Election '08: Palin Post-Mortem and Ifill's Failure
BY MARC COOPER
Washington D.C. -- I had a grand time watching the debate in the jam-packed Hawk 'n Dove bar up on Capitol Hill. Lots of roaring and cheering as almost the entire crowd was gleefully playing Palin Bingo.
I have so far refused to take Governor Gidget seriously and will hold to my vow. Tonight proved one thing: The politically dead can still talk. Or at least repeat some memorized lines.
Never have I been a fan of Joe Biden, but I think tonight he turned in his best performance. He was simply authoritative, knowledgeable and radiated reliability. When Palin played her expected hockey mom card, Biden pulled back the cape and stuck the sword square into her heart, misting up and basically saying, "I'll see your special needs child and raise you a dead wife and daughter."
That neat trick elicited a roaring cheer from the crowd around me. One I joined in on, by the way.
The snap polls coming in as I write all give a solid percentage win to Biden. Duh.
Much of the media, however, is artfully avoiding the polka dot gorilla over there in the corner... that Palin is clearly a nincompoop. The L.A. Times went so far as to call Palin's performance tonight "relatively steady." Which, I suppose, is the way you could have described the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.
This is more or less the last we will see of Ms. Palin. As CNN's Jeff Toobin said post-debate, tonight will be remembered solely as a "cultural artifact," the high-point of public recognition of Governor Palin.
Wish I could say the same of moderator Gwen Ifill, a living reminder of why it might be a good idea to defund PBS. I simply thought she was atrocious. As a young lawyer, and long-time friend of my family put it tonight, she acted "like an 8th grade class president." She was boring, limp, formal and ineffective -- to say the least. (See pal Michael Balter on this and also James Fallows).
I teach interviewing at USC and the first thing I tell my students is that proper interviewing requires acute listening, that the glaring sign of an amateur reporter is someone who blithely ticks off a list of questions without following up the answers given.
Ifill cheated the audience out of any real insight into these candidates and let them both off the hook -- which means there was an objective advantage for the least prepared of the two, Palin. Why not a simple set of obvious questions: Mr. Biden, how does three decades in the Senate make you a beacon of change? Ms. Palin, how can someone who can't name a single newspaper she reads or a Supreme Court decision she disagrees with be fit as commander-in-chief of the United States? And so on and so on.
Palin ended the debate by taking a pot shot at the "filter"of the MSM which is pretty outrageous for someone who is a dedicated dodger of all reporters.
But the MSM is fair game in this election. Ifill was a limp wimp. And now for the next two Presidential debates we can look forward to two certified dinosaurs as moderators --Tom Brokaw and Bob Schieffer. Talk about folks who are out of touch with Americans, at least those under 75 years old.
I am confident tonight that this election is all but over. The debate did nothing tonight except to shore up Joe Biden's favorability numbers and help consolidate Obama's widening lead. The real news tonight wasn't the debate, but rather McCain's surrender of Michigan.
Some sort of new political era is fast upon us. As an asterisk, let's hope this is also the last time we will have to watch these sort of dreadful MSM debates that smell of mummified relics.
Editor's note: Our friends in St. Louis at the Riverfront Times were at the debate and sent over some photos from Palin's post-debate rally. A Palin look-alike, a few "I heart Sarah" T-shirts and the ubiquitous hockey moms were all in attendance. To view the slideshow click on the image below.