barack Obama in the past. Still, Biden slipped into talking about himself and his agenda too many times, instead of putting Obama first and foremost.
‘No one in the United States Senate has been a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden. I would have never, ever joined this ticket were I not absolutely sure Barack Obama shared my passion,’ Biden said at the debate.
Appearing careful not to behave condescending toward the less-experienced Palin, Biden still failed to fully capitalize on the governor’s substitution of catch phrases and winks at the camera for real, meaningful comments on the tough issues.
An Ipsos/McClatchy poll conducted the day after the vice presidential debate showed that nearly two-thirds of respondents felt Biden would make a better commander in chief, and only 39 percent thought Palin looked ‘vice presidential.’
Still, the same poll showed viewers found Palin more likable than Biden and more likely to bring change to Washington.
Just as George W. Bush has become comedic fodder for popular culture to a level unmatched by any previous president, Palin has become something of a laughing stock.
Tina Fey of ‘Saturday Night Live’ played Palin to perfection in a reenactment of the debate aired Saturday and has practically re-launched her career lampooning the governor’s ‘You betcha’ and ‘Doncha’ know’ persona.
If McCain kicked the bucket on inauguration day, though, and the country suddenly found itself in the hands of this likable, photogenic, but morbidly inexperienced young politician, no one would be laughing.