James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘vice presidential debate’

Vice presidential debate strategies for Biden and Palin

Posted by James McPherson on September 27, 2008

During the past week, Joe Biden managed to demonstrate that, whatever foreign policy credentials he may have, his apparent knowledge about radio, television and the Great Depression would cause him serious problems if he were in the mass media history class that I teach. 

On the other hand, Sarah Palin’s inability to answer even straightforward (and, one would presume, expected) questions, coupled with her apparent and unexpected insecurity, has even conservative columnist Kathleen Parker calling on her to step aside for the good of the Republican Party. The Democratic line from today that she is “a terrific debater” seems to me a clear attempt to counter the ankle-level expectations created by Palin herself.

So here’s my recommended debate strategy for both candidates: Try to let your opponent do most of the talking. On Thursday night the best defense may prove to be a look of stunned amazement while your opponent rambles on. Of course my strategy might be much tougher to follow for the loquacious Biden than for the not-ready-for-prime-time Palin (whom the GOP apparently wouldn’t even trust to speak after the presidential debate, while Biden has appeared seemingly everywhere):

Oh, and parents–You may want to keep your kids away from the TV during Thursday’s debate. Chances are they already lack much knowledge about either history or the electoral process; you don’t want them sliding further.

Posted in Education, History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Presidential & VP debates: protecting Palin

Posted by James McPherson on September 20, 2008

Now if they could just figure out a way to let her use a teleprompter for the vice presidential “debate,” Sarah Palin could keep repeating the verbatim and often false statements she keeps regurgitating on the campaign trail. Note this quote about why the questions will be much more limited for the VP debate than for the three presidential debates:

McCain advisers said they were only somewhat concerned about Ms. Palin’s debating skills compared with those of Mr. Biden, who has served six terms in the Senate, or about his chances of tripping her up. Instead, they say, they wanted Ms. Palin to have opportunities to present Mr. McCain’s positions, rather than spending time talking about her experience or playing defense.

“To have opportunities to present Mr. McCain’s positions”? Isn’t that what his three debates and millions of dollars worth of campaign ads are for? Oh, yeah–the ads are for smearing Barack Obama and misrepresenting his positions, not for presenting McCain’s. Of course the real reason for the limitation is so the GOP can continue to protect their “pretty little lady” nominee.

One other drawback for Palin. She’ll actually have to learn McCain’s positions, many of which are in opposition to her own (arctic drilling, global warming and perhaps sex education). Of course, many of them also in opposition to what McCain’s positions were a few months, weeks or–lately, as the economic crisis shows–even days earlier.

Posted in Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »