Friday, October 03, 2008
Palin stands her ground in VP debate with Biden
In feisty debate with Democratic opponent, Republican vice presidential nominee accuses Obama of preparing to wave a 'white flag of surrender' in Iraq; both candidates express their support for Israel. Polls conducted immediately after debate declare Biden the winner
AP and Yitzhak Benhorin
WASHINGTON - A well-coached Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a novice on the American political stage and the first woman nominated by the Republicans as vice president, recited the party's campaign play book with ease. In a feisty debate with Democratic opponent Sen. Joe Biden, she accused his presidential running mate Barack Obama of preparing to wave a "white flag of surrender" in Iraq. Biden shot back Thursday night that she and Republican presidential nominee John McCain were "dead wrong" about Iraq from the beginning, and the United States was wasting $10 billion a month in that country while ignoring the real center of terrorism, Afghanistan and its mountainous shared border with Pakistan.
Palin: Don't 'second guess' Israel / Ynetnews
Republic vice presidential candidate says in interview to CBS that Israel must have the opportunity and ability to protect itself, emphasizes that US can't afford to send message that they would allow second Holocaust
According to polls conducted immediately after the debate, Biden defeated his opponent. In a CBS survey, 46% of respondents said the Democratic vice presidential candidate overpowered the Republican nominee, while only 22% said Palin had won.
A CNN poll also crowned Biden the winner, with 51%, while Palin was supported by only 36% of respondents.
Americans voters were treated to one of the most intensely awaited political exchanges in an already historic presidential campaign that has stretched across well more than a year and culminates with the US financial system threatened with collapse and voters facing the possibility of economic pain not felt in the country since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Palin also charged Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, of voting against funding for US troops in combat and chastised Biden for defending the move, "especially with your son in the National Guard" and headed for Iraq.
"John McCain voted against funding for the troops," as well, Biden countered, adding that McCain had been "dead wrong on the fundamental issues relating to the conduct of the war."
Biden did not immediately reply to Palin's mention of his son, Beau, the Delaware attorney general, who is scheduled to fly to Fort Bliss, Texas, on Friday before deploying to Iraq. Palin has a son who is in Iraq with the Alaska National Guard, although she did not mention that.
The only issue the two VP candidates seemed to agree about was their support for Israel. They both made it clear that they support a two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, without pressuring Israel to accept an imposed solution.
Israel is our strongest ally, Palin said, vowing not to allow a second Holocaust despite Iran's desire to destroy the Jewish state. She promised the McCain administration will continue to work with Israel.
'Beyond bad judgment'
Palin also called Obama naive for saying he was willing to engage the leaders of Iran, North Korea and Cuba.
"That is beyond bad judgment. That is dangerous," Palin said.
The face-off began with Palin saying the best way to gauge Americans' feelings about the failing US financial system and a pending $700 billion federal rescue plan was to go to a community soccer game and ask the parents on the sidelines.
"I bet you're going to hear fear," she said, assuring voters that she and McCain were the "mavericks" who could reform the system that allowed the financial crisis to develop.
Palin said "Joe Six-packs and hockey moms across the country" needed to band together to say "never again." Those are both terms Palin has used to describe herself as she has sought to ingratiate herself with middle-class Americans.
Palin and Biden (Photo: AFP)
As Biden sought repeatedly to convince voters that McCain and Palin had proposed nothing that would change the policies of the Bush administration, Palin said: "There you go again," borrowing a famous line that former President Ronald Reagan used in his debate with President Jimmy Carter. She challenged Biden to look forward not backward.
With the Republican ticket falling in the polls, Palin was carrying a heavy burden in the back and forth with Biden, a 36-year veteran of the US Senate.
McCain took a huge gamble in choosing Palin, whose addition to the ticket initially mobilized the party's conservative base around his candidacy. In the intervening weeks, however, her inexperience and provincial demeanor have become fodder for late-night television comedians.
Also, in the month since she stepped onto the national stage, the 44-year-old Palin has proved uneven in solo news interviews, showing a lack of experience and breadth of knowledge normally expected in a candidate who would take over in the White House should the 72-year-old McCain win the election, then become incapacitated.
An Associated Press-Gfk poll released Wednesday found that just 25% of likely voters believe Palin has the right experience to be president. That is down from 41% just after the Republican convention, when the Alaska governor made her well-received national political debut. The same survey shows Democrat Barack Obama with a 48% to 41% lead in voter preference with less than five weeks remaining until Election Day, November 4.
'Obama promoting redistribution of wealth'
Biden opened the debate by blaming the Republican party's handling of the country's economy over the eight years of President George W. Bush's administration, which Biden said would be continued by a President John McCain.
He also defended the Obama plan to raise taxes of Americans making more than $250,000 annually as a matter of "simple fairness."
"This is not punitive," he said, adding that middle class Americans deserved tax breaks.
Palin said Obama was promoting a "redistribution of wealth" that would result in fewer jobs and a reduction of tax revenues.
Biden called the Republican Party's plan for revising the American health insurance system the "ultimate bridge to nowhere," referring to the financial boondoggle that was killed in Alaska after first being supported by Palin, as governor.
Palin refused to blame global warming on human activity, but conceded the Earth's climate was changing. Biden said the planet was growing warmer because of the burning of carbon dioxide-emitting fuels, and Republicans could not solve the problem because they did not acknowledge its true cause.
Palin stood her ground against a man 21 years her elder and one of the Senate's foreign policy deans. Biden, loquacious and gaffe-prone, made it through the 90-minute confrontation without stumbling or talking himself into a corner.
Public Broadcasting Service journalist Gwen Ifill moderated the debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. She had become part of the pre-debate news coverage because of criticism from some conservatives over a book she is writing, titled "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama." It examines how politics have changed among black Americans since the civil rights era of the 1960s. The journalist says she has not yet written the chapter on Obama and questioned why critics assume it will be favorable toward the Democratic candidate, a first-term Illinois senator.
Palin has seemed poorly informed in the few interviews she has granted. In a CBS television News interview aired Wednesday she appeared unable to cite a US Supreme Court decision with which she disagreed while saying many decisions had divided Americans. She likewise could not name magazines and newspapers that she reads.
She also has been widely lampooned for citing Alaska's proximity to Russia as an example of her foreign policy expertise. Palin has never visited Russia, and until last year she had never traveled outside North America.
McCain and other Republicans criticized such questions as "gotcha journalism," and he defended his running mate in appearances Thursday on several television talk shows.
Also Thursday, McCain abandoned efforts to win Michigan, a Great Lakes industrial state where he had thought he might win.
Republican officials with knowledge of the strategy said McCain was removing staff, curtailing advertising and canceling visits to the battleground state. Resources will be sent to Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida and other competitive states.
Polls show support shifting rapidly to Obama since the first presidential debate on September 26 in Mississippi. Although the candidates discussed the depth of their experience and their foreign policy preferences, it appeared that their comments on the faltering US economy most influenced voters.
Both men, as well as Biden, returned to their Senate seats on Wednesday to cast votes in favor of the much-revised $700 billion Bush administration plan to rescue America's failing financial system. The measure, rejected Monday by the House of Representatives, was expected to go to the floor a second time, perhaps on Friday. The first House vote sent the stock market into a 778-point nose-dive, the largest one-day point drop in history.