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Debating the Debates

October 6, 2008

Reporters and pundits have many ways of measuring debate performance: He won on "points." She was more poised and confident. He lied a lot. She was "folksy" and likeable. I think Sarah Palin won this debate hands-down because she did something Joe Biden could never do. She stood for 90 minutes in stiletto heels, and never once complained!

Humor aside, both V.P. candidates performed well in their debate. There have been numerous articles written about the debate, so instead of a debate blow-by-blow, I will endeavor to illuminate some important points that have been overlooked (censored?) by the Obama-adoring mainstream press.

But first I would like to comment on the interest in, and the reporting on, both the Presidential and the Vice-Presidential debates. Both candidates for president have declared that this is the most important election of our lifetimes. Every presidential candidate seems to say that in every election. But this time it may be true. The American public seems to think so. Over 50 million of us watched McCain and Obama battle it out last week.

Even more were interested in the VP debate - almost 20 million more. This was the most-watched vice-presidential debate in history, and second only to the Reagan-Carter debate among all debates. The huge interest in this debate can only be the fascination that the people - of both parties - have with Sarah Palin. It certainly can't be attributed to curiosity about Joe Biden. We all know him only too well. As he admits himself, he talks too much, and he makes lots of mistakes.

The thing I found illuminating about both debates was the predictably one-sided reporting and polling by the "major" networks, particularly the Communist News Network (CNN). For instance, their "snap polls" (as well as those of the NBC, CBS and ABC) showed the Democrats winning both debates. They don't tell you that their viewers range from 70% to 90% Democrats and liberals, so their polls are pretty much worthless.

Only one network - the FoxNews Channel - has both a balanced audience and a fair and balanced reporting philosophy. Fox's viewers are 33% Democrats, 36% Republicans, and the rest Independents. For that reason, I trust their polls to be balanced, as well. In the Fox News Dynamics Polls on both debates, the Reformers, McCain and Palin came out well ahead of their rivals. Fox must be doing something right - they're taking viewers, both Democrats and Republicans, away from the major networks. From an unknown cable network not so many years ago, viewers have learned to trust Fox so much that almost 16% of the people who watched the VP debate did so on the "Fair and Balanced" network.

You know that the Conservatives have won when the liberal media calls a debate a "tie." If they thought the glib Mr. Obama or the pedantic Mr. Biden had landed any body blows at all, they would have been shouting a Democrat victory from the housetops. In liberal speak, a clear win by Conservatives can only be described as a tie. They would cut their tongues out before they would admit that a Conservative could beat a liberal at anything.

There's not much to say about the presidential debate. Obama talked a lot, but he didn't say anything. Admittedly, what he didn't say was said very well; no one can dispute the fact that he is a gifted orator. Benjamin Franklin's words about people like Obama, which I quoted last week, fit his debate performance to a T: "Here comes the orator! With his flood of words, and his drop of reason."

McCain was his usual boring self. He stated the facts in a clear, concise way, and it was abundantly clear that he understood the issues far better than the golden boy. But he wasn't exciting. Anyone who doesn't faint at Obama speeches could see that he was the only one on the stage qualified to be Commander-in-Chief. You got the clear sense that there was one word that describes McCain that one would never use to describe Obama: the word "honorable." So, even though he doesn't excite people with his words, he is a hundred times more qualified than Obama to be president.

Anyone who lacks good understanding of foreign policy, the way our government is run, and the Constitution, would have been impressed by Biden's performance. He appeared to know what he was talking about, and seemed to have facts to back up his statements. He kept his temper and his signature sarcasm under control; he didn't run on and on and on as is his habit; and his worst gaffe was when he called the Bosnians "Bosniacs."

(I had hoped Biden would do something like he did last week, when he spoke admiringly of "...that great Democrat president, FDR" calming the panic of the Stock Market Crash of 1929 by going on television and speaking directly to the public. There were only a few problems with his "historical" account. Republican President Herbert Hoover calmed the public over the radio, because TV was still in the experimental stage. And Roosevelt wasn't elected until four years after the Crash!)

Biden's real problem was that there were people watching who do understand foreign policy, the way our government is run, and the Constitution. These people noted almost twenty major factual errors (mostly in the foreign policy arena where Biden is supposed to be an expert). At least "factual errors" is what polite people would call them. Most people would call at least half of them outright lies.

In the errors category, while pontificating about the role of the vice-president, he referred to Article One of the Constitution, which he claimed described the duties of the vice-president as completely separate from those of the legislative branch. He said the vice-president has no duties in the Congress except to cast a vote in case of a tie in the Senate. None of this is true. In fact, Article Two describes the duties of the vice-president. Article One describes the legislative branch, including the fact that the vice-president of the United States serves as the President of the Senate. Hardly the ceremonial position that Biden described. You'd think a man running for the office of vice-president, one who had been in the Congress for 36 years, would know as much about the Constitution as, say, a sixth grade school child.

He made many other factual errors, such as stating that the US and France drove Hezbollah out of Lebanon. (Biden is well-known for making up facts on the fly, as needed.) Of course, this never happened. But he claimed, "I said and Barack said, 'Move NATO forces in there.'" Unbelievable. Obama's foreign policy "expert" apparently doesn't know that NATO is an acronym for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO is a military alliance of democratic states in Europe and North America. NATO would not involve itself in Lebanon, and Lebanon would never allow them in if they wanted to come. Old Joe is as out of touch with reality as Obama. (Remember when Obama's solution to Russia's attack on the nation of Georgia was that we should get the UN Security Council to condemn Russia? Obama didn't know that was impossible because he didn't realize T=Russia has veto power on the Security Council.)

But the worst were the out and out lies. They were mostly repeats of Obama lies, but he made up a few of his own, as well. He claimed that he didn't know the authorization to go to war against Iraq meant that we could go to war against Iraq! Hello! The law he and almost all his fellow Democrats voted for was titled "Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of the United States Armed Forces Against Iraq." The use of Armed Forces AGAINST Iraq seems pretty clear to me. But let's give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he wasn't lying on this one. Maybe he just can't read.

He also claimed that he "reached across the aisle" more than most Senators. The fact is that Obama is considered the most liberal senator, and Biden the third most liberal, by a non-partisan government watchdog group. They both vote in lock-step with the Democrat Party 99% of the time. He also claimed that Obama "warned" of the sub-prime problem two years ago. The fact is that after John McCain introduced legislation that would have reined in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and probably averted the current credit crisis, Obama and his fellow Dems opposed it and defeated it. Obama received the second largest sum of lobbyist money from the two mortgage giants of all lawmakers. But Obama did cover his bases by writing a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury which no one ever read. So now that the political tide has turned, he can claim that he "warned" about it.

Perhaps Biden's most dishonorable lie was to say that John McCain voted against funding body armor for our troops in Iraq. Anyone who knows McCain (and Biden knows him well) knows that he loves our armed forces perhaps more than anyone in Washington, DC. He fought for our country, was wounded for our country, and was tortured for years for our country. Biden knew that McCain had to vote against the bill in question because the Democrats, in typical sneaky fashion, had added a date for surrender to the bill. Once that was removed, McCain voted for the funding. Biden's lie was cowardly and despicable.

Biden naturally ignored Sarah Palin when she brought up the fact that he has stated on television that: (1) Obama is not qualified to be President; (2) He would be honored to run as John McCain's vice-presidential running mate; and (3) That Obama was inexperienced and needed to realize that the White House is not the place for (in Biden's own words) "On the job training."

Finally, I am sure that Obama cringed over two of Joe's statements. The job of a VP candidate is to build up the top man on the ticket, not toot his own horn. He stated passionately that "Israel has no greater friend in the US Senate than Joe Biden." Aside from that being totally untrue, to do his job properly he should have told an even great lie, and said that Obama was a friend to Israel.

Worse than that, even though everyone in the nation knows that Biden was put on the ticket because Obama has no clue how to handle the office to which he aspires, Biden rubbed Obama's face in it. He said, "I will sit in on every meeting; I will be involved in every policy decision." Not smart, Joe. You were trying to reassure the Dems that there would be at least one guy in the White House who had some experience, but all you did was make your boss look like what he is: A Senator with one year of actual legislative experience, one who is so pitifully unqualified for office that he had to bring in an old Washington insider to prop him up.

Sarah, on the other hand, was in complete control of the situation. She had never met Biden, so when she shook his hand she said, "Hey, can I call ya Joe?" That set the tone for an evening in which she connected magnificently with the American people, and Biden looked like he had a bad case of indigestion.

If she wasn't genuinely enjoying herself the whole evening, she is a great actress. Biden has been debating on the floor of the world's greatest debating body for 36 years. Sarah was involved in a few local and state debates on her way to becoming Governor of Alaska, but this was her first time debating on a national stage. But she seemed like she had been doing it all her life.

She didn't the fancy words that Obama, Biden and the rest of the Liberal elites use. Instead of Biden's "Senate Speak", she spoke in terms that everyone would understand, and touched chords that regular Americans could identify with. For instance, in reference to Biden's pious assertion that it was "Patriotic" for people to pay more taxes, she said, "That's not patriotic. Patriotic is saying, Government, you're not always the solution. In fact, too often you're the problem so, Government, lessen the tax burden on our families and get out of the way. Let the private sector and our families grow and thrive and prosper. The increased taxes that Barack Obama is proposing in addition to nearly a trillion dollars in new spending, is the backwards way of trying to grow our economy."

When Biden said that in an Obama-Biden administration there would be no legal or Constitutional difference between homosexual and heterosexual couples, Sarah wasn't worried about being politically correct: "I will tell America straight up that I don't support defining marriage as anything but between one man and one woman." Talk about the Straight Talk Express!

In an obvious allusion to Obama's criticism of America in front of European audiences, and his wife's declaration that she had "never been proud of America" until her husband was nominated, Sarah went right to the point again. She called the United States and "exceptional nation," and said, "I've always been proud to be an American."

Obama first campaigned on the promise that he would pull all American troops out of Iraq within 90 days of being elected. After he realized that most Democrats are much more conservative than he is, he flip-flopped into his current "16 Month Plan," which announces to the terrorists the day they can take control. Sarah called that the "White Flag of Surrender," and stated that, "There is only one man in this race who has ever fought for this country."

When Biden attempted the tired old game of trying to tie McCain to Bush, Sarah hit him between the eyes (but with a smile). "Say it ain't so, Joe. There you go again, talking about the past. For a ticket that talks so much about change and looking to the future, there's way too much finger-pointing and looking backward, and playing the blame game."

Sarah said that, "Barack Obama had said that all we're doing in Afghanistan is air-raiding villages and killing civilians. And such a reckless, reckless comment and untrue comment, again, hurts our cause." When the moderator asked Biden if he would like to respond, he said not one word in answer to Obama's viscous lies about our troops. He couldn't deny it, because Obama had said it on national television.

Instead, he ignored the chance to defend Obama, and rambled on an on about Afghanistan. He made the incredible claim that, "We spend more money in three weeks on combat in Iraq than we spent on the entirety of the last seven years that we have been in Afghanistan building that country. Let me say that again." And he repeated the lie for emphasis. The facts are that there are about twice as many troops in Iraq as in Afghanistan. Biden is one of those stupid politicians who think that if you look serious when you lie, people will believe you. But a simple Internet search shows that there are about 135,000 troops in Iraq, and about 65,000 in Afghanistan. Will someone please tell Joe that there would have to be 121 times more troops in Iraq than in Afghanistan for his ridiculous "facts" to be true?

Toward the end of the debate, Sarah said how happy she was to be able to talk straight to America without her words being filtered and edited. This was clearly an allusion to the interviews she did with Charles Gibson and Katie Couric, who were both hostile toward her due to their liberal politics. Unfortunately, most viewers don't realize how easy it is for unethical journalists to edit video in a way that completely distorts what the guest said. I have been interviewed many times for television. When I see the finished product, I often wonder who that person was who was interviewed! The debate did much to erase the negative impression of Sarah that Gibson and Couric attempted to portray through their "Gotcha" questions and their very selective use of only a small portion of the interviews they taped.

Fox did an excellent job of putting together a focus group of undecided voters who watched and reacted to the debate using electronic devices. Although undecided as to whom they would vote for in this election, they were evenly divided between people who had voted for Democrat and Republican candidates in the last election. They used the devices to register their approval or disapproval of what the debaters said in real time.

One of Sarah's statements really connected with the group. It was the only moment in the debate when both Democrats and Republicans expressed very high approval. This was when Sarah talked about Americans needing to take responsibility for their own lives by living within their means, not overusing credit, and working toward getting out of debt.

When the pollster who monitored the focus group asked how many had made a decision to switch from "undecided" and choose a candidate as a result of the debate, and astonishing 75% said they had. This is unheard of in any debate, particularly a vice-presidential debate. He then asked with candidate they had decided to vote for. Almost all of them had chosen McCain-Palin.

When asked why she had made this decision, one black lady said, "She's been there, she's done that, and she's ready to do it again!"

Michelle Lamar, a writer and mother in Kansas City, summarized the VP debate well. "I think Palin talked more like a person, and Biden talked more like a politician. Palin connects with the people - she reminds me of Reagan." 

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Copyright ©2008 Tom Barrett

Dr. Tom Barrett is a pastor, teacher, author, conference keynote speaker, professor, certified executive coach, and marketplace minister. His teaching and coaching have blessed both church and business leaders. He has been ordained for over 40 years, and has pastored in seven churches over that time. Today he “pastors pastors” as he oversees ordained and licensed ministers in Florida for his ministerial fellowship.

He has written thousands of articles that have been republished in national newspapers and on hundreds of websites, and is a frequent guest on radio and television shows. His weekly Conservative Truth article (which is read by 250,000) offers a unique viewpoint on social, moral and political issues from a Biblical worldview. This has resulted in invitations to speak internationally at churches, conferences, Money Shows, universities, and on TV (including the 700 Club).

“Dr. Tom,” as his readers and followers affectionately refer to him, has a passion for teaching, as you can see from his ministry website (www.ChristianFinancialConcepts.com); his patriotic site (www.ConservativeTruth.org); and his business site (www.GoldenArtTreasures.com). Tom's friend Dr. Lance Wallnau wrote of him, "Tom Barrett is a Renaissance man with a passion for subject matter ranging from finance to theology and American history."
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