#109 Expectations

#109 Expectations

Am I the only one who finds it inexplicable that so many people were impressed with Palin in the VP Debate? Granted she was a bit more coherent than she was in her recent interviews, but it was still a pretty dismal performance by any reasonable standards… She was vague, she rarely provided any specific facts to support her answers, and she dodged several of the questions – often changing the subject completely from the question that was asked and instead spouting whichever canned response she could summon at the moment. At one point she even celebrated the fact that she was “not going to answer questions the way you want me to”, but instead talk directly to the American people, whatever that means.

I guess it goes to show, if you get people’s expectations low enough, any minimal performance can be hailed as a triumph…


Discussion (15)¬

  1. xian99 says:

    What a typical response from the media elite, mocking Sarah Palin because she has real American values and doesn’t speak like one of the elitist ivy league candidates

  2. chaospet says:

    Wait, so I’m part of the media elite now? Awesome!

  3. Wm Tanksley says:

    This is indeed a morality play on the nature of expectations. You think she’s evil and stupid, and listen only for that; that’s all you hear, and you’re shocked that anyone heard anything else.

    Open your ears and listen to the complete debate, not just the tiny portions of it that confirm your expectations. Both candidates did very well, even with their enormous flubs here and there.

    You’d think Biden’s experience would protect him from simple miscues — unfortunately, while Palin mangled a sentence or two, Biden mangled facts; worst of all (IMO) mock quoting McCain as having said that he wouldn’t talk with the President of Spain (he didn’t say that).

    It was also odd that although Biden knows what Cheney was doing by arguing that the VP is Legislative rather than executive (Cheney was trying to weasel out of having to respond to a formal inquiry), he nonetheless made Cheney’s point for him by claiming that the location of the VP’s definition in the Constitution was what should make the final decision of which branch the VP belongs to. Biden even knew it was in Article I! What he seems to have missed is that Article I is about the legislature. Sheesh.

    Now, Biden was correct in what he was TRYING to say, that Cheney shouldn’t be able to dodge and weave like that. But he didn’t merely stutter and repeat the same thing twice; he made an entirely wrong argument that “proved” the opposite of what he intended. And he didn’t even seem to notice it!

    At least Palin’s global warming quote (above) meant what she intended — that we should proactively prepare for the global warming that we have good reason to believe will happen. I’m glad she believes in what the data actually shows. I don’t mind that she’s skeptical that the root cause is purely anthropogenic; that will get ironed out.

    Oh, and a side issue: welcome to the media elite. Does one have to publish a blog to get that honor, or will I, a mere commenter, also eventually be able to join?

  4. Wm Tanksley says:

    By the way, a little more on topic: your complete misunderstanding of Palin and her fan club reminds me of my complete misunderstanding of Socrates. In high school I’d read him as being this paragon of scepticism, a man who knew only that he truly knew nothing. Imagine my shock when I actually read (in Greek class) his actual story… The man told us, with total assurance and authority, about how the Earth was structured, about rivers running through the core, about spirits guiding him to do things…

    It’s easy to get tied up in a single point of view and assume that’s all there is to the world. It’s important to take efforts to avoid that, because you miss so much.

    Philosophy is one of the great liberators. I’m sorry to see your blog descending from it to Politics, which has historically been one of the great enslavers in that respect, obscuring everyone’s mind with a single predecided view.

  5. Ben says:

    “At least Palin’s global warming quote (above) meant what she intended…”

    Really? She actually *intended* to say that she doesn’t believe that activities of man should be attributed to climate change? If so, who’s she expressing disagreement with there, exactly? I mean, seriously, are there people who believe that climate change causes all of man’s activities, like a version of astrology that revolves around climate change rather than star positions? If so, awesome, and how very bold of her to express disagreement with them…..

  6. chaospet says:

    It’s true that McCain didn’t actually say he wouldn’t sit down with Prime Minister Zapatero. But it seemed to be strongly implied by his response to a Spanish reporter, when asked multiple times if he would meet with Zapatero, that he would only meet with leaders who shared his principles. Zapatero is the socialist party leader.

    But this is beside the point. We can grant that both candidates stretched and distorted the truth in places. That unfortunately happens in these debates. Palin’s claim that McCain’s health care plan is budget neutral? Right. But that wasn’t my complaint about Palin. McCain distorted the truth as much as anyone in the debates so far, and I strongly disagree with most of his views. But I also believe that overall he did a pretty good job in the first debate presenting and arguing for those views, which is why I’m not here mocking his performance.

    Palin, on the other hand, did a dismal job. And this isn’t because I think she’s evil or stupid, and it’s not a willful misunderstanding. It’s because, as I said, she refused to answer half of her questions, changing the subject to whatever she felt comfortable talking about at the moment. Asked to respond to Biden on health care? She talks about tax policy. Asked about which campaign promises might have to be altered in light of the financial crisis? She changes the subject to energy policy. Asked to respond to Biden’s statements about McCain’s bankruptcy stance, she says only “That is not so” and then quickly changes the subject back to energy policy again. Asked about what she thinks should be the exit strategy for Iraq, she talks about the surge. And so on. And further, even where she did respond to questions, her answers were often completely vacuous. ‘Maverick’ is not a policy solution.

    In short, this was, without question, one of the worst debate performances I’ve observed in my life. It really is all about expectations. If there had been no Gibson and Couric interviews and this was the first real taste we were getting of Sarah Palin, her performance would have received the universal scorn it deserves. Instead she’s praised by many, for accomplishing nothing more than speaking in complete sentences and winking at the camera.

  7. Colin Matthews says:

    Yeah. fuck that whore.

  8. Mark says:

    Bizarrely enough, Ben, Chaospet, William P Tanksley, there is reason to suspect Palin *is* responding to this new brand of left-wing kooks who think that all human activities can be attributed to climate change: she used just the same sort of syntax in response to both Gibson and Couric’s questions about her views on the environment.

    Surely someone from the campaign took her aside after one of those interviews and said, “Governor, perhaps you mean to say that ‘not all climate changes can be attributed to man-made activities’, and not the other way around? It is, no doubt, an enormous red herring, and certainly doesn’t address the question that’s being asked of you, but it is at least not gibberish.” But she stuck to her guns on this. Either she’s not particularly concerned with making sure that grammar reflects intended meaning–a ridiculous idea!–or she’s decided to nip this growing meme in the bud. Maybe she works for Skeptical Inquirer in her spare time.

  9. Mark says:

    By the way, I imagine her response to the meaning-Nazi aide to run as follows:

    “Well howdy-doody, Mr. Man. I betcha don’t know that such as meyvrick teams gotta’ respond to gloom-n-dooms terrist pals who…. it’s not a scary thing, but about health care for Mom’n’Pop shops and soccer dads. Meyvrick!”

  10. Mark says:

    “Git-r-done!”

  11. Raijinili says:

    “It was also odd that although Biden knows what Cheney was doing by arguing that the VP is Legislative rather than executive”

    Well, the VP makes tiebreaking votes in the Senate. Otherwise, isn’t the only official duty of the VP to substitute or take over for the president if the president is incapacitated?

  12. Wm Tanksley says:

    “It’s true that McCain didn’t actually say he wouldn’t sit down with Prime Minister Zapatero. But it seemed to be strongly implied by his response to a Spanish reporter, when asked multiple times if he would meet with Zapatero, that he would only meet with leaders who shared his principles. Zapatero is the socialist party leader.”

    McCain said the same thing — with trivial variations — to every leader the reporter offered.

    “But this is beside the point.”

    Granted.

    “We can grant that both candidates stretched and distorted the truth in places.”

    Not really — but I do grant that they don’t both agree with MY opinion :-). Deliberate untruth or deception is still a minus.

    “Palin, on the other hand, did a dismal job. And this isn’t because I think she’s evil or stupid, and it’s not a willful misunderstanding.”

    You DID think she was stupid before the debate. You posted several cartoons about it. In fact, you posted them before she’d made more than her initial two speeches.

    You then extrapolated from zero data points (you could have watched the YouTubes of her gubernatorial debates, but you obviously didn’t) to judge that the entire McCain campaign was that stupid, and you posted a cartoon about it.

    Going by evidence, you DID decide in advance that she was stupid and unqualified. When I see you continuing in that decision, I conclude that you haven’t changed your means of reaching the decision.

    “It’s because, as I said, she refused to answer half of her questions, changing the subject to whatever she felt comfortable talking about at the moment.”

    And she made it look convincing.

    Look, I’m not saying you should support her. She’s a novice at the national level, and it shows.

    “‘Maverick’ is not a policy solution.”

    I know — that’s annoying to just about everyone except those two. I know what they’re trying to do; they’re trying to say they’ll work with both parties, not only the Republicans, and they’re trying not to say it out loud. Until they say it out loud, though, nobody cares, including me. Once they say it, they’ll alienate some rabid Republican partisans, but most of those were lost as soon as McCain won the primaries, and Palin only brought back the SocialCons. And anyhow, the pure Republican partisans won’t stay at home en masse; that’s not what partisans do.

    Anyhow, as long as they keep saying “Maverick”, it’s right to distrust them. “Reform” and “nonpartisan” are what they need to say, if they actually want to make that kind of commitment. Until they do, there’s good reason why Obama’s style of reform (a partisan purge) will stand out — because he’s honest about it, and there’s every reason to believe he’ll carry it out. “Kick the bastards out” is an honorable sentiment, and I’ll cheer to see some of the bastards leave.

    “If there had been no Gibson and Couric interviews and this was the first real taste we were getting of Sarah Palin, her performance would have received the universal scorn it deserves.”

    Those weren’t the first tastes, either. That’s what was so puzzling about them — how bad they were in comparison to her earlier debates and speeches. I mean, obviously she was new to the national scene, so that’s one explanation; but was it enough? The way she handled herself in this debate showed that she _could_ remain composed under pressure; the only question is whether she can learn national politics, and I don’t see how anyone can expect that in the tiny amount of time she’s had. If she gets the job, she’ll have to learn on it. We know she learned on the job as mayor and governor, so it’s possible.

    “Instead she’s praised by many, for accomplishing nothing more than speaking in complete sentences and winking at the camera.”

    Well, and for dealing with a reasonable amount of pressure and dispensing a reasonable amount of information from a cold start.

    -Wm

  13. Wm Tanksley says:

    Raijinili said: “Well, the VP makes tiebreaking votes in the Senate. Otherwise, isn’t the only official duty of the VP to substitute or take over for the president if the president is incapacitated?”

    My problem with Biden’s response there was merely in the discrepancy between what he was trying to do and what his argument actually accomplished. He was trying to discredit Cheney’s (silly) claim that the VP is immune to executive inquiries because the VP is part of legislature. What he actually accomplished was to make the same argument that Cheney made, that the VP is defined by Article I of the Constitution — but Article I defines the Legislature (and the VP), which would disprove Biden’s attempted point.

    I agree with what Biden was trying to prove (Cheney should be under the law, and is worming out under at best a technicality). But as with many cases in this debate, he took his many years of experience, shoved it in a blender, and produced an argument that was completely bogus. There’s no way to make his argument make sense by assuming it could be reworded a little; it’s complete garbage.

    The same with his claim about McCain and Zapatero — it’s just not correct that McCain refused anything. A number of other things are plausible, ranging from the relatively pleasant (McCain didn’t understand the accent) to the unpleasant (McCain doesn’t know who’s in charge in Spain), but it’s ridiculous to propose that he refused when he did nothing of the sort. If Biden had put the worst interpretation on it, I’d be fine with that; McCain is doing the same thing with Ayers. THAT is what we expect from a campaign; anything else would be the surprise.

    BTW, for a fairly impartial analysis of McCain’s Zapatero gaffe, check out http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=614. Language Log is a professional linguist’s look at a LOT of things; he’s amazingly good at sticking to his actual field when offering expert advice.

  14. chaospet says:

    “You DID think she was stupid before the debate. You posted several cartoons about it.”

    Really? As far as I can see, I posted only one comic mentioning Sarah Palin prior to the debate. And nowhere did I mention a thing about her intelligence. I was only questioning (in absurd stick figure comic fashion) the wisdom of the McCain campaign in selecting this relative unknown. But hey, maybe I just deleted some other comics and forgot about it.

    At any rate, this is completely irrelevant. We could both play the ‘genetic fallacy’ game and attribute disingenuous motives to one another, but none of that would address the issue of whether my claims about Palin’s debate performance are justified by the reasons I offered. Again, as I pointed out, she refused to answer several of the questions she was asked. You acknowledge that point. Whether or it not it was “convincing” (I’m not sure what that means here), I think a debater who doesn’t answer half of the questions he/she is asked does an extremely poor job. If you wish to dispute that claim, I’m happy to discuss, but let’s leave the baseless and irrelevant attributions of motives to the side.

  15. morgan says:

    i dont get it…?