Saturday, September 20, 2008

Debates and sound bites

The vice presidential debate will be structured in such a way that Sarah Palin will not have to be put on the spot by Joe Biden.  Heaven forbid that a woman with a fair chance of becoming president should have to be put on the spot!
McCain advisers said they were only somewhat concerned about Ms. Palin’s debating skills compared with those of Mr. Biden, who has served six terms in the Senate, or about his chances of tripping her up. Instead, they say, they wanted Ms. Palin to have opportunities to present Mr. McCain’s positions, rather than spending time talking about her experience or playing defense.
But we don't have debates for candidates to present sound bites on their positions, there are a lot of other opportunities for that.  And Palin has certainly demonstrated the ability to repeat sound bites; in fact almost all of her public appearances have been about demonstrating that ability.

What is amazing about the media coverage on Palin to date that is that it has all been focused on exactly this ability to recite sound bites.  Did she remember her briefing notes?  Did they brief her on the Bush Doctrine?

But the ability to be briefed and then recite your lines to a reporter has nothing to do with being president.  The real story is that she is not doing anything more than reciting lines, and that nobody expects her to do more.

Given Palin's unwillingness to give us anything but McCain's sound bites, the only question that matters is who is going to be writing the briefing notes if she suddenly becomes president.  The Republican old guard?  Her pastor or high school friends?  Somebody else?  It's important, because that's who will be running the country.

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