I ran home yesterday from a wonderful gallery talk to watch Speech Night with Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Joe Biden. I caught the first part on the radio and watched the remainder on TV, and my impressions are that this is all pretty sorry stuff.
But what do we deserve? Not much else.
First the format. It was a speech session, not really a debate. Gwen Ifill asked a question and both candidates responded with a speech that had passing relation to the matter of the question. Interestingly enough, the questions set the stage for this. Here’s Ifill’s first question: “As America watches these things happen on Capitol Hill, Senator Biden, was this the worst of Washington or the best of Washington that we saw play out?”
Well, Gwen (I can call you by your first name, right), it was the worst of times and it was the best of times here in good ol Warshington.
This reads as a rhetorical question, as the subject “Washington” is fairly loaded and vague, as are “worst” or “best.”
And so the speech begins. Biden:
I think it’s neither the best or worst of Washington, but it’s evidence of the fact that the economic policies of the last eight years have been the worst economic policies we’ve ever had. As a consequence, you’ve seen what’s happened on Wall Street.
You know, I think a good barometer here, as we try to figure out has this been a good time or a bad time in America’s economy, is go to a kid’s soccer game on Saturday, and turn to any parent there on the sideline and ask them, “How are you feeling about the economy?”
It’s hard to believe that both speech makers were not aware of the questions before hand.
Second, the context and method. You could take two people who know absolutely nothing about economics and war, provide them with stock points and statistics, and you’d have pretty much the same result. It was a puppet show. Sarah Palin continually referred to the list she had on the lectern and recited nonsense regardless of the topic with “you can’t stump me” glee and Joe Biden, who has it all in his head, could sound a little more natural without the notes, but basically listed this and that when required, regardless of context.
None of this assists anyone. Nothing of intelligence and mental effort here, and, like a fool, I sat there watching hoping that the one I support didn’t make some major mistake (and would initiate debate points) and the one I think is a disaster waiting to happen would stutter with confusion.
Conclusion: Shame on me.