I mostly listened to the Vice Presidential debate on radio, though I did get to see some of it on TV. Palin held her own and well exceeded the low expectations that the media had set for her. She was confident, poised and articulate -- even as she faced off against the verbosity machine that is Joe Biden. Biden was...Biden. He spoke quickly with an authority that is designed to make his statements seem like fact -- even when they aren't. Palin took him on effectively, and wasn't afraid to confront Biden's frequent exaggerations. I thought that had John McCain done that well last week against Obama the Republicans would be in better shape today.
Palin missed some chances tonight, specifically to refute the Obama-Biden claim that McCain was responsible for deregulation which got us into this mess. That's clearly only part of the story; Congress has been a big part of the problem by forcing too much regulation on Fannie and Freddie. If Fannie and Freddie had been forced to react to market risks on loans, they would never have made the vast number of sub-prime loans that they did.
Palin also missed a big chance to wack Biden on the War in Iraq -- specifically on his claim that Obama supports the same withdrawal plan that Maliki and Bush are negotiating about. Hello? The only reason anyone is talking about a withdrawal now is because of the surge that John McCain supported and Biden and Obama opposed. I wish that Palin had hit him over the head with that.
One thing that I didn't like about Palin's performance tonight: her consistent use of "corruption" and "greed" to describe Wall Street. Certainly, some corruption always exists at the nexus of money and public policy -- but to make blanket statements that tar and feather an entire sector of our economy is populism worthy of John Edwards, not the Republican Veep candidate. The mess we are in is more about the corruption of Capitol Hill and the lax interest rate policies of the Fed than it is any systemic disease on Wall Street. Banks took advantage of the rules and pushed the limits to make money. With risk comes reward -- and often failure.
Also, I would have liked to hear Palin say also that the behavior of borrowers played a role in this mess, too -- and that it wasn't just the responsibility of "predatory lenders". People have to take personal responsibility for their decisions, and if this is not a theme promoted by McCain-Palin then they become nothing more than the victim-baiters that Obama-Biden are.
In any event, my suggestion to John McCain is this: Set Sarah Free!
Let her go. Let her be spontaneous. Let her be the maverick, fun woman that she is. She's the only candidate who can relate to the American people as a real person. It is something that helps to differentiate the McCain-Palin ticket from Obama (effete, Chicago intellectual) and Biden (career Senator). It's what turned on the Republican base and got independents excited about McCain after the Convention. He needs to let her work her magic.
McCain's campaign -- and thus his chances to be president -- are in bad shape at this point. All polls in the battleground states are now leaning for Obama. He needs to do something dramatic to turn this around.