Friday, October 03, 2008

Gov. Palin Was Great, Now Some Pointers For McCain

Despite the talking heads, who would have awarded the night to the pompous, condescending, finger wagging Sen. Biden had he spent the entire night doing a rendition of Porky Pig (which would have been characterized on TV news shows as “down to earth and in touch with all creatures of the world”), Gov. Palin blew her opponent away. When one talking head read off a script that had either been penned or at least planned before the debate had even taken place, George Stephanopoulos was visibly surprised and almost demanded an explanation. Of course, that was right after the debate, before he and other media men will have had a chance to “see the light.”

The media will play back supposed “highlights.” They will play up Biden’s best line and Palin’s worst. Yet even then, the two will be almost on par. Any fair analysis shows Biden as whipped, beaten and ready for a starring role in an arthritis pain commercial, and Palin connecting with voters, sharing their concern and having the facts on her side. But don’t expect a fair analysis coming from the Obama war room known as the network editing division.

What will also be interesting is whether media “fact checkers” who’ve taken great delight in twisting some of Palin’s truthful statements while ignoring those of the Obama camp will give Biden a pass not only on his wild assertions that Obama didn’t vote to defund the troops, that he shares McCain’s record on taxes and that he hadn’t advocated a kumbaya dinner with Ahmadinejad or his ludicrous assertion that Obama had been anything but opposed to the successful and needed surge, but also on his outlandish claim that the Vice President has no authority as presiding officer of the Senate except in the case of a tie vote.

While it’s well known that the Vice President can only cast a vote in the case of a tie, this has no bearing on his or her constitutional duty as presiding officer of that body. In fact, the President pro tempore is given that title because his presiding role over the Senate is only temporary, i.e. when the Vice President is absent. After 35 plus years in that body, Biden knows this. Otherwise he’s too ignorant to serve. Yet he even needed to distort that fact in an attempt to play a cheap game of gotcha, albeit one in which he came up being the fool.

If one thing is clear it should be this: If John McCain had chosen a modern day saint for the vice presidency, the selection would have been attacked by the media as the mixing of religion and politics. By contrast, if Barack Obama had chosen Charles Manson as his running mate, the media would have heralded his compassion and belief in the self growth of man. But that said, I didn’t actually expect Obama to pick the worst senator out of 50 or so crabby men, a former presidential candidate whose campaign disintegrated after he was found to be plagiarizing speeches of then UK Labour leader Neil Kinnock and a known friend of Iranian mullahs or for McCain to pick the governor with the highest approval rating in any state of the nation and a reformer who took the ax to her party’s establishment and to their pet projects. But those were the selections and true to form, the media acts as if the opposite had occurred.

So it’s no wonder that some of the talking heads have decided to give the night to Biden. What is amazing is that many others felt they couldn’t, and for good reason. By any standard Palin won the debate hands down.

Yet there’s still more she could have done (as even the best performance can be improved on) and John McCain can learn from these in his future debates:

Palin could have, and McCain should, go after Biden and the Democrats on Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae. Gov. Palin did mention the Democrats’ attempts to block regulation of those agencies, but neither she nor anyone else in the campaign have yet painted the clear and truly accurate picture of how as far back as 2003 Republicans tried to reign in these two agencies, both largely run by prominent Democratic political retirees, and how Democratic senators blocked these attempts at reform.

Palin mentioned her experience as a business leader and as an oil and gas regulator. That was great, but she could have gone even farther with that one. Again, paint a picture. Mention how Washington is full of oil lobbyists. Mention how Democrats have blocked energy independence and drilling legislation for 14 years, first with stall tactics while in the minority and then with outright refusal to act when they became the majority. Mention how Palin took oil companies to task and made them fight competitively, forcing them to compete along the lines of what’s best for American consumers.

Stress Palin’s (and John McCain’s) real experience as a reformer. Few new faces have been able to topple a party establishment. Cite real examples of ethics reform passed and proud accomplishments. The gubernatorial plane on ebay is a great starting place and McCain’s own accomplishments (fighting tobacco, being a lone voice for campaign finance reform, etc.) play well to undecideds.

When Biden made that planned emotional play (and as tragic, terrible and unfortunate as his experience was, as deserving of our personal prayers as he is that he be spared from any further sorrow, mentioning his tragedy was a planned and politically calculated move, it being his last card in a debate in which he performed terribly), Palin should have countered with her own touching life story. That said, she did well in not responding directly to his emotional play. But she would have gained by bringing up her own story a few minutes or a few questions later.

That said, Palin did an excellent job. Her mention of the fact that she is the first governor of any state to form a special sub-cabinet on climate change is true and will go over well with independents. On all other matters the McCain-Palin campaign needs to paint a bold, clear and concise picture of what they have done in the past and what they will do in the future.

Unlike their opponents, both McCain and Palin have accomplishments and facts on their side. They just need to articulate them well (and point to the true record of the other side). Last night was at least a good start.

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