Governor Palin arrived with a set of five-minute (and ninety-second) speechlets that she had practiced until she could deliver them flawlessly, plus some notes to refer to in case memory failed her. [Which was a sensible strategy in every way.]
When she was asked a question for which one of her speechlets was the answer, she answered with the speechlet. When she didn't have a speechlet that fit the question she was asked, she simply changed the subject and answered with a speechlet of her choice.
When Gwen Ifill asked the candidates to identify their personal Achilles' heel and Governor Palin didn't understand the question, she -- for some reason that I can't imagine -- decided to wing it, leading to the following curious exchange:
MS. IFILL: Let's talk conventional wisdom for a moment. The conventional wisdom, Governor Palin, with you, is that your Achilles' heel is that you lack experience. Your conventional wisdom against you is that your Achilles' heel is that you lack discipline, Senator Biden. What is it, really, for you, Governor Palin? What is it really for you, Senator Biden? We'll start with you, Governor.
GOV. PALIN: My experience as an executive will be put to good use as a mayor and business owner and oil and gas regulator and then as governor of a huge state, a huge energy-producing state that is accounting for much progress towards getting our nation energy independence and that's extremely important.
But it wasn't just that experience tapped into, it was my connection to the heartland of America: being a mom, being a -- one who is very concerned about a son in the war, about a special-needs child, about kids heading off to college -- how are we going to pay those tuition bills? -- about times and Todd and our marriage and our past where we didn't have health insurance. And we know what other Americans are going through as they sit around the kitchen table and try to figure out how are they going to pay out-of-pocket for health care. We've been there also. So that connection was important.
But even more important is that world view that I share with John McCain, that world view that says that America is a nation of exceptionalism and we are to be that shining city on a hill, as President Reagan so beautifully said, that we are a beacon of hope and that we are unapologetic, here. We are not perfect as a nation, but together we represent a perfect ideal, and that is democracy and tolerance and freedom and equal rights, those things that we stand for that we can be put to good use as a force for good in this world.
John McCain and I share that. And you combine all that with being a team with the only track record of making a -- really, a difference in where we've been and reforming, and that's a good team. It's a good ticket.
[Joe Biden, who did understand the question, went on to answer it.]
I assume both sides are satisfied by what happened. I was startled by Patrick Buchanan's immediate claim that Palin had "wiped the floor with Joe Biden"; Buchanan and I are at opposite ends of the political and philosophical spectrums, but the things he says usually strike me as rational. However, I expect to hear many more comments along the same line, perhaps using less martial metaphors.
And I have now done my civic duty, I think. I'm not going to watch the other two Presidential debates -- just the commentary and analysis.
There's a transcript of the debate at