Personality vs. Policy

Watching the vice presidential debate. Biden is talking policy and numbers, while Palin is talking people and stories. Most of the time I don’t know what Biden’s talking about, other than more or less standard liberal Democratic policies: fairness, tax the rich, windfall profits. I do know what Palin’s talking about, which is getting government out of people’s lives and other tunes from the Reagan song book. Both stumble now and then, but she has the stronger personality and is much more human and plainly spoken. He seems like a Washingtontonian policy wonk. Very blah. She seems like a governor who’s been working hard for her state. Bottom line: so far, she’s kicking his ass.

Unless she blows up, which now seems unlikely, this will go down as a Palin win, and may turn things around for McCain.

More notes…

Both have had their teeth whitened. Biden also appears to have had a facelift and hair plugs. Nothing wrong with that, but hey, we’re watching a hi-def TV screen here.

Biden is finishing much stronger, and Palin’s folksy stuff is getting annoying. Still, I think, on an emotional level she’s delivering. She knows a tiny fraction of what Biden knows, but she has spunk to spare, and that counts for a lot.

And her voice gets old.

Andrew Sullivan: “I think he has now won the debate.”

I’m not so sure.

And Gwen Ifill, the moderator, didn’t hold their feet to a fire.

[Next day…] says they both lied, repeatedly.

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25 Responses to Personality vs. Policy

  1. She offers intellectual empty rhetoric … fabricated idea concepts. Frightening prospect if the leader of the free world tried to lead with platitudes that Palin doesn’t really appear to understand.

  2. Neither one of them, Biden or Palin, seem to know anything about the history of Afghanistan. More’s the pity; it is a lost cause and so is Iraq. Remember Vietnam? Does anyone know who supported the Mujahadeen when the Russians invaded Afghanistan? What happened to the Mujahadeen? They later brecame the Taliban! Some world eh!

  3. Mike Warot says:

    She seems to think the world would be a better place if we just sparkle more. It’s like the song “Don’t worry, be happy” during the Regan era, all over again.

    She didn’t acknowledge when he got choked up thinking about the family he lost… that’s just cold and uncaring.

    McCain/Palin are cratering…. we’ll get Obama by default. Too bad the media killed off the only one who could really lead us out of this mess… Ron Paul.

  4. Eric says:

    Doc, Doc, Doc, please: stick to stuff you know something about.

  5. vanderleun says:

    Doc is right to doubt the views of Sullivan, never the most stable of commentators.

    Palin did win. Big.

  6. Eric says:

    Sarah Palin is an embarrassment. She is poorly educated, and poorly informed, and yet she has been nominated by a major American political party to be vice president to a 73-year-old president with a cancer history. The fierce anti-intellectualism in American culture encourages the insane idea that anyone off the street is qualified to be president because, hey, we’re all equal, aren’t we? A few weeks of cramming will take care of it, because she has such great experience being a normal, everyday person, and she talks in a way that normal, everyday people can understand. Translation: a majority of Americans are so ignorant and poorly educated that they can’t understand people who’ve been to university! It’s no wonder Americans are becoming the laughingstock of the world. Put Sarah Palin in a meeting with Tony Blair or Gordon Brown or David Cameron, Nicholas Sarkozy, Hu Jintao, Vladimir Putin: she is qualified to serve as hostess, given a bit of cramming on etiquette. That’s it. An embarassment.

  7. Palin is dishonest, cynical, and manipulative. She didn’t engage in a debate tonight, she performed an infomercial.

    But despite her annoying distractions, I enjoyed Joe’s conversation with Gwen Ifill. They’re both decent and well-informed citizens.

    The American voters aren’t the smartest people in the world, but most aren’t stupid enough to be taken in by Palin, not after what we’ve had to endure for the last 8 years.

  8. Pingback: VP debate, the morning after (Jarrett House North)

  9. lurkerfan says:

    “she has spunk to spare, and that counts for a lot.”

    So her courage not to blink is enough qualification to inherit the presidency, if need be??

    Doc, I’m usually a fan of yours, but that’s just plain stupid. I thought you were too bright to be taken in by a sassy, good-looking chick with a bag full of folksy glittering generalities.

  10. Doc Searls says:

    lurker, it’s not what I’m taken in by (and I’m not, if you read closely what I said), it’s what *others* are taken in by. Do you deny that her spunk has its appeal? I’m not talking about you or me here. I’m talking about believers and want-to-believers.

  11. Mike Warot says:

    I’m with Dave Winer on this one… we’ve had too many bozos driving this bus… this country needs Adults in charge, the era of the empowered village idiot is over.

  12. Cousin Paul says:

    Dave, Dave, I love you but gosh you missed this one — I do not want my next door neighbor or someone who has been at this 5 and 1/2 weeks anywhere close to a black box or a hot line to the Kremlin. A ” fresh face” in this case is code for empty container! Just what did she say or has said or done that makes you believe she is capable of leading a large organization or meeting tough character and answereing a tough question (without a flash card)?

  13. Pingback: Doc Searls on Biden/Palin Debate | TOMDOG

  14. Undecided voters scored the debate a huge victory for Biden,

    They’re not as dumb as they look.

  15. lurkerfan says:


    Besides the lines about spunk, the following suggests that you think much more highly of Gov. Palin than I do.

    “Bottom line: so far, she’s kicking his ass.

    Unless she blows up, which now seems unlikely, this will go down as a Palin win, and may turn things around for McCain.”

    It wasn’t clear to me that you’d consider such a turnaround a bad thing, though on second reading, it’s possible to give you the benefit of doubt.


  16. Pauly says:

    Appreciate the Firesign Theatre reference tremendously Mike, but the comment that most resonates with me was Eric’s dead-on comment about the strain of “fierce anti-intellectualism” that elected G.W, Bush and is a key (only?) part of the Palin appeal. Doc’s correct in observing that appeal and indicating that it could indeed be perceived as the foundation of a debate “win”. But if that’s the case (and it just might be) all I can do is hope more people vote with their heads than the managed perceptions that firehose their way in the one-way media that still dominates mass opinion.

  17. Doc Searls says:

    lurker (plus Cousin Paul & others),

    I do consider McCain/Palin a Bad Thing.

    I was just calling a debate, and a campaign, as I saw it. Not as I’d like it to go.

    I want McCain/Palin to lose. Big time. I want the whole country to repudiate them. But that would be asking too much. Losing is enough.

    Up until he named Palin, I thought McCain wasn’t the worst candidate. A few months back I said I didn’t think the sky would fall if Obama wasn’t elected, but I didn’t expect the ground to rise either. Meaning, anything would be better than Bush.

    Now McCain/Palin looks worse than Bush to me, for several reasons… 1) McCain has shown remarkable lack of leadership, as well as coherency, in his campaign, especially since taking on Palin. (Remember that bullshit about suspending his campaign to go back to Washington and fix things with the bailout bill? He went back, attended a meeting with Bush, Obama and other heavies, saying nothing for the whole meeting, and then being utterly blah and noncommittal in the debate the next night. Obama was noncommittal too, but at least his gears were engaged with the process. McCain was barely present and unaccounted for.) 2) The guy is a warmonger who is still trying to best his dad by outranking him. (My humble opinion, fwiw.) 3) Picking Palin was a mistake of the first water. She is unfit in the extreme to serve as the country’s chief executive — a duty she is more likely to perform than any VP in history. That she “didn’t blink” (her words) when McCain called on her to be his Veep candidate says worlds about her lack of judgement as well. The correct response was, ” Sorry, Senator, but I’m still a rookie governor with one stamp on my new passport, and I’m just not ready. Call me in four years.” But she didn’t, and here we are.

    What’s sad about McCain is that he would have stood a much better chance of winning by taking the high road, and being the guy folks liked when he rode the Straight Talk Express and slept in cheap motels. The guy we’re seeing now looks like a tool of consultants who’s doing “what it takes to win.” Meanwhile, Obama is kicking his ass at the grass roots level, with a volunteer organization that’s a model of efficiency and scope. Not to mention technological chops. Dig this.

    That help?

  18. movie fan says:

    the VP debate was stunning. Palin did a decent job faking about 20% of the questions and didn’t even bother answering the other 80%.

    i couldn’t help thinking of the end of the movie Billy Madison, when the debate moderator says to Adam Sandler, “Mr. Madison, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

  19. Jan Searls says:

    That helps. Hate to think my Big Bro saw anything positive about her performance (that’s what it was) other than morbid appreciation for what someone can learn to regurgitate with just 5 weeks digestion.

    Re McCain, I have a hunch this is his problem: When he confused “tactical” and “strategic” in the debate, lots of folks gave him the benefit of the doubt because that is one differentiation every military officer knows. But now I think he really does not know the difference.

    Everything he has done in this campaign since he sewed up the nomination has been “tactical” in nature – reactive in design, on-the-ground and in combat perspective, short-term goals, working off lessons-learned about the “enemy.” He has not been strategic.

    Obama has always been strategic.

    One huge lesson that was learned out of Vietnam was that LBJ and McNamara and their minions got into the weeds in prosecuting the war. No one stayed up at the strategic level. Those lessons – the need to do the planning at a strategic level and leave the tactical to the actual combat leaders – was never put to better use that in the first Gulf War. But then Cheney and Rumsfeld forgot those lessons and operated on a tactical level in planning and executing the Iraq War and many have paid the price. Now Gates understands, and so does Patraeus.

    And so does Obama. True leaders understand this difference. McCain never was a leader in the well-honed military sense. He went from playboy plebe to pilot to POW to politician. He loves being part of a team, but he can’t resist being the bad boy on the team. Only now he calls it being a maverick (just curious: did this nickname precede the release of Top Gun or follow it?).

    Anyway, everything he’s done and continues to do in this campaign reflects a tactical mindset. And tactics may win battles, but strategy wins wars.

  20. Grand Master Flash says:

    The way some folks – journalists and “pundits” included – seem to be convinced that Mrs Palin “won” the debate beats me…
    How is that possible?

    Being able to see Russia from Alaska, then, means you have an understanding of foreign policy; living in an Arctic state means that you have an understanding of climate change. In Mr. McCain’s case, it means, as he wrote last month, understanding technology policy because he flew airplanes in Vietnam and being concerned about the oceans’ health because he served in the Navy.

    The impression fits with the overall theme that Ms. Palin and Senator John McCain have been trying to advance: that expertise is overrated, homespun sincerity is better than sophistication, conviction is more important than analysis.

    It just can’t be… Unless substance has been devalued to such an extent that it urgently needs an intellectual bailout…

    Voters judging Ms. Palin’s performance should focus on the goofy governing philosophy that is symbolized by her speech style, not the red herrings of accent or dialect.

    Do we want a folksy America? With a populist Administration?
    In modern society, fractured as it is into myriad interest groups and microgroups, any attempt to define the interests of the “average person” will be so general as to be useless.

    Do we really want to be governed by folks who believe “Joe Sixpack” Adam & “Hockey Mom” Eve ate dinosaur steacks for breakfast 6,000 years ago?
    Has the Earth turned flat again, or what?

    So I’m asking: Have the journalists of America lost their balls?
    They might want to eat them with salt and pepper one day.

  21. Doc Searls says:

    GMF, many of us, myself included, gave credit to Palin for what Jan (above) correctly called her “performance.” We thought that would be enough to sway some fence-sitting voters while reassuring the GOP’s core support.

    Polls since then suggest otherwise. I’m be glad to be proved wrong on that one.

    As for journalists losing their balls, what’s your evidence for that? Was it Gwen Ifill’s and Katie Couric’s gentleness? I dunno.

    Anyway, one month to go. I find it hard to believe that Palin will grow much substance between now and the election.

    That said, I do want to see her at a press conference. If the McCain campaign had balls (or was just crazy), they’d put her in one. But they won’t, because they know she’ll be standing on a trap door.

  22. D. I have to join the queue. Palin’s plain-speaking and human-ness are on the level of American late-night infomercials — it’s all memorized sound-bites strung together at motormouth speed. That said, for weeks I’ve had the nagging feeling that she reminds me of someone. This morning I realized who: Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Newman and his avatar Melvin Coznowski … in drag! … and in heat! (I predict we’ll soon hear her extolling “our great American hero … General Potrzebi”

  23. By the way, Jan (Searls), your comment is excellent. It cuts to the heart of the comprehension and ways required to envision and implement “change” and debunks the supposed qualifications of McCain’s military years. It is a piece of analysis well worth submitting to the mainstream press. Thanks for it, I’ll be pointing people to it and quoting it.

  24. David Taht says:


    We do not hear your insights often enough! I still vividly remember that breakfast with you and Doc. I hope we hear more from you in the future.

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