Oct 01 2008

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Palin V. Biden

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It is symptomatic of this volatile campaign season that early calls by the Left for an orchestrated coup to dump Joe Biden in favor of Hillary Clinton have now crossed the spectrum with panicky conservatives calling for the removal of Sarah Palin.

Can it be only a month since John McCain put Palin on the ticket?

Introduced as a youthful conservative and activist reformer, the Governor surprised crowds, wooed pundits and energized the Republican grass roots in a way that few could have predicted. With little preparation, Palin delivered the best speech of the convention season and brought a spirited and feisty presence to the GOP ticket.

But over the course of a month, the outdoors-loving mother of five has been the subject of unrelenting attacks on her experience, values, principles and religious beliefs. Feminists have laid bare the liberal credentials required to be a modern woman in good standing and found Palin wonting. No member of the Commentariat has ever held Obama or Biden to the standard that Palin has been scrutinized by. Saturday Night Live expertly echoes the gathered liberal critique on Palin by most recently satirizing her as a dumb brunette with redneck sensibilities.

Palin herself has not been helped by her interviews to date. Through Gibson, Hannity and Couric, she has come across as scripted and tentative at best on major issues of the day. Somewhere between her boffo convention speech and the interviews, the people advising Palin seem to have swapped her self-confidence and solid political instincts for safe, canned answers that simply have not worked.

With the GOP ticket six points down and ominous polling trends emerging, McCain needs the old Palin back for the debate on Thursday.

Not that the Governor gets the benefit of a level playing field on Thursday before a single word is uttered. Debate “moderator” Gwen Ifill has let drop the fact that she plans to publish a book on Barack Obama and other “inspiring” black leaders, timed, most certainly coincidental, with the January presidential inauguration.

Does anybody honestly believe that Ms Ifill can be objective in this debate with her book on Obama in final edit? Does not her financial interest in the defeat of McCain-Palin create an alarming conflict of interest?

The Commentariat clucks on as if even raising an issue of conflict is an insult to Ms Ifill’s professionalism, who can no doubt publish gushing prose about Obama and still be neutral in the only vice presidential debate of the year. You need only imagine a conservative substitute, Britt Hume maybe, or Sean Hannity, to recognize the instant outrage and scandal that would erupt from the Left under similar circumstances for them.

So Palin is not only debating Biden, she’s going to have to take on Ifill too, who apparently, book sales aside, is already full of scorn for the Alaska governor in her own right. To draw or win, Palin must be on the offensive to deflect Ifill smugness and prevent Biden or Ifill from pigeonholing her.

One need only remember the Quayle VP debate from 1992 to see the potential problems here.  All the doubts about his presidential timber? The first question was about the first thing Quayle would do after acceding to the presidency after the death of the president. A ludicrous question as so much would depend on timing and circumstance.

But instead of deflecting the question, Quayle tried to answer it head on and fell right into the trap. He started out by stating that he would, “say a prayer for the nation,” and it went down hill from there. Despite his best efforts, he only inspired more doubts.

Palin cannot allow herself to fall into the trap. From the start, Palin needs to turn questions on the moderator. On the issue of experience and readiness, Palin needs to point out that she is the only on in the race with executive experience and a record of executive accomplishments. “Senator Biden manages the budget for the Foreign Relations Committee, I managed the budget for the state of Alaska.”

She should challenge the experience doubters directly and say that those who still doubt  her ability to handle the vice presidency should carefully examine Obama’s qualifications as the presidential nominee which pale in comparison. “If you look at the number of days that Senator Obama has actually been in the Senate doing his day job, as opposed to the campaign trail running for president, I’ve actually been on the job longer.”

This is the Palin who can confidently talk about the energy crisis in America and her experience as an energy state governor. She can hammer Biden for his opposition to clean coal (read West Virginia and Pennsylvania) and remind voters that Biden was one of only five Democrats to vote against the Alaska pipeline in 1973, the last time we were in the middle of an energy crisis and desperate for alternatives to Middle East oil.

She can present the McCain menu-option energy plan and point out how vacuous and loophole-ridden the Obama plan truly is, shackled as it is to environmental special interests that put their agenda ahead of the American national interest. She needs to make it clear that energy independence is a national security issue. Biden’s already voted against it once, can we take that risk again?

Foreign policy is Biden’s turf, and Palin shouldn’t try to match him. Rather, Palin should play jujitsu with his time in office and with his record.

In 35 years, what has Biden done? He is touted for his foreign policy gravitas, but what is that record? For starters, he’s been in the Senate long enough to have been wrong on both the Cold War and the War on Terror.

  • He supported a nuclear freeze to give the Soviets nuclear equality when it was Reagan’s “peace through strength” brought down the Berlin Wall.
  • He voted against the first Gulf War when Iraq was the clear aggressor.
  • He voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq in 2003 based on the same intelligence that everyone else had, then opposed the war when the going got rough.
  • He proposed a partition plan for Iraq that was dismissed by experts and would have been a haven for Iran.
  • He has consistently opposed the Surge in Iraq that is bringing peace and stability to Iraq with the promise of victory.

Palin could paraphrase Reagan and say, “It’s not what Obama-Biden know that bothers me.  Its how much of what they know is wrong.”

Palin needs to talk about her record taking on entrenched interests to promote reform and link it to the legislation currently before Congress to stabilize the market and the economy.  Better than McCain she can express the outrage of ordinary citizens, but also explain how essential the package is to Main Street.

Palin should use the financial crisis to discuss the Washington culture that abetted Wall Street greed, and that McCain-Palin will hold those responsible, accountable.

The campaign should check Biden votes on Freddie and Fannie and any amendments he has offered. It should also total all of Biden’s earmarks. Palin should ask Biden directly that beyond cuts to national defense,  what budget cuts has he ever supported or for that matter, which tax cuts has he supported.

Palin should close:

“I’m new and maybe less polished than many of the people you have become accustomed to in Washington.

But new doesn’t mean I don’t have a solid and strong record, and a lack of polish doesn’t mean I’m not determined. We are in an unprecedented time for our country, one that requires serious people with honest answers.

As John McCain’s running mate, our ticket can bring experienced reform to Washington, ending earmark abuse, rooting out waste, making a leaner more transparent and accountable government for the people. We can expand our economy, improve out health care and education and protect our homeland. And these promises are credible because we have a record of doing it already, in Washington and in Juneau.

It is time for your elected leaders to re-earn your trust in your government. If you give us a chance, John McCain and I will serve each day with that goal in mind.

I thank you for watching, and I ask for your vote.”

That’s at least a start.

On to the debate.

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