Wanna Grow, Grow Up to Be, Be a Debater


I think the one-day burst of enthusiasm about Sarah Palin has been fading here, if only among the pundit class. The new, new optimism centers on the presidential debates, where people expect two things to happen.

1) Barack Obama will get lost without his speeches and teleprompter and throw a debate to McCain.

2) Joe Biden will blunder into insulting Sarah Palin and she will mount a spirited, surprisingly knowledgeable counterrattack.

The first theory has some evidence behind it; radio host Guy Benson pointed me to stories of Obama needing a teleprompter with talking points even during a town hall meeting. It's an accepted truism here that Obama is a terrible, lightweight debater who lost every showdown with Hillary Clinton. This seems like spin: Obama's actually a perfectly adequate debater who lost every showdown with Clinton, and who doesn't get frazzled unless he's asked about one of his old political associations. The lucky thing for him is that our modern Commission on Presidential Debates fora don't go into that territory: If 270 minutes pass and Obama is never asked about Bill Ayers or Tony Rezko, he's home free.

As for Palin… look, at this point it's shredding McCain's straight talk image whenever someone from his campaign puts on an earpiece and pretends she's a decent VP pick. To wit:

For much of his long career in Washington, John McCain has been throwing darts at the special spending system known as earmarking, through which powerful members of Congress can deliver federal cash for pet projects back home with little or no public scrutiny. He's even gone so far as to publish "pork lists" detailing these financial favors.

Three times in recent years, McCain's catalogs of "objectionable" spending have included earmarks for this small Alaska town, requested by its mayor at the time—Sarah Palin.

The Washington Independent's Laura McGann is in Palin's home town, uncovering stuff like her sentiments about being mayor ("it's not rocket science") and the fact that McCain's team, all spin to the contrary, had no idea what the hell they were getting into. So it's too early to assume Palin won't be a disaster in a debate, too.