03 October 2008
Inside the Frames
Now, I'm not saying that either of the candidates in this race are ideal, or close to ideal. I'm not saying that either of their vice presidential picks are ideal, or close to ideal. But I am saying that, in the context of the here and now, and given what we have, one side is definitely closer than the other. Before I begin this long rant, which I'm sure you all know will be Palin-bashing, I just have to say that I really love this little nugget in the New York Time's debate transcript: Palin: "Now, what I've done as a governor and as a mayor is (inaudible)". Oh, I just had to laugh. So, first, affect framing. Sarah Palin came across as energetic, perky, pretty (enough), down with the common people, a sincere person and Washington outsider (well, at least I'm guessing that's what she was trying to be every time she winked at the camera. Either that or she had something in her eye). Although I think sometimes a slight tightening of her lips may have betrayed the fact that she had no idea how to answer a question. And I think the one major flaw of her affect, despite the fact that she was bouncy and friendly and likeable and really kind of cute, was that you could tell when she was reciting by rote. There was a clear difference between the non-scripted lines and the myriad times she stood staring into the camera, smiling that creepy smile, and simply sounded like she was in front of a class, reciting the key points she had learned from her textbook the night before. She wasn't as relaxed during those moments, and her voice, gosh darnit, just sounded like a straight up monotone. Even my dad said something to the effect of: "I bet she's wearing special glasses, and there's a little teleprompter inside her frames", joking about the way Palin kept staring forward and sounded like she was reading something hovering in the air in front of her. But you know what, despite all of this, I'm sure that every average American (all of those Joe six packs and hockey moms across the nation) will really be able to connect to her. All of those weird, crazy, outlandish Americans (let's say, college students or straight edge folks or non-sports fans, for a small example) might have a bit of a harder time. Joe Biden, on the other hand, started the debate a little bit slow. I'll admit, I was worried. Here's this chipper little bunny, and there's Biden, looking splotchy and sort of worn out and, really, kind of old. If Obama looked way better against McCain, Palin definitely beat Biden on the looks (I guess that comes with being a woman, too). He didn't directly look at the viewers at home so much, or so forcefully, as Palin (which, I think, was a relief, after we had to deal with all of those scary Palin stares). But if Palin tried to pull off sincere, Biden actually achieved it at that one moment where he got pretty choked up when talking about raising his kids alone. And I think that was one of his best moments, cutting into the winding explanations he tends to give sometimes. Speaking of explanations, we move into content framing. Now, if you ask me, there's no contest here. And, honestly, everything I've read thus far praising Palin in the debate argues (in circles) around one or two things: the fact that Palin looks better than Biden (which, I admit, is very important), and the fact that Palin did better than expectations (which wasn't very hard at all, considering just how low those expectations were. I could have done better than the expectations people had for her during this debate). Fox News claims that Palin: "lamented "East Coast politicians" and the "mainstream media" as she pitched herself as a true "main streeter." She called her running mate the "consummate maverick" and pledged to deliver economic reform to Washington." I'm so glad they noticed that she remembered all of those talking points she memorized, half of which she probably doesn't even understand. So, where are all those Republicans saying "Wow, Sarah Palin really knows how to deliver good arguments." Or, more importantly, "Wow, Sarah Palin really know how to directly answer those tough questions." Well, I betcha, golly gosh, that they just can't bring themselves to say that. Because Sarah Palin cannot make good arguments. Sarah Palin cannot answer questions. Is Sarah Palin a skilled politician? Darn right she is. Because, if you weren't paying so much attention (or if you've already got it in your head to support her), you wouldn't realize she pivoted off of almost every question and either picked a small point Biden had made and talked about that instead, said something that was very obviously scripted (and half the time kept looking down at her notes, as if to refresh her memory), or reverted the question back to energy. For example: "PALIN: And I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear" (which translates to not answering at all, Sarah, just admit it) and "PALIN: I do take issue with some of the principle there with that redistribution of wealth principle that seems to be espoused by you. But when..." (Say what? I can see why you changed the subject.) and "PALIN: Well, the nice thing about running with John McCain is I can assure you he doesn't tell one thing to one group and then turns around and tells something else to another group, including his plans that will make this bailout plan, this rescue plan, even better. I want to go back to the energy plan, though..." (maybe because that's the only thing you know even a little bit about) ... when the actual question was "What promises -- given the events of the week, the bailout plan, all of this, what promises have you and your campaigns made to the American people that you're not going to be able to keep?" and "PALIN: That is not so, but because that's just a quick answer, I want to talk about, again, my record on energy versus your ticket's energy ticket, also. I think that this is important to come back to, with that energy policy plan again that was voted for in '05." Seriously, if I was whoever advised her with, "Sarah, when you don't know something, just bring it back to energy," I would be kicking myself in the ass right about then for not realizing just how much she obviously didn't know about anything else. And I'll admit it. Maybe Joe Biden is a little bit boring, and maybe he's a little bit more formal (is it really his fault he doesn't have an accent?), and maybe he can get lost in some senatorial speak sometimes. And maybe, when you consider content, they both did have a lot of facts to throw at us. The difference was that Biden sounded like he knew what he was talking about and the larger picture context, whereas Sarah Palin just sounded like she was trying to pass her high school US Government test. And although I would have liked to see Biden just attack her, and call her out on this, he mostly held in reserve (although he did mention once that he hadn't "heard a plan" and that made me smile, and the part where he said "George Bush's" at least five times made me smile, although that was more because he just sounded funny every time he said "George Bush's".) But I like O'Biden... oops, sorry I mean... Joe Biden. I liked him during the primary debates and I like him now. And more importantly he made sense. He made sense! I'd like to just end by demonstrating that, by mentioning here, that Sarah Palin delivered her sharp points very well: "Americans are craving that straight talk and just want to know, hey, if you voted for [the war], tell us why you voted for it" The only problem was that it was delivered a bit too late, and if she'd been paying any attention to the debate at hand instead of trying to recall what she was supposed to say, she would have realized that Joe Biden just finished answering that: "I gave the president the power. I voted for the power because he said he needed it not to go to war but to keep the United States, the UN in line, to keep sanctions on Iraq and not let them be lifted." And that's my political rant of the day. Unless I think of anything I missed. Until then, I'll wait around to hear a good, pro-Palin argument, based on the content of what she said, and not just that charming smile, those homey winks, and that all-American accent she has (which goes right along with what she calls her "average American" family). I feel like I might be waiting for quite a while.