October 03, 2008

My reaction

Okay, once more into the political breach. I did watch the veep debate last night, while simultaneously following threads on 3-5 blogs; my wife called me an absolute dork. Anyway, I thought that Palin did well. There were times when she was out of her depth on subjects (not surprising, she's been on the national stage for about 5 weeks), but she managed to swerve into similar experience earned in her capacity as mayor and governor. Biden also did okay, but I think, at times, he forgot about the split screen when Gov. Palin was speaking. Gore lost the election when people all over the country saw him sighing and making upset faces whenever Bush spoke during their first debate. However, one downside for Joe was that he lied. A lot. Shamelessly and repeatedly, as if by sheer repetition he could make his statements more true. I'm a political junkie, so I noticed 8-10 of Senator Biden's prevarications right when he said them. I realize that debaters will, at times, stretch the truth in ways that serve their purpose, but I did not know that being able to spout complete bullshit was allowed, or that said spouting would be considered a net positive. Jonah has a pretty good analysis of this:


What struck me the most about the debate – and it probably helped having quintessential Obamaphiles in the room – was how Biden’s “gravitas” is derived almost entirely from the fact that he can lie with absolute passion and conviction. He just plain made stuff up tonight. I read a long list tonight in my debate with Beinart here at Wash U, we can visit the details tomorrow.

Just a few: Flatly asserting that Obama never said he’d meet with Achmenijad; that absolute nonsense about spending more in a month in Iraq than we’ve spent in Afghanistan (“let me say it again,” he said as if he was hammering home a real fact); the bit about McCain voting with Obama on raising taxes; his vote in favor of the war etc.

It’s amazing how the impulse to see Biden as the more qualified and serious guy stems almost entirely from his ability to be a convincing b.s. artist. I’m not saying Palin was always honest or unrehearsed, but when she offers up a catchphrase or a talking point, you can tell. When Biden spews up a warm fog of deceitful gassbaggery the response seems to be “what a great grasp of the issues he has!”

His ability, nay his eagerness, to fake not only the “facts” but his sincerity is so shameless many pundits seem either mesmerized by it or scared to call him on it. I’d call his fakery passive aggressive except it’s actually just aggressive aggressive. Beyond being a tool of trial lawyers, I never saw much similarity between Biden and John Edwards, but tonight I was really struck by how alike the two are. Edwards fakes being an everyman, and Biden does too. But his real fraud is intellectual seriousness. He talks like an intellectually mature person, but that’s all it is – talk.

Update: More from Jonah:


And, again, I never said that Palin was pure. My point is that Biden showed himself to an exceptionally facile liar. He makes stuff up with great passion, conviction and seeming command of the substance. So it just bugs me when people say he's better on the substance. I could be a great physicist if I'm not held to a requirement to be factually correct;

"Well, Gwen, that's an interesting question. As we all know the hamster spinning at the earth's core runs in a counter-clockwise direction. Let me repeat that so everyone understands. That hamster does not run in a clockwise direction, that would be madness. It's counter clockwise. That's why our lakes and rivers don't simply turn into a fine mist, and why our atmosphere doesn't simply spontaneously combust. This is something that my dear friend John McCain just doesn't understand. And it saddens me."

Posted by: Physics Geek at 07:25 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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