Joe Biden / Sarah Palin debate preview

This may be the most interesting excerpt from Katie Couric’s interviews with the two Vice-Presidential candidates. Couric poses three questions to each candidate in turn:

  1. “Why do you think Roe v. Wade was a good (or bad) decision?” [Roe v. Wade is the 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the USA.]
  2. “Do you think there’s an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?”
  3. “Are there (other) Supreme Court decisions you disagree with?”

My first observation is this:  on abortion, you have a clear distinction between the two candidates. Some voters will strongly agree with Biden’s position; others will strongly agree with Palin’s position.

Second, Palin once again demonstrates that her knowledge is a quarter of an inch deep. She clearly doesn’t understand that the notion of an inherent right of privacy is the cornerstone of Roe v. Wade:

According to the Roe decision, most laws against abortion in the United States violated a constitutional right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Even though Couric explicitly explains it to her, Palin fails to understand what’s at stake in the follow-up question. She gives the “wrong” answer (from a conservative perspective).

Palin compounds the dispay of ignorance when she proceeds to argue that each individual state should interpret the right to privacy for itself. Couric’s question explicitly locates the right in the U.S. Constitution. Thus we’re talking about a federal right:  one that should be applied the same way everywhere in the nation (not interpreted one way in one state and another way in another state). (h/t Hilzoy)

Third, Governor Palin is unable to name another Supreme Court decision she disagrees with. She tries to bluff her way through by talking in generalities (as she did with the question about what newspapers and magazines she reads), without being able to name even one such court decision. The viewer is left with the impression that abortion is the only public policy issue that matters to Palin.

Fourth:  the McCain camp has complained that Joe Biden’s gaffes have been ignored. I always try to be even-handed, so here you go — an embarrassing Biden gaffe:

Two problems:  (1) There was no TV in 1929 — oops! — and (2) FDR was not the President when the stock market crashed — double oops! But Biden’s gaffe isn’t in the same league as Palin’s.

The general thrust of Biden’s statement is correct. Roosevelt wasn’t the President at the time of the stock market crash, but he assumed the presidency at the depth of the Great Depression. Biden knows that it was FDR who got the country back on track. Moreover, FDR made effective use of radio — the mass medium of that era — by delivering thirty “fireside chats” to the American public.

So Biden mistakenly referred to the stock market crash when he should have referred merely to the Depression; and he anachronistically mentioned TV when he should have said “radio”; but his general point was accurate.

Decide for yourself which candidate is better qualified to become Vice President. Admittedly, you might prefer Palin’s position on the abortion issue:  but do you really want Sarah Palin in an office where she could succeed to the presidency at a moment’s notice?

Ninety minutes ’til the great debate.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. James Pate
    Oct 03, 2008 @ 23:09:40

    I think one can believe in the right to privacy without supporting legal abortion. John Roberts said there was a right to privacy, I think on the basis of the Fourth Amendment, which talks about people being secure in their persons, houses, and papers. But I don’t think anyone would agree that the right to privacy is an absolute. We have laws against child abuse and domestic violence, which occur in the privacy of people’s own homes.


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