Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Palin's Mastery of the Non-Answer

Joe Biden will be debating the wind, if the experience of someone who faced off with Sarah Palin more than two dozen times is any indication.

Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, Andrew Halcro asserts that "she's a master, not of facts, figures, or insightful policy recommendations, but at the fine art of the non-answer, the glittering generality."

Halcro, running for governor of Alaska as an independent in 2006, lost to Palin and, in a coffee-shop conversation, she revealed her approach to verbal jousting:

"Andrew, I watch you at these debates with no notes, no papers, and yet when asked questions, you spout off facts, figures, and policies, and I'm amazed. But then I look out into the audience and I ask myself, 'Does any of this really matter?'"

Palin's ploy is to evade specifics and connect viscerally with voters, as Halcro learned to his regret.

His advice to Joe Biden: "With shorter question-and-answer times and limited interaction between the two, he should simply ignore Palin in a respectful manner on the stage and answer the questions as though he were alone. Any attempt to flex his public-policy knowledge and show Palin is not ready for prime time will inevitably cast him in the role of the bully."

Perhaps Gwen Ifill, the moderator, and members of the audience asking questions will press Palin for specifics, but don't count on it.

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