Thursday, October 2, 2008

Don't Expect Tina Fey

I missed my chance to say this before Sarah Palin's convention speech and was kicking myself for it, so I'm not going to make that mistake again. I'm going on record right now to say that Palin's debate performance tonight is going to be quite strong. Given her recent record at interviews, I know that I'm going out on a limb here, but I really think she's not going to blow it the way that many (me included) are hoping she will.

First of all, as Jack Shafer has pointed out, the debate format for tonight isn't really conducive to an actual debate in the traditional sense where the candidates engage each other on a series of issues. Rather the format is more akin to a dueling press conference where each side gets a sound bite sized length of time to make their case and then it's on to the next point. No question that Palin can hit her marks, it's when she's pushed beyond the usual talking points that she gets into trouble. As Katie Couric has learned, using the phrase "what specifically ..." is pretty much like flipping a switch on the Sarah Palin gibberish answer machine. But again, the format of the debate doesn't really allow for anyone to push for specific answers on things like what newspapers she reads.

The fact is that Tina Fey is not going to be showing up for the debate tonight. Instead, we're going to have a well-prepped, chock full o' sound bites Sarah Palin. Given how low the expectations are for her tonight, pretty much anything other than drooling on herself or removing herself from the ticket in the middle of the debate is going to be considered a victory. That's a pretty low bar to get over.

P.S. My new favorite Palin interview moment is her response to a question about the bailout. Her answer occasionally borders on coherence, but sounds much more like a list of talking points got put into a blender and were then recited in a stream of consciousness manner that would make James Joyce say, "Huh?" Don't expect to see a repeat of that one.

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