The Filter: Oct. 3, 2008

A round-up of this morning's must-read stories.

IN DEBATE, REPUBLICAN TICKET SURVIVES ONE TEST
(Adam Nagourney, New York Times)

Gov. Sarah Palin made it through the vice-presidential debate on Thursday without doing any obvious damage to the Republican presidential ticket. By surviving her encounter with Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. and quelling some of the talk about her basic qualifications for high office, she may even have done Senator John McCain a bit of good, freeing him to focus on the other troubles shadowing his campaign. It was not a tipping point for the embattled Republican presidential ticket, the bad night that many Republicans had feared. But neither did it constitute the turning point the McCain campaign was looking for after a stretch of several weeks in which Senator Barack Obama seemed to be gaining the upper hand in the race. Even if he no longer has to be on the defensive about Ms. Palin, Mr. McCain still faces a tough environment with barely a month until the election.

PALIN MEETS EXPECTATIONS BUT STILL FALLS SHORT
(John F. Harris and Mike Allen, Politico)

Millions of Americans were watching Thursday night’s vice-presidential debate waiting for a demolition derby moment — another crash by GOP running mate Sarah Palin, another serving of raw material for the writers at "Saturday Night Live." By that standard, she got out alive, though there were white-knuckle moments along the way: questions that were answered with painfully obvious talking points that betrayed scant knowledge of the issue at hand, and sometimes little relevance to the question that had been asked... It is hard to count any objective measures by which Biden did not clearly win the encounter. She looked like she was trying to get people to take her seriously. He looked like he was running for vice president. His answers were more responsive to the questions, far more detailed and less rhetorical.  On at least ten occasions, Palin gave answers that were nonspecific, completely generic, pivoted away from the question at hand, or simply ignored it: on global warming, an Iraq exit strategy, Iran and Pakistan, Iranian diplomacy, Israel-Palestine (and a follow-up), the nuclear trigger, interventionism, Cheney's vice presidency and her own greatest weakness.

PALIN THE POPULIST
(Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal)

She killed. She had him at "Nice to meet you. Hey, can I call you Joe?" She was the star. He was the second male lead, the good-natured best friend of the leading man. She was not petrified but peppy. The whole debate was about Sarah Palin. She is not a person of thought but of action. Interviews are about thinking, about reflecting, marshaling data and integrating it into an answer. Debates are more active, more propelled—they are thrust and parry. They are for campaigners. She is a campaigner. Her syntax did not hold, but her magnetism did. At one point she literally winked at the nation. As far as Mrs. Palin was concerned, Gwen Ifill was not there, and Joe Biden was not there. Sarah and the camera were there. This was classic "talk over the heads of the media straight to the people," and it is a long time since I've seen it done so well, though so transparently. There were moments when she seemed to be doing an infomercial pitch for charm in politics. But it was an effective infomercial.

JOE BIDEN--INSPIRED VEEP PICK
(Noam Scheiber, New Republic)

My completely impressionistic take on Palin's performance tonight is that it mirrorred her campaign performance so far (if not quite as dramatically): When Palin started off, you thought, "Wow, she seems so fresh--so human and easy to relate to. How can we compete with that?" Then, as the debate wore on, you thought, "Hmm, okay, she still seems human, but not quite what I'm looking for in a vice president." And, by the end, as the vacuous answers piled up, it was more like, "Good God, keep this woman away from the Oval Office." Which is the story of the last month, too. Palin just isn't a candidate who wears well over any extended period of time, whether it's a 90-minute debate or a 60-day campaign. The reason is that she only has one mode: human and relateable. That's fine when the topic is middle-class pain. But there are whole classes of issues--foreign policy chief among them--where human and relateable aren't what you're looking for, even if you're an uninformed voter.   

SOME FACTS ADRIFT IN VEEP DEBATE
(Calvin Woodward, Associated Press)

Republican Sarah Palin criticized a version of a Barack Obama health care plan that doesn't exist and Democrat Joe Biden clung to a misleading charge about Republicans and big oil when the two clashed in the vice presidential debate Thursday. Some examples of facts cast adrift in the debate:  PALIN: Said of Democratic presidential candidate Obama: "94 times he voted to increase taxes or not support a tax reduction." THE FACTS: The dubious count includes repetitive votes as well as votes to cut taxes for the middle class while raising them on the rich. An analysis by factcheck.org found that 23 of the votes were for measures that would have produced no tax increase at all, seven were in favor of measures that would have lowered taxes for many, 11 would have increased taxes on only those making more than $1 million a year.  BIDEN: Complained about "economic policies of the last eight years" that led to "excessive deregulation." THE FACTS: Biden voted for 1999 deregulation that liberal groups are blaming for part of the financial crisis today. The law allowed Wall Street investment banks to create the kind of mortgage-related securities at the core of the problem now. The law was widely backed by Republicans as well as by Democratic President Clinton, who argues it has stopped the crisis today from being worse.

HAIL MARY VS. COOL BARRY
(Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post)

You can't blame McCain. In an election in which all the fundamentals are working for the opposition, he feels he has to keep throwing long in order to keep hope alive. Nonetheless, his frenetic improvisation has perversely (for him) framed the rookie challenger favorably as calm, steady and cool. In the primary campaign, Obama was cool as in hip. Now Obama is cool as in collected. He has the discipline to let slow and steady carry him to victory. He has not at all distinguished himself in this economic crisis -- nor, one might add, in any other during his national career -- but detachment has served him well. He understands that this election, like the election of 1980, demands only one thing of the challenger: Make yourself acceptable. Once Ronald Reagan convinced America that he was not menacing, he won in a landslide. If Obama convinces the electorate he is not too exotic or green or unprepared, he wins as well.
 

 

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