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This morning, hard as it may be, the MSM is forced to recognize that Sarah Palin did rather well last night, during the vice-presidential debate in Missouri.
Everybody had predicted that her limits would appear clearly during this confrontation, and finally, she revealed herself as a very good debater. CNN polls show that 84% people asked thought that she did better than expected.
She really appeared as the "Washington outsider" she has wanted to be since McCain chose her as his running-mate.
She declared her intentions from the outset, greeting her Democratic rival by saying: "Hi, nice to meet you, can I call you Joe?" Dressed in black, Mrs Palin went on to blithely declare "I may not answer the questions the way you or the moderator want to hear."
Let's remind our readers that the moderator, Gwen Ifill, is a pro-Obama journalist, as we explained yesterday, which is quite surprising indeed, as generally, journalists are supposed to be neutral !
Often Sarah Palin did not even try. Instead, she pivoted out of difficult issues into home-spun anecdotes designed to connect with voters. Asked about the economy, she replied: "Go to a kids' soccer game on Saturday and turn to any parent there on the sideline and ask them, 'How are you feeling about the economy? And I'll betcha you're going to hear some fear in that parent's voice’."
Palin’s answers were chatty, down-to-earth. She appeared as a very pragmatic person, a mother who is preoccupied with the future of her children.
The Governor of Alaska, whose recent performances in TV interviews have become the object of public ridicule, offered a "big shout out to third graders" watching from her brother's school and promised them they would get "extra credits". She reminded the public that she came from a family of school-teachers.
Her sentences were sprinkled with the lexicon of the American frontier. “Darn right it was the predator lenders,” Mrs Palin said in response to about who was responsible to for the current crisis. "Let’s commit ourselves, just everyday American people — Joe Six-Pack, hockey moms across the nation — I think we need to band together and say, never again.” She later added, for good measure, "doggone it".
Mrs Palin was also ready for her critics. “How long have I been at this? Like five weeks,” Mrs Palin said in discussing the economic crisis. “So there hasn’t been a whole lot I have promised, except to do what is right for the American people, put government back on the side of the American people, stop the greed and corruption on Wall Street."
Mr Biden, a six-term Senator and experienced debater who has spent 34 more years than his rival on the national stage, was careful to not appear condescending or aggressive. When he attacked, his aimed high towards the Republican presidential nominee rather than at his female running mate.
“Until two weeks ago John McCain said at 9 in the morning that the fundamentals of the economy were strong,” Mr Biden said. “Two weeks before that, he said we’ve made great economic progress under George Bush’s policies. Nine o’clock, the economy was strong; 11 that same day, two Mondays ago, John McCain said that we have an economic crisis. That doesn’t make John McCain a bad guy, but it does point out he’s out of touch."
Joe Biden often retreated back to his record of Senate votes to explain policy positions.
"I have almost as many friends on the Republican side of the aisle as on the Democratic side of the aisle," he said, underlining his bi-partisan credentials.
But Sarah Palin took advantage of these references to his Senate record, to insist on the necessity for change, giving the impression that the choice of Biden as vice-president was a proof that Obama was contradicting himself when he spoke of the "Change we need".
Finally and paradoxically, during this debate, Sarah Palin was the one who embodied change :
"I do respect your years in the United States Senate, but I think Americans are craving something new and different."
Later, in a clash on Iraq, Mrs Palin accused him of "waving the white flag of surrender: and said: "It's so obvious that I'm a Washington outsider and not used to the way you guys operate. You voted for the war and now you are against the war - a lot of Americans are just craving that straight talk."
She conceded "there have been huge blunders with the war, there have been huge blunders with the administration" but added that Barack Obama and Mr Biden spent too much time looking back and "pointing fingers" whereas a McCain administration would "forge ahead".
On climate change on which Mrs Palin has previously expressed scepticism about whether it is made by greenhouse gas emissions, she said: "I don't want to argue about the causes, we know that it's real, but I'm not one to attribute every activity of man to changes on our planet. I want to argue about how are we going to get there to positively effect the impacts."Mr Biden replied: “I think it’s clearly man-made. If you don’t understand what the cause is, it’s virtually impossible to come up with a solution.”
Although everybody had asserted she had very little knowledge on environment, her answers on energy were fairly good. And on the contrary, it seems that on this issue, Biden and Obama need to do some work, addressing clean energy and energy independence, because Obama's programme seems vague, not to say non-existent in this field. Has he ever thought about this issue ?
While Bill Clinton was insisting on the environmental stakes during his Global Initiative meeting in New York a few days ago, Obama did not even bother to come on stage, while McCain delivered a very good speech. So are the environment and global warming a priority for the Democratic nominee ? It does not seem so !
Maybe Obama will have to ask the former Democratic president to give him good advice on the subject, if he becomes president, otherwise the rest of the world may know other difficult times in the future ...
On the economy, which has now become so central to the last four weeks of the race, Ms Palin scorned the notion of wealth distribution, charging that Mr Obama, with his promise to raise taxes on the rich, was seeking to reignite class warfare in America. She criticized him for suggesting, in a recent interview. that tax increases were patriotic. "In the middle class where Todd and I have spent all our lives this is not patriotic," she said, adding that families should be allowed "grow, thrive and prosper".
Mr Biden replied that in the hard-scrabble towns of Scranton, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware, where he grew up, "we don't call it re-distribution, we call it it fairness".
And he had his own moment of emotion as he choked up momentarily when describing the death of his wife and daughter in car crash in 1972 and how he had to raise his two young sons alone.
Commentators are saying that the confrontation didn’t change many votes. But it will take a day or so to find out what the real impact of the debate is on voters.
Even if we may indeed already predict that yesterday's debate probably will do little to change the course of this race, we can at least assert that something has changed this morning : the American and French media will have to revise the vocabulary they use to speak about Sarah Palin, and stop their stupid, unjustified, sexist attacks against this competent, charismatic "hockey mom."