Sarah Palin gave the performance of her career during this evening’s Vice Presidential debate. Right from her initial “Can I call ya Joe?” she disarmed an initially cocky Biden, who took the first twenty minutes of the evening getting his balance to get off the defensive. But even his easy smile and his tendency toward verbosity could not overcome this disciplined Senator.
If you’ll excuse the punny heteronym, Biden let some of Palin’s more offensive tactics slide. Maybe he thought a tougher approach would have been tantamount to picking on the slow kid in class. Tonight, however, Palin turned ditzy into dazzling with her newest talent show feature: “I can debate, too!” That was just the problem. She did all of the things a high school debate coach would tell her to do. She broke the third wall, looking directly over the moderator to both the live and television audiences (the people in their living rooms on mainstreet, as she would have it). Biden’s *aw, shucks* charm and toothy grin as he prepared rebuttal notes languished too long into this own remarks for the first part of the debate.
This blog is about art of all kinds, and if this campaign was about performance artists, Palin would have won tonight. But wait . . . what about the issues? Her well-rehearsed mantras about a “country first maverick” only went so far before Biden’s rebuttal demanded something more substantive. Where he subtly challenged her on the issues, she consistently changed the subject or missed the subtlety entirely.
Diamond Joe came into this debate all-too-confident that he could first do no harm. Mainstream punditry painted this tonight as a loss for the Senator on the grounds that confidence blinded him to how well-prepared Palin’s offense was. Palin may have saved face by recovering from a disastrous CBS interview, but a good performance could not hide the vacuity of her thoughts on the issues. An Alaskan lemming might make a pleasing Veep candidate for McMaverick, but she won’t do for thinking Americans.