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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Dems ought not count on Sarah Barracuda to blow the VP debate

PrestoPundit Greg Ransom has an embedded video of Sarah Palin at the final gubernatorial debate before her November 2006 general election victory over Democrat Tony Knowles and independent Andrew Halcro. It's about 84 minutes long, and much of it (especially the middle third) was focused on issues that are unique to Alaska, such as whether to pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing rural residents' preferential rights to fish & game harvests during times of shortage. But having watched the whole thing, it's clear to me that Gov. Palin responds as well in a pressured debate setting as she's done in the one-on-one TV interviews I've previously seen her in.

And there were certainly flashes of Sarah Barracuda, especially near the end (at about 74 minutes into the video):

[Moderator:] Now is the chance for the candidates to ask each other questions, so hold onto your hats. Keep your questions brief. You will have a minute to respond, thirty seconds to rebut. Ms. Palin, let's go ahead with you. To whom do you want to ask a question?

[Palin:] To Tony Knowles. He had just said there was no last-minute maneuvering in his administration as he left office. And what we can learn from the past! In the past in fact, during your last year as governor there, Tony, your chief of staff issued a memo to your cabinet that asked them to come up with proposals to put legislators in a box, essentially to make it difficult on the legislators as you were leaving office. And at the time that you had responded to that, to a reporter's question, saying there was no cause for concern. Are you aware now of the impact of that lack of leadership and your gridlock, what that caused the people of Alaska?

[Moderator:] You have one minute to respond, Mr. Knowles.

[Knowles, with startled deer in headlights look, followed by nervous laugh]: Hah! I have no idea what you're driving at.  Uh, the fact of the matter is [cough] we had, um, in my last year in office, I think, uh, some great directions, in terms of keeping the economy moving, uh, in keeping Denali KidCare, in keeping the job situation good in Alaska. Uh, we were emphasizing, uh, the things, uh, continuing the things that we had done, uh, for the previous seven years. Uh, I'm proud of the things we did, we worked with the legislature. Uh, there were checks and balances. Uh, and I'm proud of the way in which the transition took place.

[Moderator:] Ms. Palin, you have 30 seconds to rebut.

[Palin:] Well, what I was driving at was exactly that, that there was gridlock, and much of that was caused in that last year by that memo asking your cabinet to find ways to put the legislators in kind of more untenable positions. And what I have learned, in the private sector and in the public arena in all these years, is that it is amazing how much you can accomplish when you do commit to working with others, not against them, but with others. And it is also amazing to consider how much you can accomplish when you don't care who gets the credit at the end of the day, as long as you all have a goal in mind and you're working together to reach that goal.

[Moderator:] Mr. Knowles, you get to ask the next question. Payment in kind? Or to Mr. Halcro?

[Knowles:] Well, I'd like to elevate the discussion to an interest that the public — to something that the public is more interested in, and it goes back to subsistence....

Knowles continued with a question to Palin about fish & game management, and while I'm not entirely sure I understood all of the local implications, it appeared to me that she proceeded to gut and fillet him with her answer — pointing out that among other problems, it would be impractical in a constitutional amendment, of the sort Knowles had proposed as governor and was again supporting, to define who was "rural" for purposes of a "rural preference," given the vastly differential rates of growth among Alaskan towns and cities. Knowles' rebuttal consisted of him listing the good old boys (my term and assumption, not his words) he'd worked closely with (presumably behind closed doors) who were all in favor of a constitutional amendment, even though the legislature had then rejected it. (Listing good old boys was probably not the best approach to take in running against a reform candidate like Palin.)

When it was Halcro's turn, he asked another question that absoloutely savaged Knowles, prompting another pathetic plea from Knowles to "elevate the tone" of the debate. When asked by the moderator if she wanted to opine on the issue Halcro had raised (which basically was an accusation that Knowles was "absent without leadership" during his two terms), Palin deadpanned: "I'm just glad that I'm sitting here between 'em to see that it doesn't get out of hand." (In fairness, I think she may have borrowed that line after Halcro had used it in a previous debate.)

At the end of the debate, each candidate was asked if they were elected, would they hire either of the others to help run the state. Palin said she'd hire Halcro as the state statistician, a wry reference to his wonkdom. Pressed about Knowles, she joked that perhaps she'd hire him as the Governor's Mansion chef since she knew he loved to cook — an ironic statement, given that one of her first acts when she did become governor was to find another government job for the actual Governor's Mansion chef, on grounds that it was an unnecessary expense and she and Todd would rather cook for their family — and then added more seriously that she doubted Knowles would want to move to Juneau to work for a Palin administration in any capacity. Knowles sanctimoniously said that he wouldn't discuss hiring anyone until he was hired himself, so ask him after election day. And Halcro — displaying a nasty streak that has since been made more evident in his dogged criticism of Palin on his blog — said he was "sure" he could find "some position" for both Sarah Palin and Tony Knowles. Pressed further, he wisecracked, "At the kids' table at Thanksgiving Dinner." In my opinion, any credibility Halcro had gained in the previous ninety minutes evaporated then. 


As for debates in general, consider this passage about the 2006 gubernatorial election from Kaylene Johnson's biography Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down (at pages 103-04; boldface mine):

[Knowles and Halcro] accepted invitations to twenty-five debates and forums in forty-five days [after the primaries and before the general election]. Their strategy was to wear Sarah down and expose her as a political lightweight.

"Knowles and Halcro felt the more they could debate her, the better they'd do," recalled [KTUU-Anchorage news correspondent] Bill McAllister. The Democrats wanted to pin her down on the particulars of public policy. "She deflected all that stuff," McAllister said, "and they were frustrated that she wouldn't participate."

In her typical style, Sarah refused to play their game. Rather than sell her positions on specific issues, she sold herself as a new voice for Alaskans.

Sarah likened herself to a quarterback, drawing on the strengths of individual players. "When they get out there and they read the defense and see that the circumstances are changing, that quarterback has to call an audible and has to be able to communicate with the key players," she said.

She said her positions were clear: She was running as a fiscal conservative, a reformer, and an advocate for the people of Alaska.

"I'm offering Alaskans what our state needs and that's a new governor with new energy, with a vision for change, for integrity, for prosperity and for success," she said.

Knowles and Halcro jumped on every opportunity to discredit Sarah, chiding her for being a "no show" at some candidate events. In one instance, Sarah declined a forum invitation so that she could attend a send-off for troops being deployed from Fort Richardson to Iraq. [GOP lieutenant governor candidate] Sean Parnell went in Sarah's place. Given three minutes to make a statement, he explained that his running mate had chosen to be with the men and women who were putting their lives on the line in service to their country. She wanted to support their families and trusted that the audience understood the importance of thanking the troops for their sacrifices. Parnell told the audience that Sarah looked forward to future discussions about raising the bar in Alaskan government, and that she hoped she would have an opportunity to serve Alaskans as their governor.

McAllister remembers that Knowles was visibly upset. Sarah's choice to spend time with the troops lifted her above the fray. Whether she intended it that way or not, Sarah had won the debate without even being there.

There were a ridiculous twenty-six debates in the 2008 Democratic primary season. Biden participated in fourteen of them. And after those fourteen debates, he won zero delegates before dropping out on January 3, 2008. By contrast, after Sarah Palin's 20-plus debates in 2006, she took 48% of the general election vote, to Knowles' 40% and Halcro's 9%.

Posted by Beldar at 12:48 AM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Dems ought not count on Sarah Barracuda to blow the VP debate and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


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» My first YouTube Video: Sarah Palin - Wonder Woman! from Random Numbers

Tracked on Sep 4, 2008 7:38:23 AM


(1) arb made the following comment | Sep 2, 2008 1:57:54 AM | Permalink

"She said her positions were clear: She was running as a fiscal conservative, a reformer, and an advocate for the people of Alaska."

Replace 'Alaska' with 'America.'

Replace Bush/Cheney with McCain/Palin.

Works for me.

(2) joyce made the following comment | Sep 2, 2008 3:03:57 AM | Permalink

She's awesome! Just the kind of new blood we need in government to shake up business as usual...and to reform the good old boys club. Obama sure won't do it.

(3) Daryl Herbert made the following comment | Sep 2, 2008 4:48:39 AM | Permalink

Replace Bush/Cheney with McCain/Palin.

That's the idea.

(4) Bud Norton made the following comment | Sep 2, 2008 1:23:43 PM | Permalink

"And it is also amazing to consider how much you can accomplish when you don't care who gets the credit at the end of the day . . . ." Very Reaganesque; I like her even more.

(5) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Sep 2, 2008 2:44:09 PM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: On an unrelated note: one of Palin's qualifications voters may wonder about are judcial nominations. What sort of judges would Palin appoint? She has appointed many, including a justice to the Alaska Supreme Court. But the nominations won't tell you much about Palin, because, alas, Alaska has fallen under the tyranny of the Missouri Plan, an infamous scheme swallowed by a dozen states to make the judiciary safe for the bar associations. It works this way: a Judicial Council composed of four lawyers (including the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court) and three sheep a/k/a nonlawyers investigates prospective candidates and recommends a list to the governor. The guv has 45 days to choose someone from the list---no going outside allowed. If the gov is unhappy with the entire list, tough bananas: if the gov don't appoint in 45 days, the Council gets to appoint. Of the seven members, the lawyers are chosen by the Bar Association, the sheep are nominated by the Governor with the consent of the Alaska Senate. Periodically, all judges must face retention elections. Want to know how the judges have performed? The Council will tell you, so you don't have to worry your little head. So "Palin's" appointments do not necessarily reflect who she would pick, and we sit in the dark on this question.

The Council's website has much more detail, very amusing in an unintentional way here:


Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

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