Saturday, October 4, 2008

I hate spunk

Damn these 24-hour news cycles and their short attention spans. I think the vice presidential debate will play a bigger role than we imagine in the history of America. The debate offers a two-way window into the candidates' heads -- and into ours.

I commend this wrap-up by Nancy Kruh published in the Dallas Morning News. For the record, I do not know Ms. Kruh nor do I know her politics. I just think she did a good job of compiling differing reactions. As for me, I'm with Lou Grant – I hate spunk.
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Balance of Opinion: Style versus substance

Reaction to the Thursday face-off between vice presidential nominees Sarah Palin and Joe Biden has turned into a war over what wins a debate – style or substance – and which of the two matters most to voters.

Peggy Noonan is dazzled by Ms. Palin's performance, affirming her as "the star" of the event, while Mr. Biden was "the second male lead."

"Her syntax did not hold," the Wall Street Journal columnist writes of Ms. Palin, "but her magnetism did. ... There were moments when she seemed to be doing an infomercial pitch for charm in politics. But it was an effective infomercial."

So much so that Ms. Noonan declares that the Alaska governor "saved John McCain again. ... She is the political equivalent of cardiac paddles: Clear! Zap! We've got a beat! She will re-electrify the base."

Creators Syndicate columnist Michelle Malkin describes Ms. Palin as "warm, fresh, funny, confident, energetic, personable, relentless and on message. She roasted [Barack] Obama's flip-flops on the surge and tea-with-dictators declarations, dinged Mr. Biden's bash-Bush rhetoric ... and exuded the sunny optimism that energized the base in the first place.

"Mr. McCain has not done many things right," Ms. Malkin writes on her blog. "But Sarah Palin proved that the VP risk he took was worth it."

The Washington Post's Michael Gerson senses that "people who deal with words for a living will probably find Mr. Biden's performance more professional. But the most consistent goal of the candidates was clearly to be seen as the Main Street populist. And here Mr. Biden simply cannot compete. For all his talk of Scranton and Home Depot, he is a senator playing at being an average person. Ms. Palin – on the evidence of 'Yah,' 'Doggonnit!' and 'Darn right!' – is an average person. That may not be the best qualification for high office. But I suspect that many Americans find it attractive."

Mr. Gerson's colleague Eugene Robinson has other suspicions: "Whatever you think of Ms. Palin's mugging, eye-rolling and other theatrics – some viewers doubtless saw it as evidence of freshness, resolve and spunk; others, like Lou Grant in the old Mary Tyler Moore show, must have been muttering, 'I hate spunk' – you still wanted to hear what she and John McCain proposed to do about the mess we're in. That was something she didn't deliver, and my hunch is that we'll hear that assessment from voters in the coming days."

Andrew Romano doubts Ms. Palin "convinced many skeptical swing voters that she's qualified to lead the free world." In contrast, the Newsweek analyst writes, Mr. Biden "did what he came to do – make a clear case against John McCain. And he did it with answers that were more detailed, less rhetorical and far more responsive to the questions. You may disagree with his arguments. Many will. But it's impossible to say he wasn't polite, persuasive and well-informed."

To Joe Klein, "the fact that Ms. Palin made it through the debate without running off the stage shouting, 'I can't do this!' should not obscure the fact that there was only one person whom anyone with any sense – even John McCain, I imagine – would trust as president. Mr. Biden's performance was strong and, happily, gimmick-free. ...

"What [Ms. Palin] did show was some folksy charm and some energy," the Time columnist writes. "But that's not enough to change the trajectory of this race, especially since nothing that was said in this debate will be remembered, or remarked upon, a week from now."

Nancy Kruh is a freelance writer in Dallas; her e-mail address is nkruh@balanceofopinion.com.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

She made me ill. I agree with Bill that she "performed" better than I thought she would..but NBC's political boss gushed over her and I wondered what planet HE has been on. She is dangerous. She and McCain are lethal. I hope this country is smarter than this. Mike

The South Plainsman said...

Wonder how people can say that Palin is more style than substance, when Obama is the king of style over substance?

Oh, well. Football games are on...gotta go.

Anonymous said...

I keep trying to tell myself the country CAN'T be this stupid but then we did elect GW, twice!

Bud

Anonymous said...

Strangely she said once she would not answer the question asked?! Biden was amazing maintaining his demeanor ...temper..." I don't know where to start Gwen!" I suppose she did not answer the Achilles Heel because she didn't now who HE was...but some athletes who suffer from it probably don't either. The VP thing killed her. Bill

Sweet Thang is beautiful.

Jeff Hebert said...

We've all got opinions on how it went. The point of it all, though, is to convince people to vote for your ticket. And given the post-debate polling, Palin was a colossal failure.

Looking at the various focus groups who were live-reacting during the debate itself, the winking and folksiness came off as fake and annoying; the little lines plummeted during all of that.

I think most Americans, especially those who aren't news junkies like (I suspect) most of the folks who read and comment here, are unaware of all the "meta" stuff going on. They just react to what they see. And by about 2-1, what they think they saw with Sarah Palin on Thursday night was an empty-headed faker.

sph said...

It just struck me why I am so glum.

For the last 35 years I have been a female working in non-traditional roles. Just means I was alone in a sea of testosterone. And now I am in full support of an old, white man for vice-president. He is less repulsive than a mid-40's white female. The things I never thought would happen. Testosterone trumps precious. Who woulda thought….

Anonymous said...

After reading all the stories, listening, watching, reading columns, opeds I have come to this true conclusion: Those who support Sarah Palin, Watch--don't Listen. You may disagree and I hope it is still patriotic to disagree and pay taxes. Bill

Ken Martin said...

I wanted Sarah Palin to cut her bangs so she wouldn't brush them with her eyelashes every time she batted her eyes and winked, which was often.

I wanted both candidates to answer the questions asked; Biden did, Palin did not or could not.

And when Palin talked about the bipartisan cabinet she appointed in Alaska, I almost barfed--it's a state with about the population of my home city, Austin, Texas. To think that she's trying to ride into the White House on the strength of less than two years of gubernatorial experience in a state of that size is absurd.

She's a Shetland pony trying to pose as a thoroughbred. Gimme a break!

Anonymous said...

Spunk is good unless you're an old sourpuss writer and editor and have your shorts in a knot.
Spunk is good unless you're a Vice-Presidential candidate who got your clock cleaned by a 'gud ole gurl'
Spunk is good unless you're a liberal who can't stand the thought of finally getting a good woman at the top of the charts,and who only has Pilosi to go through menopause. ----Goose

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