Friday, October 03, 2008


The veeps have at it

In the spirit of my post the other day, as I talk about last night’s debate I want to keep it to the substance. I’m finding it hard, though, because I find her accent, her manner, her expressions (“doggone it” and “you betcha”, for example), her mispronunciations (“eye-raq”, “eye-ran”, “noo-kya-lar”[1]), and her whiny voice to be so annoying that it’s hard to sit and listen, to pay attention, and not to run, screaming, from the room.

I actually think she did pretty well. She was certainly far better prepared than she had been for either Charles Gibson or Katie Couric, the latter having been a total disaster.

That said, she spent her time spewing talking points and making every fifth word either “John McCain” or “maverick”. I didn’t get any new information from her, and she repeated a bunch of the usual lies. For example, she gave the standard claim that Barack Obama voted against funding the troops, a shameful thing that John McCain would never do. Senator Biden corrected that, pointing out that John McCain also voted against that bill, and that it was because of the other stuff tacked onto the bill (in McCain’s case, the withdrawal timeline). For example, she said that John McCain’s health care plan is “budget neutral” because it’s gives a $5000 tax credit to people to use for buying medical insurance. Say what? How does taking $5000 per person of tax money away not affect the budget. Senator Biden cleared that up.

She often didn’t answer the questions given to her, but instead addressed the points that she’d planned to make. Unfortunately, Ms Ifill didn’t hold Ms Palin to the questions. In fact, there was one point where Ms Palin explicitly said that she was not going to answer the question, but had her own stuff to say. And she was allowed to.

One key question that she ducked was whether she would put no restrictions on the rights of same-sex couples. The two agreed that they would not support “marriage” here (sigh), but while Senator Biden clearly said that he would have homosexual couples treated exactly the same as heterosexual ones in law and civil rights, Governor Palin only said that she’s “tolerant” of homosexual couples, and gave a couple of examples of things they should be allowed to do (enter into contracts as couples, have hospital “family” visitation rights). When Mr Biden said it seemed they agreed, and Ms Ifill pressed her to confirm that, she did not, but instead repeated her more limited stand. I bet many people didn’t notice the dodge.

It seemed to me that Senator Biden answered the questions more rigorously, and I didn’t find myself throwing any, “But he didn’t answer the question!” bricks at the TV. He corrected Ms Palin when he could, though the format didn’t always allow that.

Of course, he, too, came with talking points, which he fit in as he could. And he, too, mentioned the top of his ticket quite often, though more so at the beginning than later.

I did like the part where Mr Biden had about had it with the “maverick” thing, and spent a couple of minutes pointing out how un-maverick-like Senator McCain has been.

While he addressed the moderator’s questions more directly, and was less obviously parroting talking points, I have to say that I didn’t get any useful information from him either. It’s all the same stuff we’ve been hearing over and over again. The only purpose of this “debate” was to see if Sarah Palin could avoid falling on her face, and she succeeded in not doing so. Apart from that, it was 90 minutes of nothing.

I will add that both candidates were respectful to each other.

I’ll also add that I continue to be amazed that the media are allowing Sarah Palin to keep saying that the McCain/Palin ticket represents a change from “Washington insiders”, when John McCain has been in Congress for almost 26 years and is in no sense an “outsider”. They really need to start calling bullshit on that line, and stop letting the campaign get away with it.

[1] On “noo-kya-lar”, I’d really like to hear from a speech therapist, because I figure there has to be something truly hard about that for some people. It’s not just the Bad Guys who say it that way; in addition to Bush and Palin, Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale also said “noo-kya-lar”, and Carter even has a physics degree and studied nuclear power. I have to think that if it were easy to fix this pronunciation, at least one of those people would have.


The Ridger, FCD said...

I know so many people who pronounce Iraq and Iran with long I's - because that's how they'd be pronounced were they English words, I expect. Like Kayro for Cairo. The world is full of places whose names we standardly pronounce other than the native way (Paris, Rome, Moscow...), so that doesn't bother me.

Nuke-u-lar, though. I can't figure that one. Again, as you point out there are lots of really smart people who do it, all over the political spectrum. So I try to chalk it up to dialect variation. I must confess, though, I don't always succeed.

All that "shucks, folks" stuff though - that's calculated and I can't stand it.

Barry Leiba said...

Nah, sorry, I don't buy that. The only people who say "kay-ro" live in New York, and they don't say it when they talk about Egypt, any more than anyone calls the capital of Germany "BURR-lin". Moscow doesn't count, because it's not spelt the same (it'd really surprise me to hear an American say "mosk-va").

And, while we say "eye-rate" and "eye-ronic", we don't say "eye-regular" nor "eye-ridescent". I don't hear anyone call the American Indian tribe the "eye-roquois".

Apart from that, I'll accept that "Joe Sixpack" (ugh!) might say "eye-raq" out of ingnorance, apathy, or eye-rascibility, but when a politician does it, I get the distinct sense that it's meant to have an unsaid obscene participle in front of it. Just as any politician who called someone an "eye-talian" today would be taken to task for speaking an insult, so should it be with "eye-raqi".

That's why it bothers me: it's not just a pro forma thing. It really says, "I don't care enough about that country to even pronounce its name correctly. And lest you think the Iraqis and Iranians don't care, here's a story: We have a local artsy cinema, the Jacob Burns Film Center, at which director Jonathan Demme runs a film series that includes discussion after the film. He selected an Iranian film, "The Runner", some months ago, and in the discussion he said "eye-ran" several times. Finally, an Iranian man contributed to the discussion, and started his comment with a slightly angry correction of the mispronunciation. He was insulted that Mr Demme didn't take the care to pronounce it correctly.

But, yeah, I have to agree with your last sentence, completely. The folksy crap is just really annoying. Sadly, for each of us that it angers, there are two or three who get sucked in.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Ummm... ever heard of Cairo, Illinois? Or And irregular has two R's, and iridescent and Iroquois are stressed two syllables away from the I, not one. Or lots of Medinas all pronounced with long I's? And I do myself say burrLIN when I say it in English, even though I speak German. And lots of the people I know are not exactly Joe Sixpack. I just think there's a lot more going on with pronouncing the name of foreign places than apathy or political malevolence. Ignorance, maybe, but also habit.

Barry Leiba said...

Yeah, I think I'm going to start calling the 49th state "AY-laska".

Anonymous said...

Finally, someone else irritated by our mis-pronunciation (not me of course) of eye-rak, eye-ran, eye-taly, and nu-cu-lar. But Palin has brought out a new one, she does not know how to pronounce "pundit" either.