Friday, October 03, 2008

Biden's Bumbles

Many people were expecting Biden to win the Vice Presidential debates last night due to a few missteps on the part of Sarah Palin during recent interviews. That that expectation was misguided is amply proved by Palin's spectacular performance last night and by the relative silence on the subject by the mainstream media. As anyone who has done a little research would know, Palin is quite an effective debater and her blunders with the media have been largely in response to gotcha questions that were not relevant to her experience and were certainly not visited on any of the other candidates.

But Biden's performance is another matter entirely. He has been touted as the foreign policy expert of the Democratic team, and has been in the Senate longer than either of the other two candidates. (Actually, longer than McCain and Obama combined.) So you would think that he would be supremely prepared or at least be able to get the basic facts straight. On the contrary, many of his responses to Palin's jibes were obvious falsehoods or distortions which he seemed to make up on the spot.

Here are three gaffes that I noticed while watching the debate:

1. US & France kicked Hesballah out of Lebanon but failed to follow up with a NATO presence. It was Syria that was kicked out and it was Lebanon that did the kicking, albeit with US and French assistance. Hesballah is still there and no one ever suggested putting NATO troops in Lebanon to keep them out.

2. The commander in Afghanistan said that the surge would not work in Afghanistan (contrary to McCain's policy). What David McKiernan actually said was, "the word I don't use in Afghanistan is the word surge." This is a more subtle point, and I think, on the whole, I agree with Biden here.

3. VP has no authority in the Senate, excpet when there is a tie. What the article actually says is: "The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided." So the VP is always President of the Senate, he just doesn't get to vote on Legislation most of the time. This would count as a mere misstatement if the question weren't specifically focused on Dick Cheney's interpretation of this clause and if Biden hadn't said that the role of the VP is clearly specified. The whole point of Cheney's argument is that the non-voting part of the VP role is not clear.

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