Debate 'Straight Talk': Sarah Palin and Joe Biden's Meeting Won't Matter in the End

Palin could have spelled her name correctly and been praised.


Let's have some "straight talk" about Thursday's vice presidential debate, as Sen. John McCain puts it so often. Just because Gov. Sarah Palin did not implode as she did in the CBS interview with Katie Couric, it is no measure of her strength as a potential successor to the presidency.

Palin must have studied her lines carefully in the debate prep. She laced her answers with homespun bromides and a smile and a wink. But if she changed many minds on the basis of that performance, I'd be surprised.

Sen. Joe Biden was in his element when foreign policy was the focus, although he made his best cases for change on the failing economy and Palin's fuzzy thinking on the environment.

The spin in post-debate comments was predictable and, in Palin's case, a laugher. Fox News Channel trotted out its usual cast of GOP believers to tell you what to think.

Leave it to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani to claim that Palin won the debate and "hit it out of the park." Giuliani was the leader in the polls before the GOP race started but easily the worst debater among the so-called first tier in the GOP primaries. We all know how that ended.

David Brooks, the New York Times columnist who can be unpredictable, reverted to form. He claimed a huge comeback for Palin after the Couric interview. Palin could have spelled her name correctly and done better than that inarticulate and stumbling showing.

Of course, both candidates made exaggerated and even wrong claims. But there was little or no mention of Palin's hope to add some influence in the Senate as the presiding officer. Sorry, governor, as Biden pointed out, that is your only constitutional duty.

After the Kennedy-Johnson ticket won in 1960, Vice President-elect Lyndon Johnson wanted to extend his power of directing the Senate. As the Senate majority leader for so long, LBJ thought he could muscle in. The new leader, Sen. Mike Mansfield of Montana, told him nicely to take a hike, and other Democrats agreed.

Finally, McCain and his right-wing allies on talk radio owe PBS moderator Gwen Ifill an apology. Talking out of both sides of his mouth, McCain said Ifill would be fair and then questioned how she could be when she was writing a book that would be favorable to Barack Obama. She hasn't written a line yet about Obama.

Ifill was fair and performed with grace. End of that story line.

Actually, this debate will have little or no influence on the outcome of the election. It is Obama versus McCain on November 4, and this meeting in St. Louis will be long forgotten.