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Friday, October 3, 2008


posted by on October 3 at 8:47 AM

Are you capable of uttering at least one completely “extemporaneous paragraph”? And by “paragraph” I mean, “a collection of sentences with subjects, verbs, objects and, if possible, an actual meaning?” If so, then you meet the test to be President of the United States—at least according to David Brooks.

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I was talking to a co-worker this morning about the debates, and he had an excellent story. His 8th grade daughter was given a homework assignment to watch the debates and summarize each candidate’s positions on a set number of issues (which, by the way, is a phenomenal assignment on so many levels). Apparently, his daughter was so frustrated by watching Palin and kept saying “What is she even saying? She doesn’t even know what she’s talking about!”

Can you imagine how aggravating Palin’s responses would have been for a kid who just wanted her to answer the question and explain her position clearly so that she could finish her homework? I am loving the possibility of a bunch of 13-year-olds in class today griping about how it was impossible to complete the assignment because Palin either didn’t answer the question or didn’t present her position in a clear way.

Posted by Julie in Chicago | October 3, 2008 9:05 AM

It's hilarious to read David Brooks lecturing us on what the common man thinks. If Brooks wants us to think he knows anything about Joe Sixpack, he should buy a different pair of spectacles.

Posted by Dan | October 3, 2008 9:07 AM

We turned off PBS soon after the debate b/c I couldn't believe what was coming out of Brooks' mouth. I mean honestly. So she didn't drool or have long periods of silence. But she was also completely incoherent and just didn't answer at least 10 of the questions. Remember when she started talking about energy? Where the hell did THAT come from? It wasn't even an energy question.


Posted by Balt-O-Matt | October 3, 2008 9:12 AM

I've got a question. I haven't had a chance to dig through YouTube, so to those who have:

In her many debates and other public speaking appearances prior to last night's debate (and prior to her coming to the south 48), did she have as thick an accent and smothering blanket of "folksy charm"? I don't remember ever hearing it to that extent. It seemed pandering and incredibly unprofessional and I'm curious to know if it is indeed a calculated effort on the part of her handlers to make her less "Washington" and not who she really is.

Posted by AL | October 3, 2008 9:13 AM

Yeesh. That op-ed scraped my frontal lobe with a trowel.

I was in debate for 4 years in high school, and I saw 14 year old suburban mormon girls with nervous laughs and minimal vocabulary skills perform a million times better than Palin did last night because they ANSWERED THE FUCKING QUESTIONS THAT WERE PRESENTED TO THEM.

Anyone who honestly thinks Palin performed with any kind of distinction last night is off the intellectual radar permanently. Brooks is a worthless yes-man who should know better than to shill for this kind of pandering bullshit.

Posted by Billy Nilly | October 3, 2008 9:14 AM

I'm comin' to getcha.

Posted by john bailo's tumor | October 3, 2008 9:17 AM

Olbermann had the governor of Hawaii on last night and she was praising her willingness to avoid questions to the stars.

"You certainly don't answer in a way that your opponent would like you to answer or that the moderator would like you to answer, so I think her debate skills really shined tonight."

I know it's been about fifteen years since I last had to debate in a formal setting, but I seem to recall not treating the moderator as your opponent. Am I wrong in this?

Posted by Chris B | October 3, 2008 9:18 AM

My 14-year-old son had the same reaction as Julie's co-worker's daughter - he recognized that she was making no sense, that she wasn't answering the questions, that she wasn't forming actual sentences. I'm so sad that such a huge percentage of our country's population didn't recognize that at all.

Posted by Mom | October 3, 2008 9:20 AM

Brooks drives me fucking crazy. How PBS continues to put such an obvious shill in front of the camera is beyond my comprehension.

He should be wrapped up in all his Republican bribe money and set alight. He'd burn like a beacon. Of Hope.

Posted by natopotato | October 3, 2008 9:21 AM

Brooks is an asshole. I realize that's not particularly eloquent, but it is, at the very least, true.

Posted by heywhatsit | October 3, 2008 9:22 AM

Did anyone else catch Palin's comment during the debate advising against early withdrawl? I think she was speaking with reference to Iraq, but it may just be her general philosophy.

Posted by Adam | October 3, 2008 9:22 AM
Posted by . | October 3, 2008 9:25 AM

@11: Zing!

Posted by Aislinn | October 3, 2008 9:27 AM

Dan -- re: 1 and 8

What did she even say??? Ah I can't finish this extra credit shit, I'm going to bed.

Posted by Non | October 3, 2008 9:31 AM

I actually think the "common people" in the country got a pretty good bead on Palin. Whenever she went on the Joe sixpack tangents, the opinion of the Ohio independents on CNN took a dip. I suspect they thought she was pandering to them insultingly.

I am one of David Brooks' Silicon Valley managers in a t-shirt, and I thought she came off like an idiot who rarely had any answers to any question put to her. He asks "where was this Palin during the Katie Couric interviews?" It's the same Palin, Iffil and Biden just didn't pin her down to answer questions the same way Couric had been.

Posted by scot | October 3, 2008 9:32 AM

brooks did the best he could to make lemons out of lemonade - it's his job & he knows it. and the NYT knows it - he & kristol are the "balance" to krugman & herbert - modo just hates everyone.

he's right in this way; if you're in the GOP base, you were happy with that performance.

@5, 7: these aren't debates. they're "debates".

Posted by max solomon | October 3, 2008 9:33 AM

She didn't crap herself. Let's throw a parade.

Posted by Superfrankenstein | October 3, 2008 9:42 AM

she did well enough that the hard-core repubs will be okay with her performance. biden did very well, certainly good enough for the dems.

truly undecideds? well, i'm pretty sure that the vast majority of those influenced by the debate performances fell to the dem side, make biden the clear winner.

so the rebubs lose out in the big picture, yes. just don't underestimate palin's performance from a repub perspective... she cleared the lowest bar, and said a few things that really perked their ears.

Posted by infrequent | October 3, 2008 9:42 AM

I think that the next time I take a dump and successfully wipe, everybody should buy me a drink. Now keep in mind that I don't necessarily have to succeed in wiping my ass, per se; just as long as I do a good thorough wiping of some part of my lower body, with or without the toilet paper, that counts as success.

I'll let you know tomorrow. Bring money.

Posted by Greg | October 3, 2008 9:49 AM

The ultimately problem with Palin is that she speaks in generalities all the time. She was coached within an inch of her life last night and it showed. Constantly steering the question to something completely unrelated so she could reel off her spew of words.

She doesn't know how to complete a thought, she just fills up space with words and catch phrases and it gets old.

Last night we were wondering how long it had taken for McCain to call her a "cunt." We figured it had happened after the first Couric interview aired.

Posted by Mike Friedman | October 3, 2008 9:51 AM

Does anyone else get a little piqued when they hear Joe Six-pack? I only wish it really meant your average guy with ripped abs.

Posted by Non | October 3, 2008 9:54 AM

Is it somehow verboten to ask your opponent "But you didn't answer the question. Really, what are your views on x?" Why don't ppl do this in political debates anymore?

Posted by NaFun | October 3, 2008 10:03 AM

Julie in Chicago, that story simultaneously cracks me up and makes me want to cry!

Posted by raisedbywolves | October 3, 2008 10:09 AM

Palin sounded like a struggling high school student who had studied reaaally hard, and just barely managed to pass the final exam. Good job Sarah! you get the award for Most Improved Debator, as presented by the cable news pundits of America. To casual observers, who were already pretty sure this woman is an idiot, it looked like she had managed to memorize her talking points this time, nothing more.

Posted by mnm | October 3, 2008 10:24 AM

#22 Ifill was in tough spot. She had, by being Black and writing a book, already been accused of being in Obama's pocket. She couldn't have been a hard ass if she wanted to, because she would have necessarily looked like what she had been accused of being. That's true because Biden wouldn't have to been told to answer the question 10+ times.

Biden couldn't be too pushy either. Remember when Gore wiped the floor with Bush in 2000? Everyone felt sorry for Bush, because no one wants to be made to feel stupid. People who are undecided might have been swayed toward Palin out of sympathy, a trend we were already seeing.

I don't think Biden was in error in not going after her too much. He did point out that she hadn't answered a question, and he did brilliantly, by asking a question himself, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but I didn't hear a plan?" Excellent technique, makes the point while keeping likable.

There was one other thing she said that he simply shouldn't have let slide, damn it I've lost my thought, but otherwise I think he was wise in portraying himself to be the man he is: smart, hardworking, capable, and calm.

On a side note, I also watched one of the CNN replays (watched the regular on PBS), and every time she said "maverick", the unhappiness went way up for the undecided in Ohio. They also didn't like it when she said "say it ain't so, Joe." I couldn't see what happened when she said "goshdarnit" because i was rolling my eyes and heaving at the same time.

Finally, did anyone see her holding her baby? She really looked like she'd never done it before, and she was frantically whacking the shit out him, pat pat pat pat pat, until the poor thing woke up. No analysis, just thought it looked bizarre.

Posted by cranky | October 3, 2008 10:27 AM

@25. I saw that with the baby... I bet she was just nervous and not quite totally in control of herself yet.

But, having her hold and pat the baby on the stage just made me feel ill. I don't have a problem with bringing the kiddos up on stage, but for some reason patting the baby was crossing the line.

Maybe it's because that visual is so clearly her in "mom mode", and I was like, you should be in "VP mode" now! Why are you in "mom mode" if not to pander! It's not like the baby was crying or needed her that second...

Posted by Julie in Chicago | October 3, 2008 10:44 AM


I've seen that before in other photos. When she holds him, she doesn't look very happy about it and doesn't seem to have any idea what to do with him. Weird for a woman with five kids.

Posted by keshmeshi | October 3, 2008 10:46 AM

Sorry. Me no want job. Job two hard.

Posted by Vince | October 3, 2008 11:16 AM

what does how she holds her baby have to do with it kesh, 25 and 26? that's subtle sexism and we should know better.

Posted by infrequent | October 3, 2008 11:24 AM

I was disconcerted after Couric asked the Supreme Court question. Realized I only knew two by name. Bush V Gore, Brown V Board of Education. (Hated the first; applauded the second.) I didn't even know what Dred Scott was...

But I do know my news sources. MSNBC, CNN, NYTimes, HuffPo, DailyKos - and SAVAGE LOVE!!

Yeah - this has nothing to do with anything. But if it's OK for Palin, it's OK for me.

Posted by Ayden | October 3, 2008 11:41 AM

@17 Well played!

Posted by saxfanatic | October 3, 2008 11:52 AM

Al said:

In her many debates and other public speaking appearances prior to last night's debate (and prior to her coming to the south 48), did she have as thick an accent and smothering blanket of "folksy charm"? I don't remember ever hearing it to that extent.

I was just watching footage of the 2006 Alaska governor debate and she certainly didn't turn on the folksiness in that clip. (In fact, it's disturbing how close to actually informed she seemed... thank goodness for the ill effects of cramming for this test.)

Posted by leek | October 3, 2008 12:15 PM

#29 It is a topic in play for a number of reasons and Palin is responsible for for all of them. One, she cites her role as a mother as a qualification for understanding the role of government. Two, she brought her infant *onstage, at a nationally (probably internatioinally) televised *work function. Her behavior at that moment then becomes a legitimate object of scrutiny.

I do believe families are off limits, however when she makes a public show of mothering, and I don't mean at the supermarket, it's reasonable to analyze her in that moment. Not the child, and not to draw major conclusions, but to simply say that she didn't, at that moment which she chose, seem comfortable with her child isn't sexism, it's having eyes and a brain that work at the same time.

Posted by cranky | October 3, 2008 12:32 PM

@29... I don't think how she held her baby has anything to do with anything. But, I did notice that the baby was there, being held, immediately after a debate, in a very conspicuous way. It was jarring to me, in that it seemed to be calculated to send the "look, I'm a mom just like you!" message (moreso than just bringing the family up on stage, which is sort of standard pandering at this point).

Posted by Julie in Chicago | October 3, 2008 12:36 PM

One other thought... I think it was the fact that she was actively mothering the baby onstage (by holding him to her shoulder and rubbing/tapping his back as if to burp or comfort him). As opposed to the other kids who were just present. I mean, it wasn't quite as dramatic as if she had pulled out a bottle and started feeding him, but it was more along those lines than not.

Posted by Julie in Chicago | October 3, 2008 12:40 PM

Interesting, Julie. You are my new favorite commenter (after the olde guard of course -- fnarf, cato, jube, etc)

Posted by Non | October 3, 2008 1:29 PM

oh please! obama has his kids on stage after speeches... as did clinton all the time. both have also cited the fact that they have kids. give me a break.

and julie, your new comment is even worse. what do you want her to do? ignore her infant child? damned if she does damned if she doesn't.

suddenly everyone cares about how palin's kids turned out... and good her parenting (specifically "Mothering"!!!) skills are.


Posted by infrequent | October 3, 2008 1:32 PM

infrequent, I specifically made the comment that bringing your kids up on stage (as every politician, including Obama does) is just sort of standard-level pandering, whereas what Palin was doing seemed extra egregious to me.

I do agree with you in that I am essentially saying that, yes, she should have ignored her infant child. If she ignored him for 90 minutes during the debates, what is another 5 minutes? Of course, if there was some actual reason why he needed her, then fine, but there was not. He was not crying, and, I believe, seemed to be asleep.

If someone else had been holding the son (her husband?) or if she had just been holding and not "actively mothering", I would have thought nothing of it.

For me this isn't about how good of a mother she is or isn't at all, it's just a level of annoyance about the fact that it seemed like she was blatantly exploiting her "mother" status. I was probably even more annoyed because it will undoubtedly work for some voters.

Posted by Julie in Chicago | October 3, 2008 2:06 PM

Oh, and thanks, Non. I am in a slow time at work, so I get to comment on Slog more… I guess the economic crisis is good for something!

Posted by Julie in Chicago | October 3, 2008 2:07 PM

julie, perhaps my post was over-antagonistic. but i overheard someone at the debate (central cinema) last night say something to the effect of, "nice parenting, she can't even hold her own baby" (before she held the baby of course).

Posted by infrequent | October 3, 2008 2:56 PM

oh, and exploiting her mother status? it's likely to hurt as much as help.

i don't want to impugn biden for choking up, i'd prefer to take it at face value. same for palin eventually holding her child. you can argue against here either way, so i'd rather it not be an issue -- it's unfair to mothers in a way that would be less likely even a consideration for a man.

Posted by infrequent | October 3, 2008 3:04 PM

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