Note: This was written just before the Vice Presidential debate. Let’s see how my predictive powers work.
Governor Sarah Palin has certainly made this election interesting. If John McCain had picked someone like PA Governor Tom Ridge, he would be quietly cruising to a crushing loss right now. As it is, he is the underdog, but he isn’t going quietly.
Tonight’s debate should be like watching a demolition derby. Like cars in a demolition derby, both candidates have serious weakness that could come out. Governor Sarah Palin is new to national debates, and could easily answer some questions badly. To her credit, she is intelligent, charming, and very persuasive when she knows her stuff. Her Alaska gubernatorial debates show this. OTOH, Senator Biden has a history both of plagiarizing, of telling outright lies, and of putting his foot in his mouth. He is always one syllable away from extreme stupidity. He is worst when he goes off script. In fact, the only way you could be sure that he is speaking the truth, is if he was plagiarizing from George Washington. However, he knows a lot of stuff, so if he controls his tongue, he will be formidable.
In addition to these factors, there is the non-neutrality of the moderator, Gwen Ifill. She has a book coming out on January 20, 2009 (Inauguration Day), titled “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.” If Obama is elected, she will get good book royalties. If McCain is sworn in on January 20, her book will go straight to the bargain bin. She doesn’t see any conflict of interest, but really, she has tens of thousands of dollars riding on Barack Obama’s election. She is about as neutral as I would be if I refereed a Browns-Steelers game. After I bet $10,000 on the Steelers. If that isn’t enough of a conflict of interest, she has publicly gushed about Obama, while noticeably grimacing during Sarah Palin’s speech. There is no doubt who she is voting for.
If Life Imitates Chess, as Garry Kasparov’s recent book suggests, then this match resembles a talented youngster against an aging Grandmaster, who is drunk and has the beginning symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Anything can happen. [Of course, if life really imitated chess, Garry Kasparov would now be Prime Minister of Russia.]
Given these facts, I suggest that Sarah Palin’s best strategy is to take the initiative and launch an all out attack that will disrupt the course of the debate. This will accentuate her strengths and cover her weaknesses.
In her opening remarks, she should charmingly but pointedly reveal the conflict of interest that the moderator has, including the thousands of dollars of book royalties that she has riding on Obama’s election. She is known for battling corruption, so she should first battle the corrupt moderator, and show the audience that Gwen Ifill has no business pretending to be a “neutral” moderator.
Having established the moderator’s bias, she should feel free to occasionally ignore the moderator’s questions, essentially “firing” the moderator, and freeing herself to talk about the subjects that she thinks are important and that she knows best. One part of media bias is that the media gets to ask the questions. Even if the questions are framed neutrally, the very fact that they are the questions that are asked sets the tone of the debate. Some questions just don’t get asked, and therefore don’t get answered. Whenever Governor Palin feels like it, she should feel free to answer Ms. Ifill’s questions by saying “That’s an interesting question, Gwen, but I really want to talk about is Senator Obama’s relationship to Tony Rezko and Bill Ayers….”
This will have two beneficial effects. One will be to expose the bias of the mainstream media, who are about 98% for Obama. The other is that both Ms. Ifill and Senator Biden will be thrown off message. The more Senator Biden gets off message, the more likely he is to blunder, and say something that will be all over YouTube tomorrow. It is a high risk, high reward strategy.
Now let’s log off and see if anything like this happens…