Sunday, September 28, 2008

Biden's dilemma

Biden's certainly prone to making a gaffe or two on the stump, but his performance in debates is usually quite measured and skilled. Palin, meanwhile, can obviously give a good speech, but is reduced to completely incomprehensible blather during even modest questioning. So assuming she starts talking like a Speak-n-Spell with dying batteries during Thursday's debate, what should Biden do? If he mocks her, does he lose the debate for being too mean? But if he lets stuff go, does he lose the debate for being too soft?

I was showing the freshmen in my campaigns class some debate clips the other day, and their reaction to the Bentsen/Quayle "You're no Jack Kennedy" exchange was really quite interesting. You should watch it if you haven't seen it in a while:

Some of my students were pretty stunned at how bad Quayle came off. He looked like a frightened child, barely able to make eye contact with Bentsen while he was being chastised. Others thought that Bensten came off as a cruel old man. (For me, the really cruel part was his line, "You're the one who was making the comparison, Senator....")

My recollection of the event is that Quayle was resoundingly considered the loser in that exchange. There was no real blowback against the Dukakis/Bensten campaign for Bentsen's cruelty that night. It was considered one of the few high points for the Democrats that year. Indeed, the main criticism of that campaign remains that it was not nearly tough enough with Bush.

So, would Biden face a similar situation with Palin? If Bentsen had been so rough with a female opponent, would people have rushed to her defense? It's hard to say. It's a pernicious form of sexism if a woman is held to a lower standard of competence in a political debate. Of course, Biden may well be accused of sexism if he treats her as harshly as he would a man.

I don't have good answers here. Any thoughts on this?


SAM-I-am said...

I don't remember Quayle babbling during the debates, although I do remember the potatoe issue. I was in high school, not paying much attention.

I think Biden had better not take any personal shots like that one. If she commits a gaffe on anything of substance, though, he can address it. But really, he just needs to be intelligent and specific, so that his abilities & understanding stand in sharp contrast to hers.

If she does something on the order of comparing herself to Kennedy, he's better off letting the media take her down.

Eric Rubin said...

"If she commits a gaffe on anything of substance, though, he can address it."

screw that. "address it"? I think Biden should pounce on it! Expose her inability to put sentences together. Expose her lack of qualifications. Mock her on her foreign experience. Don't let her off the hook and don't wait for the media to take her down. None of the independents or left-swinging GOP trust anything the media says anyway. It is up to our politicians to expose the lies. Stop tiptoeing around this "politician" and bash her!!

Sorry, was that too tough for our pitbull?

the angry left

Anonymous said...

I think another question is: how hot will Sarah Palin look in the debate? Especially next to pasty old Joe Biden, with his hair plugs?

Jeremy said...

Every since Palin's announcement and in particular her mentioning Hillary Clinton in her announcement speech, I've been REALLY hoping that she would mention Clinton again in the debate just so Biden could have the opportunity to put a spin on the original Bensten line: "Mrs. Palin, I know Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton is a friend of mine. Governor, you're no Hillary Clinton." I don't know if it would be a good move politically, but it would just be so classic.

I think he'll have to be careful, but I think there's a delicate way to roast her by simply telling the truth. Steer it away from her personality since people seem to like her personality for some ungodly reason, and focus on simple facts, like the fact that she left a SMALL TOWN with over 20 million dollars in debt. And focus on the issues, which Palin can't possibly compete on. I think Biden's job might be less tough than it looks: he can just tell the truth, and people will think he's giving her hell, so to speak. He just needs to be careful not to attack her personally since that will bring on the charges of cruelty and sexism.

Anonymous said...

No, Palin is no Hillary Clinton. She's WAY hotter.