I've just been watching the debate on the BBC website, and it's hard to disagree. It's clear expectations weren't exactly high following Palin's embarrassing interview with Katie Couric last week, and many agree this helped to make last night's performance look better than it actually was.
Beacause here's the point – Palin doesn't really answer questions properly. She just reels off folksy nonsense (lots of "you betchas" and "darn rights"), and half the time it's difficult to even work out what she's talking about. I'll give you an example that relates to her religious beliefs, as it's most relevant to this blog. While neither candidate said they support gay marriage, they did address the issue of rights for same-sex couples. Here's what Biden said:
"The fact of the matter is that under the constitution, same-sex couples should be able to have visitation rights in the hospitals, joint ownership of property, life insurance policies, etc ... In an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple"And here's what Palin said:
"If there's any kind of suggestion at all from my answer that I would be anything but tolerant of adults in America choosing their partners, choosing relationships that they deem best for themselves. You know, I am tolerant, and I have a very diverse family and group of friends, and even within that group you would see some who may not agree with me on this issue, some very dear friends who don't agree with me on this issue. But in that tolerance, also, no one would ever propose, in a McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital, or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties. But, I will tell Americans straight-up that I don't support defining marriage as anything but between one man and one woman, and I think through nuances we can go round and round about what that actually means, but I'm being as straight-up with Americans as I can in my non-support for anything but a traditional definition of marriage."See what I mean? It's hard to get a straight answer from her, and she seems to lack any in-depth political knowledge. For anyone who expects that from someone who might end up being President, rather than mere populist platitudes, Biden clearly won the day.
Another telling exchange occurred, as Michael Tomasky points out, when the moderator asked them for their views on Dick Cheney's vice-presidency, which has seen him expand the position's powers and argue that it's part of the legislative branch. While Biden delivered a spot-on answer, it was the one question Palin wasn't prepared for and she stumbled through it embarassingly.
I've found the Cheney part of the debate on YouTube – it'll give you a good idea of what I'm talking about:
Update: Palin did make one clear gaffe - she repeatedly referred to US General David McKiernan, who's played a significant role in Iraq and Afghanistan, as General McLellan, who history students will know was commander of the Army of the Potomac in the opening year of the American Civil War. It seems Biden kindly ignored the gaffe, rather than opting to correct Palin.