Under intense scrutiny, Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin stood her ground Thursday night against a vastly more experienced Joe Biden, debating the economy, energy and global warming, then challenging him on Iraq, “especially with your son in the National Guard.”
The Alaska governor also noted that Biden had once said Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama wasn’t ready to be commander in chief, “and I know again that you opposed the move that he made to try to cut off funding for the troops and I respect you for that.”
Biden responded that John McCain, too, had voted against funding, and said the Republican presidential candidate had been “dead wrong on the fundamental issues relating to the conduct of the war.”
The clash over Iraq was the most personal, and pointed, of the 90-minute debate in which Palin repeatedly cast herself as a non-Washington politician, part of a “team of mavericks” that she said was ready to bring change to a country demanding it.
From the opening moments of the debate, Biden sought to make McCain out as a straight-ahead successor to an unpopular President Bush. “He voted four out of five times for George Bush’s budget, which put us a half-trillion dollars in debt and over $4 trillion in debt since he got here,” he said of McCain.
Palin merely accused Biden of reciting the past rather than looking to the future. “Americans are cravin’ that straight talk” that McCain offers, she said.
The two running mates debated for 90 minutes on a stage at Washington University, their only encounter of a campaign with little more than one month to go.
Recent polls show Obama with a small but perceptible lead, and Republican officials said earlier in the day that McCain had decided to pull out of Michigan, conceding the state to the Democrats. At the same time, his own aides said the campaign may soon begin to advertise in Indiana — a state that has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1968.
Palin faced enormous challenges of her own, though. After five weeks as McCain’s ticket-mate, her poll ratings had begun dropping and even some conservatives have questioned her readiness for high public office.
Her solo campaign events are few, and she has drawn ridicule for some of her answers in the few interviews she has granted — including her claim that Alaska’s proximity to Russia gives her an insight into foreign policy.
After intense preparation — including two days at McCain’s home in Sedona, Ariz., there was only one obvious stumble, when she twice referred to the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan as “Gen. McClellan.” His name is David McKiernan.
Biden’s burden was not nearly as fundamental. Although he has long had a reputation for long-windedness, he is a veteran of more than 35 years in the Senate, with a strong knowledge of foreign policy as well as domestic issues.
Biden made a humongous gaffe with this statement:
BIDEN: Gwen, no one in the United States Senate has been a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden. I would have never, ever joined this ticket were I not absolutely sure Barack Obama shared my passion. But you asked a question about whether or not this administration’s policy had made sense or something to that effect. It has been an abject failure, this administration’s policy. In fairness to Secretary Rice, she’s trying to turn it around now in the seventh or eighth year.
Here’s what the president said when we said no. He insisted on elections on the West Bank, when I said, and others said, and Barack Obama said, “Big mistake. Hamas will win. You’ll legitimize them.” What happened? Hamas won. When we kicked — along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, “Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don’t know — if you don’t, Hezbollah will control it.”
And showed his abject cluelessness about Article I of the Constitution:
“Vice President Cheney has probably been the most dangerous Vice President we’ve had in American history. He has the idea…he doesn’t realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the Vice President of the United States. That’s the executive. He works in the executive branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.
Last I checked, Hezbollah still has a sizable presence in Lebanon. Anyone who suggests that NATO fill any kind of a vacuum there is just plain fucking stupid.
This moron thinks Article I defines the Executive position, (it’s actually about the legislative powers of Congress and Senate and describes the Vice President’s role as President of the Senate), and that Iraq should be Balkanized into three sections.
Sarah nailed Biden on his and Obama’s plan to raise taxes, vote against the surge, and not taking Ahmadinejad’s threats seriously.
My only complaint is that she was too polite and didn’t go for the throat on his inept foreign policy.