Saturday, October 04, 2008

Sara Palin: The Republican Vice-Presidential nominee with near-normal intelligence

Everyone is in agreement. Sara Palin was a huge success in the Vice-Presidential debate Thursday night by not falling flat on her face. Remember when conservatives used to talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations? Well, she exceeded the expectations of voters all across America -- including many Republican activists -- by failing to fail, which, of course is more than can be said for the current Republican occupant of the White House.

Hendrick Hertzberg has these observations:
Well, if what we want is a perky President (actuarial probabilities being what they are), the choice is clear: go whalin’ with Palin! No doubt about it, she’s as cute as a Goldwater button. And if by some chance she doesn’t put McCain over the top, her next career move is obvious: co-hosting the perennially last-place CBS morning program. She could ace the cooking and celebrity segments, and by the time this campaign is over she’ll even know enough about legislation and foreign policy and stuff like that to banter with Jeff Greenfield and handle serious interviews with people like Richard Holbrooke and Michael Beschloss. “The Early Show,” with Harry Smith and Sarah Palin.

Did she “win” last night? In a way. She stanched the bleeding. If her activities for the next month can be limited to charming the “base” at rallies, chatting with right-wing talk-radio and Fox News hosts, and granting interviews to dim, carefully vetted “Eyewitness News” local anchors, she probably will do no further damage to the Republican ticket. Given the disasters of the last couple of weeks, that counts as victory. Maybe not Trafalgar-type victory, but Iraq-type. The surge has succeeded.

The choppy format, which discouraged follow-ups, saved her, along with Gwen Ifill’s tendency to ask questions (Does the financial crisis show the best of Washington or the worst of Washington? What’s scarier, a nuclear Iran or an unstable Afghanistan?) that could be answered with the word “both.” Beyond the “Animal Farm” certainties—taxes bad, victory good—and the hockey-mom patter, Palin had nothing to say, but she said it without too much of the usual syntactical chaos. The talking points and the buzzwords (maverick, the people’s side) got her through.

Most of the commentators, again, seemed to get it wrong, mainly because they were grading on a curve. Palin did “better than expected.” On the other hand, she had been expected to do so poorly that she could hardly fail to do better than expected, i.e., she was expected to do better than expected, which means that she did about as well as expected. But according to the insta-polls, the electorate, as opposed to what I once called the expectorate, seems to have concluded fairly clearly that Biden “won,” possibly because what the electorate was expecting was a debate between two candidates for Vice-President, not the raw materials for some arcane calculation of who exceeded whose expectations. Biden succeeded in making a case for the Obama-Biden ticket. Palin succeeded mainly in making a case that she, Palin, is a person of near-normal intelligence and great superior adorability.
The world has been fascinated by the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee with near-normal intelligence and superior adorability. Here is how Japan saw the debate:

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