Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fact checking Sarah Palin's VP debate

Keith Olbermann fact-checks Sarah Palin's responses in the VP debate held on October 3rd, 2008. The debate is posted here.

In a string of interviews and in the much-hyped vice-presidential debate, Sarah Palin has perfected the art of palinizing. The tactic is a painfully transparent political filibuster of sorts. When Palin is presented with a question she either does not understand or that she does not want to answer truthfully, she opens her mouth and out pours a waterfall of GOP buzzwords, cascading haphazardly from her lips and leaving listeners drenched in the horrific realization that this small-town mayor turned newbie governor from Alaska is, quite simply, both an idiot and a liar.

Palinizing is above all the art of distraction, with the goal of diverting attention away from a fault (in Palins case, ignorance) and towards the glittering veneer of hollow talking points which dazzle but do nothing in terms of answering the question presented. For Palins most ardent fans, the evasiveness is perceived as a much-deserved slap in the face to the "mainstream" media. For her detractors and even those who are ambivalent towards her, Palins verbal hopscotch is infuriating.

At the debate, Palin was in full form, so much so that she brazenly told moderator Gwen Ifill that no, she was not going to answer the question posed. She then proceeded to read from her notecards the attack scripted by the hands of another—that Barack Obama was a dangerous liberal, or that he would raise the "white flag of surrender." This weeks SNL parody, painfully mirroring truth, had Tina Fey telling moderator Queen Latifah that, "no thank you," she would "ignore" the questions and talk about what she wanted to talk about instead.

On the other side of the stage, Joe Biden delivered attacks of his own. But the quality of his attacks were, as so much was that night, much different in style and substance than those of his opponent. In answering the questions posed—and yes, Biden did answer them--he unleashed on McCain, methodically dissecting the "maverick" myth and thrashing McCains policy proposals. He frequently praised McCains personal character—so much so that that in itself became a subject of parody on Saturday Night Live.

Bidens attacks were advocacy-oriented, which Palins were adversary-oriented. When Biden lashed out, even when referencing McCain, he did so for or against policy proposals and political philosophies. When Palin lashed out, she lashed out at Obama or Biden, as individuals.

In other words, when Biden attacked, one felt as if he was speaking on behalf of a middle class full of indignation at the status quo. When Palin attacked, one felt as if she was speaking on behalf of herself, and John McCain, the "team of mavericks."..She meandered around a field of GOP buzzwords until she stumbled upon a clearing where she could squeeze in one of the assembled attacks on her cards. It was fierce Republican politics. It was farce.

Fast forward to the weekend after the debate. It has become clear that Palins Cliff Notes performance was neither enough to salvage her reputation among the general electorate nor enough to rescue McCains ailing presidential campaign. Just as Palin was when asked the most basic of questions what do you read, what Supreme Court case do you disagree with, what is your view on the Bush Doctrine — the McCain camp is cornered. And just as the vice-presidential nominee has done time and time again, the McCain campaign is palinizing.

The American people are asking of the candidates a serious question: how will you put our country back on track? Rather than provide a direct answer, the McCain campaign has exhibited a wholesale embrace of the tactic that Palin has made legend: it is attempting the change the subject to distract from the fact that it has no acceptable answer to the question posed. And like Palin, who so flippantly boasted that no, she would not answer the question posed, the McCain campaign has made no effort to hide the fact that it is going negative precisely to avoid a debate on the issues, a debate which it has until now decidedly lost.

And so, we welcome again the William Ayers attacks into the campaign. Surely, the resurrection of the Ayers issue will be accompanied by the second coming of the Wright issue and the Rezko issue as Republicans attempt to shed a negative light on Obamas character.

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