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Archive for the ‘Debates’ Category

Knowledge Yourself.

It’s a Harlem-ism I picked up from a guy selling books on the street one day.  I like it despite its grammar issues.  I mean why can’t knowledge be a verb?

“Hey D. Zizzles, whatchya doin?”

“Oh you know… just knowledging myself…”

On second thought it might be a little creepy in that context…but even so.  Educating yourself is, as we’ve said here at Bandit Pulpit, one of the primary responsibilities of the citizenry.  However it’s no secret that time and motivation are scarce in a world where most of us are too busy with our lives to tend to the life of our Republic.  Fair Enough. This begs the question, how do we make it simpler and quicker for people to educate themselves without sitting through the inane chatter of the media?

Check it out:  http://www.opencongress.org/person/compare

Where does it lead?  To a new feature of Open Congress that allows you to compare the voting record of two politicians side by side and click through for information on what each of the votes was for.  Though the comparison has some obvious flaws in terms of presentation/clarity of information, the potential for this to become an incredibly useful time-saver both for news organizations and private citizens, should be clear.

Here’s the direct link to a McCain/Obama comparison.

Furthermore, according to the e-mail I received, they are planning two new features post-election day:

1)  A new way to save and share information with friends (facebook app?  mobile app? twitter feed?!  The possibilities are endless!)

2)  A “bird’s-eye” view of data about congress generated by the Open Congress community.  (Not entirely sure what this will entail; this is an awfully vague description.  You can imagine it may be a sort of congressional dashboard that tracks overall trends in legislation, appropriations, etc., by categories or something to that effect.)

Lastly, here’s an enlightening blog post with a side by side comparison on key votes that pertain to issues mentioned during the debates and over the course of the campaign trail.  http://www.opencongress.org/articles/view/728

Enjoy and let us know your thoughts!

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After the past week or two, it seemed if some people were expecting Sarah Palin to fall on her face tonight on the way to the podium, to stammer unintelligibly for 90 straight minutes, to contradict every single position John McCain has ever taken, to refer to moderator Gwen Ifill as “Aretha,” to admit she can’t find Alaska on a map, and to suddenly being licking her microphone.

And so — shock of shocks! — Palin did none of those things in tonight’s VP debate, so she must have “won”! Or at least, she must be showered with positive punditry because she didn’t drag the entire McCain-Palin ticket down in a gigantic fireball that would have even made The Huffington Post feel a tinge of empathy.

After the performance Palin had put on recently in the company of Katie “The Intimidator” Couric, there was certainly a well-warranted feeling that Palin might finish the job tonight and kill the McCain campaign once and for all.

Come on now. We all know how debates work. When you’re stumped by a question, you brush it off and go back to the talking points — the ones you’ve had weeks to practice. Obama does it, McCain does it, Biden does it and tonight, Palin did it. You can’t quite get away with that in a one-on-one sit-down. That’s why Palin’s run-ins with Couric have been so disastrous. But debates simply aren’t set up to allow those kind of calamities.

So of course Palin surprised us or exceeded expectations. Or didn’t qualify for ward-of-the-state status with her debate performance. This was essentially the immediate post-debate analysis offered on NBC by the likes of Chuck Todd and Tom Brokaw. Geraldine Ferraro even came along to say she was pulling for Palin not to screw up and was pleased to declare she hadn’t. (Ferraro acknowledged that Biden made stronger policy arguments — how f’ed up is American political discourse when this is basically an aside?)

What no one seemed to talk about right away — perhaps out of fear of being accused of piling on the poor woman, or perhaps because they were so breath-taken by Palin’s demonstration of being able to repeat talking points — was the fact that Palin’s presentation was, while not the catastrophe many may have been expecting or hoping for, nevertheless shaky and at times uncertain and at other times clearly coached and rehearsed.

Biden had his wobbly moments too — curiously, particularly right after he appeared so strong in rebuking Palin’s “the surge will work in Afghanistan” suggestion — but not as many as Palin’s, and his delivery was miles ahead. Palin seemed nervous, a bit clunky in making what were frequent and abrupt transitions from one topic to another one, and unquestionably in less command of her material than Biden was of his.

The problem here, since as I said above we need to be worried about policy, after all, is not so much that Palin didn’t have the polish that Biden seemed much more able to display. The problem is that when Palin was at her best, she was also at her most vague. Doubtless her coaches knew what kind of stuff sounds best and most natural out of the lipsticked mouth of that great arctic pitt bull. Keep it general, keep it fluffy, keep it “Joe Sixpack.” Talk about your family, about “small-town” stuff, and freedom and shining cities on a hill and of course, praise the hell out of John McCain. All that is easy stuff compared to getting down and dirty with tax policy, foreign affairs, military strategy or constitutional theory. Little wonder, then, that Palin mostly tried to steer clear of such wonkish territory and kept coming back to the “glittering generalities.”

Biden came armed with facts and data and mostly had solid command of them. Palin tried to toss voting-record mud at Biden and Obama only to see a fair bit of it deflected back. Soon enough she realized she probably wasn’t going to win an argument over the nuances of Senate votes by regurgitating someone else’s talking points to a man with nearly 36 years in Congress.

Certainly instant debate analysis from the talking heads is something to be wary of (Obama-McCain I was universally declared a tie only to have public-opinion polling suggest otherwise, to Team Obama’s pleasure; and already, there’s good news for Obama-Biden after tonight’s debate), but that doesn’t lessen the frustration of witnessing the media air their confusions and ingorance on live television for the world to see.

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