The vice-presidential debate: Discussing which side is best for the White House

By Ryan Blaney, Columnist

Sarah Palin was placed in the spotlight just five weeks ago and has transformed the Republican ticket from also-rans to frontrunners. Palin, the governor of Alaska brings dogged determination to a role she seems to relish.

Palin was the decided victor of Thursday night’s debate because she was able to connect with mainstream America. She looked into the camera several times during the proceedings and specifically addressed the middle class. Palin also worked earnestly to attract the attention of on-the-go mothers. It is with the female vote that Palin and McCain will win this election, precisely because she’s targeting a group that has never had the opportunity to relate to a candidate.

Palin’s demeanor was affable and she made notable efforts to garner the trust of the voting public. This was seen in the opening minutes of the debate, when Palin said “I may not answer the question the way you want to hear, but I will talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record.”

Palin didn’t speak in a condescending and vague manner — as Sen. Joe Biden did for most of the night — and showed that her audience was the public, not the moderator of the debate.

Also, Palin’s use of the term “maverick” should be noted. While the connotation of a maverick being a lone dissenter exists, being a maverick can produce positive results. Palin likewise addressed the view that people have of McCain as an angry politician, stressing that instead of denying his anger, McCain has embraced his image of being an angry old-timer.

McCain’s camp has not downplayed this image for it is with this anger and motivation that McCain will lead the country into a new, progressive future. His temper has been revealed by his bipartisan decisions, showing that he is willing to fight for what he believes will benefit the American people rather than falling in line with whatever his party supports, and Palin was wise to point that out.

Meanwhile, I found Biden’s vagaries disconcerting. I lost count of how many times Palin charged Biden with being mercurial on his stances on energy and Iraq. To his credit, Biden admitted he has altered his positions according to those of Obama. Rather than let Biden’s miscues slide, though, Palin assessed the damage Biden’s wishy-washy nature has caused and said she must be “a Washington outsider because (she does) not understand voting for something and then criticizing what you voted for.”

The most important point Palin made dealt with the subprime mortgage crisis. Rather than impugn Democrats for their mismanagement and utter disregard for the crisis, she offered solutions. She vowed that in regard to the subprime mortgage crisis, “never again will we let this happen to us. Never again.”

Her powerful quotes and remarks indicate her belief in the American people. Her proposal is not orchestrated by the government. Her proposal implores Americans to “take personal responsibility” and buy homes within their means. Her belief in the American public, specifically the middle class, is unprecedented and refreshing.

Moreover, Palin’s solutions were rational and attainable. It is with this new, maverick Republican Party that we will succeed in the future. Palin has connected with the public in a way that Biden can’t by relating with the average American, particularly the average American woman. With McCain by her side, she and the Republican Party will lead this country out of its predicament.

Palin has issued an edict for decisive change, and the public has embraced it.

Ryan Blaney is a senior majoring in English.

By Daniel Dunn, Columnist

Anyone who thinks that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin outperformed Delaware Sen. Joe Biden in Thursday night’s debate is sorely mistaken, doggone it.  Though Palin did better than I expected, one must keep in mind that the bar had been set at buffoon-level ever since her interview with CBS’s Katie Couric.

It was the debate to nowhere for Palin.  It took a lot of searching to find any evidence of Palin actually answering a question from moderator Gwen Ifill. Regarding the economic crisis, Palin diverted the debate to a coached paragraph full of untruths. Biden was quick to call her out on this. Instead of participating in the debate, Palin spent her time ranting about things that didn’t pertain to the questions asked.

“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.

She’s such a maverick that she decided to reform the debate procedures. This side step was an embarrassment at best.

The bulk of the debate seemed like a Palin stump speech interrupted by Biden’s clear and pointed arguments.  While empty rhetoric may play well at a national convention, a higher standard of oratory is required to debate policy.

Unfortunately for Palin, she entered the arena pitted against an opponent who did more than memorize talking points.  Biden commanded the stage without coming off as overbearing or condescending.  There was an admirable degree of confidence in all of Biden’s answers. His calm, composed responses to Palin’s weak attacks set the record straight.

When Palin reminded us that she’s a “Washington outsider,” she contrasted her inexperience with Biden’s six terms as a senator.  Palin rightfully painted herself as having no experience in Washington. But  Arizona Sen. John McCain has been deeply entrenched in Capitol Hill since 1982.  This dissonance may end up requiring a name change for Team Maverick.

The only redeeming political quality about Palin is that some people view her as relatable and approachable, caring yet feisty.  This image was severely damaged by a callous faux pas Thursday.  Biden had a very human moment when he choked up saying, “But the notion that somehow, because I’m a man, I don’t know what it’s like to raise two kids alone, I don’t know what it’s like to have a child you’re not sure is going to ­— is going to make it — I understand.” 

Biden’s first wife and 1–year-old daughter were killed in a car accident in 1972, leaving him to support and raise two sons who were critically injured in the same accident.  Palin came off as heartless with her non-sequitur response that consisted of empty points about McCain’s biography.

“People aren’t looking for more of the same. They are looking for change. And John McCain has been the consummate maverick in the Senate over all these years,” Palin said.

Say it ain’t so, Sarah!

While there surely wasn’t ill intent, she should have at least attempted to come across as more caring.  This is important for someone trying to give off the image of a strong and compassionate mother.

Biden won in all categories: policy, stage performance and empathy.  He was well-received because his responses were extemporaneous and spoke to the heart of the American middle class.  Palin’s prefabricated vocal regurgitation lacked both relevance and substance.  She failed to say anything worth listening to and, perhaps most importantly, she never pronounced nuclear correctly. Without a doubt, the segment of the public that follows policy closely will see past Palin’s debate-night charade.

Daniel Dunn is a junior majoring in philosophy.