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The Vice-Presidential Debate - Live

Justin Webb | 01:47 UK time, Friday, 3 October 2008


I'll be live-blogging tonight's vice-presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. I do hope you join me.

Before I start, I cannot resist a thought about Gwen Ifill and her book.

What were they all thinking? Of course she should not be the moderator. She has written a positive book about the political forces that brought one of the main candidates to the fore and she stands to profit from his elevation. Duh?

For a nation stuffed with "professors" of journalism (again, guys, not a serious academic subject in my book) this really does seem to be an elementary mistake...

Now - on to the debate (and please do refresh the page regularly to read my updates).

2005: Palin is on fire! She darts across the stage and wants to know if she can call him Joe! She can! Round one to her.

2006: Biden's first answer on the bail out is nice and dull - just how he wants to keep it.

2009: Thanks to John McCain all is OK, Palin claims. She survives her first answer. Neither answers the question by the way, but apparently no-one cares about that.

2010: She is doing fine but it looks so staged. Will it convince Joe Six Pack?

2011: Well done Gwen! She points out they don't answer the questions - they giggle. So what.

2014: She mentioned Joe (Six Pack) - and managed a good answer about Wall St greed - populist but not shrill. Biden is telling a story about filling a tank of gas. Don't know why.

2017: "I may not answer the questions, but I want to talk straight to the American people," she says! And leaps into a prepared spiel. Gosh yes, let's ditch the questions.

2019: Joe Biden talks about "the people listening to this broadcast" - does he not know TV has been invented? Old codger alert.

2023: She does not try to come back to Biden on healthcare, and they are on to the next question.

2025: What promises have you made that you cannot keep? That is the question. It is almost surreal - neither of them even pretend to answer. Maybe Gwen is too busy writing her book to notice...

2027: She is completely at sea when Gwen notices that she hasn't answered and asks her to give it a go. She does not. Insulting, frankly, to any serious viewer.

2030: Oh dear - we have John McCain to thank for too much of what Palin is saying, I suspect, for it to be entirely credible. She describes herself as a Main-Streeter. I wonder about that. You need to be connected to Main Street, but not necessarily from it to run for high office.

2031: Biden is waffling - but, oh dear, she is off again on energy, with no apology for failing even to nod at the question. She is off the reservation.

2032: Palin on the impact of climate change: "I am not one to attribute every activity of man to changes in the climate". Eh?

2035: Biden says climate change is man made - yikes. Not sure there are votes in such certainty, but at least he knows what he thinks.

2036: She is equally committed to drilling for oil - again it's a sensitive one.

2039: They are on to gay rights now - this is an opportunity to show a gentler side and a more inclusive one - very important to middle-ground voters. She says she is tolerant. Hmm - Not of witches...

2041: No support for gay marriage from either candidate. She looks uncomfortable.

2046: He really has destroyed her on the war. She has slogans. He can talk about it.

2049: Can she manage to pick her way through the hills of Pakistan and Afghanistan now? Biden can and does and threatens again to attack Bin Laden in Pakistan. Palin is back to memorised sound bites on Iran.

2056: She has made no mistakes except that she doesn't appear to know much about anything. Is this a problem? Biden is off again on the Middle East - but Joe, there is such a thing as too much detail. Gaza, Lebanon, Hamas, West Bank, East Bank (only kidding).

2057: There have been huge blunders, she says - and now a memorized piece about looking forward not back.

2059: Great riff from Biden on McCain being like Bush in various areas of foreign policy. She has no answer. Literally.

2105: She comes back for the first time - on Afghanistan - with a decent answer. She challenges his interpretation of what the general said about the idea of a surge in Afghanistan. Biden looks surprised.

2106: Cute jab from her on the war - accusing Biden of being for the war before he was against it. Great line that - it still hurts Democrats. Where detailed knowledge is unnecessary she is sparkly and almost convincing.

2108: Oh my: "John McCain knows what Evil is"! This is an argument? Barmy.

2115: Wow - Biden says he would do everything Obama would do, but she veers off and makes it plain she and McCain disagree and she and he are happy with that. This is a positive:- she sounds much more like a proper politician. But also a negative as it draws attention to the fact that she might become president.

2117: Joe Biden just sounding a little full of Joe Biden now. This is the danger for him.

2122: What is your Achilles heel? Palin says she does not have one. She is off on another memorized rant - "shining city on a hill" etc. He is as bad. Oh dear. Someone interrupt them!

2125: Biden almost cries talking about his awful tragic past. Did he plan this? I wonder... "We have got to win the war," she says, before embarking on another rant. ANSWER THE QUESTION.

2126: Biden has done us at least one service tonight anyway - he is off on a "McCain is no maverick" attack. Much better at it than Obama.

2128: The last two questions are idiotic, just allowing the candidates to waffle. And Joe does, with a story about how wonderful he is. Oh no - they may have to over-run.

Conclusion: Again, my overall view of these is that they are rendered dreadful by weak moderation and pathetic questioning. Biden did better tonight, no serious person could deny that he avoided some of the big pitfalls (sexism and bloviating) and scored some bit hits. I thought perhaps that she came over as slightly more amiable - talking about her inclusive family with a variety of views - than she has in the past and that might help her.

But although she can memorise things, she plainly does not know them. Does that matter?

At the end she looks like his daughter ,but what is going on with her voice? It cuts glass.


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