T.E.N. Political Pages, aka-VP Debate Comments

Below, I have posted some comments from the Washington Post and around the web stating how Palin and Biden can win tonight's debate. I'm not going to post all of them, just a few.

LISA SCHIFFREN

Speechwriter to Vice President Dan Quayle; contributor to National Review Online's "The Corner" blog

Palin started strong but has become a lightning rod for liberal contempt. She needs to speak directly to viewers and address, obliquely, the criticisms of her qualifications and intelligence. She wins by demonstrating relevant experience, solid gut and inner steel. It should sound like this:

I am a mother of five, like the speaker of the House. And yes, I hunt. But my political qualifications stem from my political experience: I am a sitting governor. I was elected governor because I took on a corrupt political machine and sent fellow Republicans to jail, not because I am "cute." Like the other 49 governors, I am accountable for dozens of state agencies. I manage a workforce of tens of thousands. I run an entity with a budget in the hundreds of millions. What has Joe Biden managed? How many people are on his staff?

I do not have foreign policy experience. As Govs. Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan did, I will learn the names of foreign leaders and the conventions for discussing foreign policy. Here is what you need to know: My instincts are sound. Like John McCain, I recognize our adversaries for who they are. I can tell who the aggressor is in a conflict. I don't have a lot of patience for dictators, radical Islamic terrorists and leaders who threaten America or our allies. I am a fighter, and I will fight for you.

ROBERT SHRUM

Senior adviser to the Gore and Kerry presidential campaigns; fellow at NYU's Wagner School of Public Service

Palin has her marching orders: Don't answer the question that's asked but shift to attacks on Obama, Biden, the Washington elite and the "Bridge to Nowhere." After debate camp, she probably has 15 or 20 such deflections in the can, an easier task than filling in her chasm of substantive knowledge. And she has always her value-oriented homilies to fall back on.

The format is rigid, at the insistence of the McCain campaign, with no chance for the kind of back and forth in last Friday's debate. Biden won't strain to trip up Palin or take the bait when she assails his record. He has two strategic objectives: defend and advance Obama, and go after McCain. That's the choice in November, and even if Palin survives this encounter better than she did Katie Couric's interview, it won't matter that much if Biden has strategic focus and discipline. Palin may blow herself up, but Biden can't spend his time trying to light the fuse.

Moderator Gwen Ifill may play a decisive role. It was Sander Vanocur, a panelist from NBC News, who asked Nixon in 1960 why President Eisenhower couldn't name a single idea of Nixon's that he had adopted. Ifill can push past Palin's syntax-challenged generalities by pressing her instead of moving on to another issue. The right is attacking Ifill because she has a book coming out in January called "The Age of Obama" -- which is actually about the rise of a new generation of African American politicians. I have no doubt Ifill will be fair; I've watched her discomfort candidates on both sides, including mine. I don't know how tough she'll be -- and that will matter -- because Palin has to do more than meet the low expectations she's set. Voters want to measure whether she's up to the job; if they think she isn't, McCain's judgment will suffer another blow.

ED ROGERS

White House staffer to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; group chairman of BGR Holding

It's time for the McCain campaign to turn mama's picture to the wall and get rough. Palin needs to attack Obama for being the extreme liberal that he is. Attack, attack, attack. Ignore Biden and put the McCain campaign on offense. Republicans will love it and breathe a sigh of relief. Independents need to hear the truth about what a cliche orthodox leftist Obama is. She needs to attack, with ferocity, real facts and a smile. If this becomes a geography bee or a "name that foreign national anthem" show, we are in trouble.

Biden needs to say nothing -- a great challenge for him. It will be hard for him to show subtle expertise without looking smug, to flaunt his experience without talking too much. It is impossible for him to present himself as a credible agent of change. He should stay quiet and sit back while Obama allies in the media create a misstep and then take Palin apart in the coming days.

JEREMY LOTT

Author of "The Warm Bucket Brigade: The Story of the American Vice Presidency"

Many pundits say Joe Biden and Sarah Palin need to appear "presidential" tonight and therefore less combative. The advice is high-minded but dead wrong. They're not running for president, and voters probably don't want another powerful vice president. The vice president was never supposed to be a chief operating officer but, rather, someone who would preside over the Senate in good times and step into the executive position if something awful happened.

Palin should be vicious. She needs to go after Barack Obama and his gaffetacular running mate with a ferocity that got her that "Barracuda" nickname, tearing into them on energy exploration, social issues, spending and their party's complicity in creating the economic conditions that helped cause our current market turmoil.

Palin needs to attack, full tilt, to help the Republicans get their groove back and to further her own political future. The Alaska governor could one day end up on the top of a Republican ticket, whether or not the GOP holds the White House this November. She won't get there by playing nice.

MARY BETH CAHILL

Manager of John Kerry's presidential campaign; former chief of staff to Sen. Edward Kennedy

Palin has an instinctive ease with television cameras and the ability to deliver a killer shot to her opponent. However, she has the higher bar to clear as a newcomer to international affairs with little experience of sustained discussion of America's diplomatic and economic place in the world. Viewers will judge her a success if she exhibits reasonable knowledge of our allies and the challenges that confront the nation without losing her composure.

Biden will achieve success by defending his running mate from every charge and by attacking McCain, not Palin. If he is concise and polite in this moment of maximum attention, he will vindicate Obama's choice of him as a running mate.

MICHAEL FELDMAN

Former senior adviser to Vice President Al Gore; founding partner of the Glover Park Group

Joe Biden's mission tonight: Don't screw it up. The economy has returned as the dominant issue, voters are paying attention and they like what they've been hearing from the Obama campaign. There is no doubt that Biden is qualified to be president, the single most important quality of a VP candidate, so he doesn't have anything to prove. He should answer the questions and let his knowledge and experience speak for themselves. His opponent still has a lot of work to do. He doesn't have to question her abilities; an increasing number of Americans are already doing that. To the extent that he directly engages her, it should be to remind voters that Palin and McCain are running to offer a third term of the Bush administration.

He should articulate his campaign's vision for change on the economic crisis to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- in other words, don't pass up this opportunity to remind voters what is at stake in this election -- defend his running mate from unwarranted attacks (there will be many) but stick to the substance and don't get drawn into personal attacks. This is not the time for point-scoring. The McCain campaign will be poised to jump on anything that gives it the opportunity to change the subject and distract the American people.

TAMARA WICKS

Resident heckler, dissenter, and signifier; founder of The Coalition of the Willing

In order for Palin to win tonight's debate, she would have to do something that she hasn't done since she was chosen as a VP candidate which is appear to know what the hell she's doing. She must actually talk about what she is capable of instead of what she hopes people will dislike about Obama. Palin will have to pray to the great God that created the moose she shot for dinter last week that nobody asks her anything about foreign policy. Apparently, she will have to convince the American voters that she is not the biggest mistake McCain ever made since he went off and got captured for many moons while in the military.

In short, Palin would probably have to call in sick.

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