I know what I thought, but…

What was I supposed to think? I mean, what was the official opinion as articulated by those superior intellectuals and visionaries who are paid princely sums to provide said opinion adjacent to commercial messages apprising me of goods and services I had hitherto not realized I desperately needed, which messages are provided by and on behalf of those superior manipulators and hornswogglers who paid aforementioned princely sums?

I’m glad you asked.

Herewith, and at excruciating length after the break, variations on the official version theme. Proceed with caution, skepticism, and an open mind.

New York Times editorial

We cannot recall when there were lower expectations for a candidate than the ones that preceded Sarah Palin’s appearance in Thursday night’s vice-presidential debate with Joseph Biden. After a series of stumbling interviews that raised serious doubts even among conservatives about her fitness to serve as vice president, Ms. Palin had to do little more than say one or two sensible things and avoid an election-defining gaffe.

By that standard,

but only by that standard, the governor of Alaska did well….

In the end, the debate did not change the essential truth of Ms. Palin’s candidacy: Mr. McCain made a wildly irresponsible choice that shattered the image he created for himself as the honest, seasoned, experienced man of principle and judgment. It was either an act of incredible cynicism or appallingly bad judgment.

Los Angeles Times editorial

If these two candidates — aided and abetted by the singularly inarticulate work of moderator Gwen Ifill — combined to produce one of the worst debates in modern American presidential history, they did at least reveal the goals of the participants, as Palin reached for folksiness and Biden appealed to the cerebral. “Darn right we need tax relief,” said one. “We have a different value set,” said the other. Guess who said which?

In one sense, both of those efforts were authentic. Palin has every right to be considered an everywoman; no one can deny how average she is. And Biden is entitled to some claim on intellect; he’s spent many years in Washington arguing complex issues, to mixed results….

It was not a reassuring night. Thankfully, the presidential candidates return to the stage next week.

Washington Post editorial

The two nominees conducted a civil discussion about the relative merits of the two tickets, and for that we suppose we should be grateful. But there was little serious give-and-take about the major issues of the day — from the Wall Street bailout to the war in Iraq — and much trading of canned and misleading talking points.

….Last night’s debate was no train wreck for either ticket, but it left one hoping that the remaining two presidential encounters will be more illuminating on the issues.

Liberal columnist Kevin Drum

…I’m a little surprised… that Palin is getting such generous marks for her performance. No, she didn’t propose invading Denmark or eliminating the Supreme Court, but she was still painfully out of her depth. She had all the usual Reaganesque phrases and prepackaged zingers at the ready, but she didn’t seem to understand that these are meant to be hauled out occasionally as applause lines, not simply strung together over and over and over. By the time she was finished, she had repeated these stock phrases so often that even a dullard could tell that she was just reading off notes.

Conservative editor Rich Lowry

Last night, Palin plainly had two ingredients that were missing from her network TV interviews, and they made all the difference:

  • She was more familiar with the substance. If she’d been as well-briefed and comfortable with the material before those interviews, the McCain campaign could have spared itself weeks of bad publicity.
  • She’d learned to sidestep questions she found awkward and steer the discussion onto better ground for her (usually energy policy).

Lowry again, less conservatively

I’m sure I’m not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, “Hey, I think she just winked at me.” And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America.

Liberal scholar Juan Cole

Judging “how the candidates did” is rather like weighing in on the wittiness of the libretto of “Big Brother” or the pace of character development in the latest episode of “Keeping up with the Kardashians.” The genre of the political review assumes that both candidates are credible in their roles. It becomes self-parody when one candidate is a ditzy nonentity cynically foisted on the public in the same way a ‘reality show’ is, based on a targeted demographic and without regard to quality.

It reminded me of the excruciating first episodes every season of “American Idol,” when a single candidate is found who has the voice of an angel and then everyone else auditioned sounds like fingernails on a blackboard… It was not a debate, and pretending that it was and judging “performance” is to fall into the trap set by the campaign spinmeisters and talking point pimps.

Liberal blogger Publius

Palin… didn’t wear very well. Her schtick got old. Like her candidacy more generally, it was a sugar rush that fades quickly. It wasn’t so much that she had any truly trainwreck responses (though there was plenty of gibberish). It was that her mindless memorized cutesy lines and winks began to look like amateur hour in comparison to Biden’s command of facts and policy.

Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan

I began this debate feeling that she was steam-rolling him. She was. But it was a steam-roller coming at you on fumes, not real fuel. She doesn’t have it. Maybe one day she might. But not now. Biden’s peroration was very, very strong. There is no contest here. There was only one loser: Gwen Ifill. She was intimidated, peripheral, neutered. The rules didn’t help. But Ifill put in a dreadful performance.

A couple quickies from HuffPost

  • Throughout the entire 90-minute debate, Palin came across as an over-wound windup doll, sporting a pasted-on-smile expression that never varied, except when she winked. Which she did repeatedly — and pathetically. It was the folksiest appearance since Hee-Haw went off the air.
  • With America facing two wars and economic disaster, Americans ask if a candidate is up to the job…. By any rational assessment, Palin wasn’t tonight — and hasn’t been any time she’s not reading a teleprompter. President Palin– the nuclear button, recession, the health care crisis, global warming (which she doesn’t believe in, as she believes in creationism) — well, it simply doesn’t compute. A part in Fargo, yes — that office in the West Wing, no.

the final word to on-again/off-again journalist Adam Nagourney

Governor Sarah Palin made it through the vice-presidential debate on Thursday without doing any obvious damage to the Republican presidential ticket.

One thought on “I know what I thought, but…

  1. Memorized Reagan era buzz words strung together in sentences, enough gibberish on the economy to be truly embarrassing and damaging to her party if anyone was actually listening and knew, a cloying voice more than worthy of a part in Fargo, and stop the darn its and doggone its already (our TV screen too small to see the winks). Those were some of the thoughts running through my mind. And the surprise of no outright disasters following low expectations of Palin that actually eclipsed a pretty good performance by Biden. So I think the pundits probably deserve some of their extravagant recompense (except the wink-affected who obviously are unfit for the job). On the plus side, I did find interesting one historian’s post-debate comment that we have evolved as a society when a woman candidate can claim motherhood as legitimate part of her qualifications for office. And seeing the male candidate publicly shed (a seemingly uncontrived) tear was also new. I also appreciated the fact that both candidates smiled quite a bit, including to each other. Maybe we are becoming a more humane society in our decadence. But while I hope to God it’s not true, I fear we have evolved into nothing more nor less than a room full of fat simpletons watching Hee Haw. The truth will be known in 2 months.

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