The Joe Biden v. Sarah Palin Debate in a Nutshell: A Serious Person v. an Unserious Person

The outcome of the VP debate seems pretty clear: Biden reassured voters that adults would be minding the “store” if the Obama-Biden ticket wins, and Palin did not assure voters that she is presidential timber.

Palin’s folksy “aw shucks” and “golly-gee” cutesy-winky patronizing “John and I are mavericks!” schtick was simply too close to her Saturday Night Live Tina Fey caricature to make most voters comfy with her being a heartbeat from the presidency (especially behind a 72 year old man).

And so Biden played to form—as did Palin—and this is not good for McCain.

We could have seen this coming if we had looked closely at the way Sarah Palin and Joe Biden had answered a question about Dick Cheney in their interviews with CBS last week.

Couric asked both candidates about the “best and worst thing that Dick Cheney has done as president.” Biden gave a serious answer. He talked gravely about Cheney’s promotion of “torture as a policy”—and how it undermines our values as a people.

Sarah Palin, by contrast, gave (as Andrew Sullivan has noted) a less than serious answer, talking about Cheney accidentally shooting a friend in the face on a duck hunting accident:

Worst thing I guess that would have been the duck hunting accident–where you know, that was an accident. And I think that was made into a caricature of him. And that was kind of unfortunate. So the best thing though, he’s shown support, along with George W. Bush, of our troops. And I’ve been there when George Bush has spoken to families of those who have suffered greatly, those who are serving in the military. I’ve been there when President Bush has embraced those families and expressed the concern and the sympathy speaking for all of America in those times. And for Dick Cheney to have supported that effort of George Bush’s, I respect that.

Palin’s answer reflects that folksy concern for the intimate and visual, and her utter cluelessness as to the concerns that independent and undecided voters have about Dick Cheney—and the Republicans in general.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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