Palin 'Didn't Embarrass Herself,' Upset Didn't Answer --10/3/2008
2. Stephanopoulos Again Declares the Liberal the Debate Winner
3. MSNBC's Chris Matthews: Palin Looked Into Camera Like a 'Dolt'
4. Matthews Theme of the Night: Is It About Palin's 'Brain Power?'
5. ABC: Biden's 'Dilemma' is How to Answer Palin's 'Attacks'
6. Student: I'm for 'Expertise,' Matthews: So You're for Obama!
7. Late Show's 'Top Ten Surprises in the Vice Presidential Debate'
On NBC, Chuck Todd observed "those that were tuning in looking for some sort of car wreck, probably came away disappointed." CBS's Katie Couric proposed, without saying in which camp journalists fall, "the headline is Governor Sarah Palin did not embarrass herself or her running mate as some Republicans might have feared and some Democrats might have hoped." Colleague Bob Schieffer asserted that "I think a lot of people were expecting" Palin "to make some sort of blunder or mistake and she did not do that." Jeff Greenfield, also on CBS, decided "Palin passed the Tina Fey test. Anyone looking for a deer in the headlights experience didn't get one tonight." Over on ABC, Diane Sawyer found that Palin, "after a bruising time in the media, showed up not just with confidence, but cheerful confidence that might surprise a lot of people."
On Palin avoiding questions, CBS's Schieffer "found it a little disconcerting" that "time and again Governor Palin would just choose not to answer the question and launch in to some dissertation, sometimes talking points, and not really address what Gwen Ifill had asked her." On CNN, reporter/analyst Gloria Borger charged: "I think at the beginning of the debate actually, Sarah Palin's problem was that she wasn't answering questions directly." NBC anchor
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted late Thursday night, with video, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Echoing that breaking-the-rules complaint, on MSNBC Chris Matthews fretted: "'I'm not gonna give the answers the moderator wants to ask for.' What an extraordinary statement! 'I'm not gonna play by the rules...'"
Later on MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell said "I thought she did a good job of sticking to her game-plan," but wasn't sure "whether that went over with the voters, the viewers. Because she didn't answer the questions and in fact she would say, 'I want to talk about taxes,' which hadn't even come up."
David Gergen effused on CNN over Biden's performance: "Joe Biden gave the best debate performance of his life. I thought he had superior knowledge, I thought he had superiority on the debate overall, on point, political points it may be a bit of a draw. As debate, I thought he was a superior debater."
On the other end of the spectrum, on NBC Peggy Noonan hailed Palin: "She killed. It was her evening..."
Harder now to ridicule Palin? On FNC, Chris Wallace ended an interview with former Senator Fred Thompson: "It may be harder for Tina Fey to mock her on Saturday Night Live, although, Lord knows, they'll try."
CBS went from all-Obama to pro-Palin, but their instant poll still found a win for the Democrat: After the first presidential debate on Friday night, Byron Pitts checked in from the CBS audience research center in Las Vegas and only featured one participant, a man who was pro-Obama. Thursday night, however, he acknowledged his group of undecided voters leaned to Obama, yet ran two clips, neither pro-Biden. A man criticized Biden and a woman asserted Palin had the "better connection with the American people."
As for the CBS News/Knowledge Networks poll of "uncommitted voters," they again picked the Democrat as the winner with 46 percent saying Biden won, 21 percent that Palin won and 33 saw it as a tie. Sharyl Attkisson highlighted how on the opinion of the two candidates, 53 percent thought better of Biden following the debate, 5 percent worse of him; 55 percent better of Palin, 14 percent worse of her. CBSNews.com summary of the survey of about 500 people: www.cbsnews.com
CNN's poll had 51 to 36 percent majority picking Biden as the winner.
The CyberAlert on the first presidential debate coverage: www.mrc.org
Lengthier quotes from the post-VP debate coverage on Thursday night, October 2:
# On MSNBC, as caught by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I've never heard anyone seek an office and then ask to have its powers increased on their watch. That's extraordinary! She wants more legislative power for the Vice President? That requires some more exploration by the press.
ANDREA MITCHELL: You know I, I agree with you and David [Gregory], in that she came with a game-plan and I thought she did a good job of sticking to her game-plan. What still is to be tested is to whether that sold, whether that went over with the voters, the viewers. Because she didn't answer the questions and in fact she would say, "I want to talk about taxes," which hadn't even come up.
# ABC News:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Neither one fed into the stereotypes. Sarah Palin didn't freeze, she didn't make any major mistakes. Joe Biden didn't go on too long, was never boorish or anything. So, they didn't fall into the stereotypes...
DIANE SAWYER: I thought that Governor Palin, after a bruising time in the media, showed up not just with confidence, but cheerful confidence that might surprise a lot of people, talking about her personal issues, and, as we saw, Senator Biden, who had to navigate some tricky terrain, cultural terrain, not only was respectful -- and he said that's the number one thing he wanted to do -- but, as we noticed, at one point, the Governor got the name wrong of the commander in Afghanistan. She said McClellan, it's General David McKiernan, but he didn't correct her.
# CBS News:
KATIE COURIC: Well, everyone was waiting to see how the political newcomer would do tonight and perhaps the headline is Governor Sarah Palin did not embarrass herself or her running mate as some Republicans might have feared and some Democrats might have hoped.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I think a lot of people were expecting Sarah Palin, who's virtually unknown to most people in this country until Senator McCain put her on the ticket, to make some sort of blunder or mistake and she did not do that. She pretty much held her own. But I must say, I thought Senator Biden had a very good night. He seemed comfortable with the facts. It was clear he has dealt with these issues over the years. I thought he put his experience on display in a very good way. I must say I found it a little disconcerting -- time and again Governor Palin would just choose not to answer the question and launch in to some dissertation, sometimes talking points, and not really address what Gwen Ifill had asked her. But, again, no major mistakes on his part. But I would underline, I think Joe Biden had a very good night tonight.
JEFF GREENFIELD: I do think, by the way, that Governor Palin passed the Tina Fey test. Anyone looking for a deer in the headlights experience didn't get one tonight.
DAVID GERGEN: Give credit to Sarah Palin. It was the Sarah Palin of the early part of the campaign, not the Sarah Palin who showed up for the Katie Couric interview. She was spirited, she came out well, she came out strong. I think there's every reason for the conservatives to be happy. That said, Joe Biden gave the best debate performance of his life. I thought he had superior knowledge, I thought he had superiority on the debate overall, on point, political points it may be a bit of a draw. As debate, I thought he was a superior debater.
GLORIA BORGER: I think at the beginning of the debate actually, Sarah Palin's problem was that she wasn't answering questions directly. When she was asked about what would you cut from your spending plans as a candidate, she didn't answer it. She didn't answer bankruptcy questions, she didn't directly go back to the gay civil rights issue. Whenever that occurred, at least in the first two, she would go back to her comfort zone, which was energy. I think she did improve later on in the debate because Biden was uncharacteristically restrained.
# NBC News:
CHUCK TODD: Well, Brian, those that were tuning in looking for some sort of car wreck, probably came away disappointed. You had two performances where neither one of them lived up to their negative stereotypes. Governor Palin proved very adept at being a good debater. She would duck questions she didn't want to answer. She would talk about the issues that she wanted to do. In many ways, she was a better surrogate for her top of the ticket than Joe Biden was for his.
BRIAN WILLIAMS TO GERALDINE FERRARO: Looking at some of the e-mail traffic and some of the commentary online tonight, people found it bracing when she said quote "I may not answer the questions the way the moderator and you," Senator Biden, "want to hear." Of course, it's the only set of rules in town.
PEGGY NOONAN: She killed. It was her evening. She was the star. She had him at, 'nice to meet you. Hey, can I call you Joe?' It was very interesting to me, for Palin tonight for an hour and a half, I think America saw her for a really long time, and she became a star probably on a new level. Gwen Ifill was not there for Sarah Palin. Joe Biden was not there for Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin was there with a camera. It was classic go over the heads of the media and everybody else, talk straight to the American people. She hit every populist chord....
Six days after declaring Barack Obama the winner of the first presidential debate, following Thursday's VP debate George Stephanopoulos again decided the liberal Democrat in the debate, this time Joe Biden, was the winner -- but in assigning his "Nightline Report Card" grades he gave both Biden and Sarah Palin the same overall assessments: each got one A, one A-minus and one B. Asked by anchor Terry Moran to name "the winner," Stephanopoulos argued:
The grades from ex-Democratic operative Stephanopoulos. On "Strategy," an A for Biden and an A-minus for Palin; on "Style," an A-minus for Biden and an A for Palin; and on "Accuracy," a B for both.
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Friday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
He explained his "style" grades: "I think she tried the wink to the audience about four or five times over the course of the debate, and I think she really was connecting back with people at home. Joe Biden, a much more of a prosecutorial style, kind of a 'just the facts' style. He said that several times over the course of the debate. The good thing for Biden is that the facts, on a lot of the issues the country agrees more with Joe Biden, right now at least, than it does with Sarah Palin."
The September 29 CyberAlert item, "In 'Nightline Report Card' Stephanopoulos Gives Obama the Win," recounted:
Awarding Barack Obama two grades of A-minus and one B-minus while presenting John McCain with two grades of B-plus and one B-minus, at the end of his "Nightline Report Card" segment on Friday night, ABC's George Stephanopoulos declared Obama the "winner" -- with a big illustrative check mark on screen: "Bottom line, the winner is Barack Obama. He comes into this race where the country wants change. His number one goal was to show that he belonged on that stage. He was a credible commander-in-chief, that he could hold his own on national security. He did that tonight. He gets the win."
For the full rundown: www.mrc.org
Transcript, provided by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, of the "Nightline Report Card" segment on the Thursday, October 2 Nightline:
TERRY MORAN: And so the vice presidential debate is done. The candidates have spoken. How'd they do in this one-on-one, one chance to face off with each other? Our chief Washington correspondent, George Stephanopoulos, is back to grade tonight's performance in the "Nightline Report Card," as they hammer away at dismantling the set behind us. George, first, what each candidate wanted to do, what they achieved. Strategy the first subject. What's the grade?
In addition to the "dolt" remark, Matthews earlier, in the 10:30 PM EDT half hour, viewed Palin's performance as "so reciting," and "automatic," "like a spelling bee," and charged: "The dangerous thing about these debates is that you can really recite your way to victory. You can memorize an awful lot of material and get away with it as intelligence, when in fact, it's just really good preparation."
[This item, by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, was posted late Thursday evening, with video, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The following exchanges occurred during MSNBC's October 2, post vice presidential debate coverage and then later on a special midnight EDT edition of Hardball:
MATTHEWS: But for a while there I thought I was listening to a person recite to the point and I mean recite speech parts, to the point I thought I was watching a spelling-bee. It was so reciting. So automatic. It sounded like a spelling-bee where you read each word out, you recite the word, give the spelling, give the word back again, exactly the way you were taught. I think it sounded a bit automatic, but let's leave it to the viewers. Some people might find that bracing.
MATTHEWS: David [Gregory] I think the dangerous thing about these debates is that you can really recite your way to victory. You can memorize an awful lot of material and get away with it as intelligence, when in fact, it's just really good preparation.
ROGER SIMON, POLITICO: When she faced the audience, she always looked directly into the camera, always directly at America. Joe Biden was turned for most of it.
[This item, by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Thursday evening on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
However Matthews didn't let Schultz's hesitancy stop him from questioning the Republican vice presidential nominee's intelligence as he asked these series of questions about Palin to Schultz:
- Well do you think cute will beat brains?
- Do you think she'd do better on the questions on "Jeopardy" or the interview they do during a halftime?
- Congressman how much would you, how much would you like to be debating her tonight?
Then a little later on in the program, during a segment with the Politico's Mike Allen and New York magazine's John Heilemann, Matthews worried Palin's perceived lack of intellectual curiosity was "scary."
I think John McCain, his judgment is on trial tonight. And she may well win it tonight with charm and smarts and political perspicacity and know how to work around the questions. But I still, I'm stunned with her inability to answer these general knowledge questions, that most people who read the paper can answer. I don't know why she's afraid to answer them. Maybe it's her bad training. My suspicion is that she has the same lack of intellectual curiosity that the President of the United States has right now and that is scary!
The following exchanges occurred on the October 2 second, 7pm EDT edition of Hardball:
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is an Obama supporter. Congresswoman let me ask you tonight. You're a politician and you're on this show a lot so let me ask you the same question I've asked everybody. What's the test for Sarah Palin tonight? Is it brains? Is it knowledge? Is it personality? Is it politics? Is it credibility? Is it ideology or is it simply composure in a difficult night? Try to pick one of these: brains, knowledge, personality, politics, credibility, ideology or composure? What's it about tonight?
MATTHEWS: Let me, let me ask you this. I know this is so uncool to ask this question, that's why I keep asking it. It seems to me if you show all the responses to Katie Couric's questions, especially, some of them Charlie Gibson's, what has grabbed people is not the answer she gave but where she seemed to not have answer. That long pause and that difficult use of words without thoughts, where you just started, like we did in a test in school.
MATTHEWS: She had no familiarity with the role of the vice presidency in the Katie Couric interview tonight. She couldn't name one vice president and what they'd done well as vice president. She wasn't able to talk about any Supreme Court decision. Not able to talk about what newspaper she reads. What question is an easy one for her! Tell me what the easy question is, and then they can ask it!
MATTHEWS: Let me get back to this. What should a Vice President of the United States know? What should a person who's up for the job, what is the minimal intellectual requirement? Give me a sense of it. It is some sense of American history? Some sense of the history of the job of vice president? Some sense of the Constitution of the United States? Those are the questions Katie Couric put to her. These are citizenship questions! These are questions you ask somebody just applying to become a U.S. citizen! Tell me what, what the, what the courts do in this country! Tell me, you know, these are basics!
MATTHEWS: I think John McCain, his judgment is on trial tonight. And she may well win it tonight with charm and smarts and political perspicacity and know how to work around the questions. But I still, I'm stunned with her inability to answer these general knowledge questions, that most people who read the paper can answer. I don't know why she's afraid to answer them. Maybe it's her bad training. My suspicion is that she has the same lack of intellectual curiosity that the President of the United States has right now and that is scary!
At the top of Thursday's World News, just hours before the vice presidential debate, ABC anchor teased that "a new poll shows most Americans don't think" Palin is "ready to be a heartbeat away," and, in explaining the advice both candidates are getting from their advisers, George Stephanopoulos fretted about "the dilemma for Biden," which given that "we expect Sarah Palin to have some attack lines on Biden, on Obama. He's got to choose, at some point, not to let those attacks go unanswered."
So there's the early media line: Biden will be the victim of attacks from Palin and must figure out how to counter those unfair attacks.
In the lead story, reporter Kate Snow did not cite any poll number about how "most Americans don't think" Palin is ready to be President, but she did highlight how "our new ABC News poll finds the public souring on Palin. One-third of registered voters now say her selection makes them less likely to support John McCain for President."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Gibson's tease at the top of the October 2 World News aired in the EDT and CDT time zones: "Tonight, great expectations. Sarah Palin and Joe Biden tonight have their only debate as a new poll shows most Americans don't think she's ready to be a heartbeat away."
From Snow's story: "....Palin's challenge tonight is clear. Aides acknowledge she has little room for error. Our new ABC News poll finds the public souring on Palin. One-third of registered voters now say her selection makes them less likely to support John McCain for President. But a top Palin aide today called the debate an opportunity to turn that around...."
Gary Langer's ABCNews.com summary, of the ABC News/Washington Post survey released Thursday morning, explained the poll finding to which Gibson had referred:
....Just 35 percent say Palin has the experience it takes to serve effectively as president, down a dozen points since early September; 60 percent think not, up 15. And just 46 percent think Palin "understands complex issues," while 49 percent think she doesn't -- a poor assessment on this most basic qualification...
That's online at: abcnews.go.com
The relevant portion of the Gibson-Stephanopoulos exchange:
GIBSON: You talk to the two camps all the time. What do they say in the Democratic side that Biden's approach will be and what do the Republicans say the Sarah Palin approach will be?
[This item, by Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Thursday evening, with video, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The following exchanges occurred on the October 2 first edition of Hardball:
CHRIS MATTHEWS TO STUDENT: What are you looking for tonight?
MATTHEWS TO DIFFERENT STUDENT: Do you think the Vice President of the United States, the candidate for Vice President should be able to get into Washington University?
From the October 2 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Surprises in the Vice Presidential Debate." Late Show home page: lateshow.cbs.com
10. First question for Palin: "Why in the hell do you keep agreeing to talk to Katie Couric?"
9. As a welcome to the candidates, St. Louis constructed a special "arch to nowhere"
8. To even the playing field, Biden wore stilettos
7. A confused John McCain kept stumbling on stage asking where he was
6. Most of discussion was what to do about the Mets
5. Palin bore a striking resemblance to Mitt Romney in a wig
4. Only thing the candidates agreed on? The Late Show Fun Facts book: 240 pages of jam-packed hilarity!
3. Biden's insistence that from his house in Delaware he can see Russia
2. You could hear Hillary's muffled screams from the parking lot
1. Palin mentioned bombing Iran, Pakistan and Tina Fey
-- Brent Baker