Palin’s Nonanswers

During the negotiations for the formats of the debate it was agreed to simplify the vice presidential debate for Sarah Palin, reducing the risk that she will be asked follow up questions or have to directly debate the issues with Joe Biden. The current format plays to her strength–evading answers. This has been often been seen during the rare interviews with Palin. Katie Couric was successful in demonstrating that Palin had no understanding of most issues when she pressed her for answers, or at least some clue that she had thought about the issue before. Former Alaska state representative and gubenatorial candidate Andrew Halcro has described Palin’s debate strategy and it sounds just like her strategy of evasion in interviews:

Palin is a master of the nonanswer. She can turn a 60-second response to a query about her specific solutions to healthcare challenges into a folksy story about how she’s met people on the campaign trail who face healthcare challenges. All without uttering a word about her public-policy solutions to healthcare challenges.

In one debate, a moderator asked the candidates to name a bill the legislature had recently passed that we didn’t like. I named one. Democratic candidate Tony Knowles named one. But Sarah Palin instead used her allotted time to criticize the incumbent governor, Frank Murkowski. Asked to name a bill we did like, the same pattern emerged: Palin didn’t name a bill.

And when she does answer the actual question asked, she has a canny ability to connect with the audience on a personal level. For example, asked to name a major issue that had been ignored during the campaign, I discussed the health of local communities, Mr. Knowles talked about affordable healthcare, and Palin talked about … the need to protect hunting and fishing rights.

Unfortunately it will be difficult for Biden to confront Palin on this considering the format of the debate. He will probably be best off in just showing he is able to answer the questions, and leave it to commentators afterward to hopefully point out deficiencies in Palin’s answers.

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