With one simple question, Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, took charge of the vice presidential debate Oct. 2 in St. Louis. As she strode onto the stage, …
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With one simple question, Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, took
charge of the vice presidential debate Oct. 2 in St. Louis. As she
strode onto the stage, smiling, to shake hands with Sen. Joe Biden,
D-Deleware, she warmly asked, "My I call you Joe?"
It was clearly a disarming question before the questioning even
started. Some might say she was cheeky for asking such a question
of a senior senator, but think of all the impacts that those five
She established respect for him by asking if she could presume
to call him by his first name. She established that she is his peer
— governor to senator. She anchored her femininity by asking a
socially correct question of familiarity. She treated him not as an
old man, but as a peer. She showed she was not in awe of him by
leading the tone of their relationship from the very start.
As it transpired, that relationship continued throughout the
With that, she was ready to beard the lion in his den. I use the
term den, because she was facing Gwen Ifill, the chosen moderator
from the liberal PBS, an established strong Obama-Biden supporter
with a book about Obama to be published on Inauguration Day,
debating on the Washington University Area of St. Louis.
Now, I've spent a good deal of time right around the Washington
University campus in recent years as my son was going through
surgeries and follow-ups at the Washington University and St. Louis
Children's Hospital area. You can take my word for it that that
area is definitely a haven for the Obama-Biden ticket.
Ifill's book deal had been revealed a couple of days before the
debate by Matt Drudge, and that possibly defanged Ifill. It became
clear Ifill stands to make a large amount of money from the book,
and she was caught between the possibility of being fair or being
totally derided as non-professional if she showed overt Obama-Biden
leanings in the question. Hence, Ifill's mien was softer and devoid
of aggression, almost leaving the candidates to their own resources
to set the rules.
Many wondered if Palin would be able to stand up under the
threat of Biden's great debater reputation. Now, I'm not going to
take much away from Biden's performance, allowing that he was
probably near peak performance. He was less arrogant and
condescending than normal, even gracious for the most part. Given
that, his performance was still flawed with numerous errors and
I picked out a few, myself, but heard Carl Rove give a list of
at least 11 undisputable errors in the "facts" Biden used. By
contrast, Palin had no gaffs and only a couple of debatably
accurate points. So, error wise, it was 11-2 in her favor.
I heard one pundit saying that she violated the rules of debate
when she chose not to directly address one question asked by Ifill.
That is required in college classroom debate. This is politics, and
the moderator can ask any question he or she chooses, but the
candidate can answer the question with any play he or she
Did she not know the answer? Could be, but I rather doubt it.
She then said, "I may not answer the question the way that either
the moderator or you want to hear," as she looked directly at
Biden. But I'm going to talk straight to the American people and
let them know my track record." And, so she did.
She showcased what she's done as a mayor and governor, exhibited
great footwork as she took questions about energy, successfully
sparring with Biden on the abortion issues and gay marriage. She
made clear the need to win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She
emphasized that she hadn't had to check her opinions at the door
when McCain chose her for his running mate, and used their opposing
opinions on drilling in Alaska National Wildlife Reserve as a prime
So, she is her own woman. She had the opportunity to make the
points she wanted to make, and did so when she considered Ifill's
question less than important and not key to the task at hand. More
importantly, it showed that she was the master of her destiny in
the debate, choosing to show her nimbleness in the venue.
Welcome back, Sarah.
Curt Dale, a longtime Parker resident, is a retired colonel of
the U.S. Air Force and holds a Ph.D.
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