On October 2, 2008, CNN hosted the vice presidential debate between former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R) and current Vice President Joe Biden (D). For months the media had lambasted Palin for a series of gaffes and wacky behavior, making the debate crucial for her to prove her case that she was more than qualified to be the next vice president of the United States.
Well, to say she fell a bit short is a bit of an understatement.
Things started going downhill for Palin after moderator Gwen Ifill asked the very first question of the night:
The House of Representatives this week passed a bill, a big bailout bill — or didn’t pass it, I should say. The Senate decided to pass it, and the House is wrestling with it still tonight.
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?
Biden won the coin toss, so he answered first. Here’s a transcript.
BIDEN: Let me begin by thanking you, Gwen, for hosting this.
And, Governor, it’s a pleasure to meet you, and it’s a pleasure to be with you.
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.
If you need any more proof positive of how bad the economic theories have been, this excessive deregulation, the failure to oversee what was going on, letting Wall Street run wild, I don’t think you needed any more evidence than what you see now.
So the Congress has been put — Democrats and Republicans have been put in a very difficult spot. But Barack Obama laid out four basic criteria for any kind of rescue plan here.
He, first of all, said there has to be oversight. We’re not going to write any check to anybody unless there’s oversight for the — of the secretary of Treasury.
He secondly said you have to focus on homeowners and folks on Main Street.
Thirdly, he said that you have to treat the taxpayers like investors in this case.
And, lastly, what you have to do is make sure that CEOs don’t benefit from this, because this could end up, in the long run, people making money off of this rescue plan.
And so, as a consequence of that, it brings us back to maybe the fundamental disagreement between Governor Palin and me and Senator McCain and Barack Obama, and that is that the — we’re going to fundamentally change the focus of the economic policy.
We’re going to focus on the middle class, because it’s — when the middle class is growing, the economy grows and everybody does well, not just focus on the wealthy and corporate America.
By all accounts, Biden had a pretty good answer he hit on five specific talking points: deregulation, oversight, treating taxpayers like investors, and making sure CEOs don’t benefit from a bailout. He outlined his case very well.
But then it was Palin’s turn.
IFILL: Thank you, Senator.
PALIN: Thank you, Gwen. And I thank the commission, also. I appreciate this privilege of being able to be here and speak with Americans.
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?”
And I’ll bet you, you’re going to hear some fear in that parent’s voice, fear regarding the few investments that some of us have in the stock market. Did we just take a major hit with those investments?
Fear about, how are we going to afford to send our kids to college? A fear, as small-business owners, perhaps, how we’re going to borrow any money to increase inventory or hire more people.
The barometer there, I think, is going to be resounding that our economy is hurting and the federal government has not provided the sound oversight that we need and that we deserve, and we need reform to that end.
Now, John McCain thankfully has been one representing reform. Two years ago, remember, it was John McCain who pushed so hard with the Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) reform measures. He sounded that warning bell.
People in the Senate with him, his colleagues, didn’t want to listen to him and wouldn’t go towards that reform that was needed then. I think that the alarm has been heard, though, and there will be that greater oversight, again thanks to John McCain’s bipartisan efforts that he was so instrumental in bringing folks together over this past week, even suspending his own campaign to make sure he was putting excessive politics aside and putting the country first.
From the very beginning, you could see that Palin’s “strategy” for the debate was basically “fake it to make it.” She hit on a few buzzwords and phrases like “kid’s soccer game, kids to college, and small-business owners.” Her strategy wasn’t to debate policy specifics but rather use certain words and phrases to connect with voters and create the illusion of knowledge.
Palin wanted to connect with “Joe six-pack” and the “hockey mom” throughout the debate, which is Republican for the White male and female voter. To be fair, Palin’s answer did include some specifics such as Arizona Senator John McCain’s efforts to warn his colleagues about Fannie Mae. But for the most part the former governor tried to stay away from facts, which believe it or not was a SMART strategy for her. Many media pundits thought she did a decent job considering that she really had no clue what the hell she was talking about.
However, it was clear which candidate actually WON the debate. Joe Biden had a grin from ear to ear as he listened to Palin ramble and stumble around answering policy questions.
This video is a 10-minute remix of that infamous debate. Enjoy.
Featured image Screengrab via YouTube.