Eleven spaces on the Palin bingo card, what did you get?

While polls would have Joe Biden as the overall winner of last night’s debate, more than 85% of Americans surveyed believe his opponent Sarah Palin did “better than expected.”  This might be an impressive number, as long as you don’t remember that many people expected her to come on stage and flap her arms around in panic, barking like a circus seal.  Being able to remember which one was Joe Biden would have been “better than expected.”  Personally, I think Sarah Palin did exactly as well as I expected: I expected her to avoid answering questions directly, parrot John McCain’s talking points, throw out catchphrases that are designed to touch patriotic hearts and ratchet up the homespun folky horseshit to a level that was goshdarned near insufferable.  If Tina Fey becomes no longer available for Palin impersonations, might I suggest Frances McDormand? Put a pair of glasses on her and get her to talk in the voice of Deputy Marge from Fargo and she’ll be golden.

Considering that as of a few days ago she wasn’t even capable of answering what newspapers she reads or naming another major Supreme Court judgment besides Roe vs. Wade, she sounded like Franklin D. Roosevelt last night.  Her supporters, naturally, claim that who we saw at the debate was the “real” Sarah Palin, the strong, go-getter leader.  The floundering dingbat we saw being interviewed by Katie Couric, never known to be the most hardball journalist, was simply the victim of “gotcha questions,” meant to catch her off-guard and make her look stupid.  I understand, clearly “What newspapers do you read?” is one of those questions that requires weeks of preparation to answer, right up there with “What’s your shoe size?” and “What did you have for lunch today?”

I don’t buy it, and I don’t expect most people who have more than two brain cells knocking about in their melons buy it either.  The truth is, though, and I apologize in advance for any sleep that might be lost over this: I think she still has a real shot of getting her ticket into the White House.  It would send me rampaging into the streets the morning of November 5th randomly punching strangers left and right, but she and McCain could win this, for the most inane, superficial reason imaginable.

She seems nice.  I’m pretty sure Sarah Palin has already resigned herself to the fact that well over half the population of the United States thinks she’s a moron, so she’ll appeal to the other half who doesn’t care if someone is stupid, as long as they’re nice.  Hillary Clinton, remember her? She’s a very smart lady.  But she doesn’t seem very nice.  In fact, she seems a little stiff, perhaps even arrogant.  You can bet that’s one of the major reasons she wasn’t able to connect with enough people to win the Democratic candidacy, even other Democrats think her a bit of a cold fish.  In the U.S., at least, likeability is equally, if not more important than capability for a public figure.  Sarah Palin is that friendly gal at the PTA meeting who makes a point of introducing herself to everybody and making them think she’s known them for years.  She’ll remember all your kids’ names, sell the most Girl Scout cookies and give you her secret recipe for chili (not too spicy, because she knows your husband is prone to heartburn).  I’m not a fan of people who come on strong with that overly familiar “we’re pals, hon” act, but I’m an introvert, people like me are considered odd and untrustworthy anyway.  There are many others who love that shit, who like people who play that “everybody’s friend” card to the hilt: observe the utterly banal careers of Rachael Ray and Ellen DeGeneres.  Palin cannily works it past a stereotype to damn near satire.

Is Sarah Palin actually dumbing herself down to appeal to constituents whose knowledge of politics extends only as far as voting for who’s going to be in charge of the next potluck dinner at First Assembly Church? I don’t really know for certain, I tell myself “She can’t be that stupid,” but then again I said the same thing about George W. Bush seven years ago, clearly my own judgment can’t be trusted in such matters.  Despite being unable to answer a single question in last night’s debate coherently, let alone directly, she still got high praise from The Wall Street Journal, and FOX News declared her the winner, though they would have considered her the winner if she spent the entire ninety minutes staring blankly at the camera with a rivulet of saliva hanging from her mouth.  If she had eaten a live puppy on stage, Bill O’Reilly would have declared that someone with her kind of spunk is just what America needs.  For every person who loathes her, there’s an equal number who thinks she’s just darling, a tough but tender gal with a whole lot of moxie.  She’ll kill ’em with kindness, along with our rights as women, our access to affordable healthcare and a whole lotta of stuff that’s darned nice to have right now, you betcha.


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