Random Debate Thoughts

I watched the debate at a party last night, so I didn’t write abut it at the time. I agree with what seems to be the consensus view: Palin exceeded expectations, such as they were; Biden won. A few random notes:

First, I was struck by the moment David Kusnet describes here, in a post about Palin’s emotional intelligence:

” For all her unfamiliarity with many issues–and the unpopularity of her positions–Palin’s performance made sense emotionally, with one glaring exception. (…)

The most emotional moment of the evening was when Biden silently fought off tears while recalling his son’s near-death after the auto accident that left him a single father.

For once, Palin did not respond as a regular human being would. Not even offering Biden a sympathetic glance while he was speaking, she went on to say yet again that McCain is “a maverick.” Those who watched the debate from start to finish may have wondered whether Palin really is as warmhearted as she appeared.”

I did not wonder whether she was as warmhearted as she appeared. For one thing, I’ve read enough about Palin that I had views on that topic before the debate started. For another, though, I can easily see not reacting the way I normally would during such an incredibly high-stakes debate. Trying to negotiate that much pressure without showing it does not do wonders for anyone’s normal human reactions.

That said, it was the moment when it was clearest to me how hard Palin was trying throughout the debate, and that what we were seeing was not, in some sense, really her at all. It was also the moment when the contrast between Palin and Biden, as people, seemed clearest: I think Biden would have responded to Palin had the tables been turned, not necessarily because he’s a nicer person under normal circumstances (though I’d guess that he is), but because he was much more relaxed and confident throughout, and would therefore have had the luxury of natural human responses.

Second: my candidate for “post the writer is most likely to regret in the morning” is this, by Rich Lowry:

“I’m sure I’m not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, “Hey, I think she just winked at me.” And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America.”

I’m sure I’m not the only female in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, rolled her eyes and thought: oh, dear God. We have all seen just that wink deployed at guys like Rich Lowry. We have all watched in amazement as it actually works, despite its transparent manipulativeness. What, we all wonder, could those guys possibly be thinking? (What the winking women are thinking is usually altogether too clear.) I’m betting that for every male vote that wink picked up, it lost at least one woman.

Third: I thought it was funny the first time Palin said that she didn’t attribute all human activity to climate change, rather than the other way around. But last night she said it again:

“I’m not one to attribute every man — activity of man to the changes in the climate.”

Interestingly, though, last night it was part of a pattern. Consider this other quote:

“And it is my executive experience that is partly to be attributed to my pick as V.P. with McCain”

Maybe it’s just that she doesn’t understand what ‘attribute’ means. Or maybe she doesn’t understand cause and effect (“Certainly, accounting for different conditions in that different country and conditions are certainly different.”) Either way, it’s pretty odd.

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