I know the Washington Post's David Broder slightly, and I've always respected and liked him and enjoyed dealing with him. But what can he have been thinking when writing this, about the VP debate, in his column today?

Those of us who know and admire Joe Biden were happy that a big national audience got to see him at his best -- a sentimental, smart, decent and generous guy.

But he was no better than Palin. She appeared cool as a cucumber, comfortable with her talking points and unrattled by anything that was thrown at her.

I've added the emphasis, my way of conveying a reaction of WHAT???????????!!!!!?????? Such an assessment can be true only if you have decided to assess debate performance on one factor alone, perky self-assurance, and to assign no weight whatsoever to such items as logic, responsiveness to questions, clarity in explaining views, factual knowledge, sentence by sentence coherence, and so on.

As everyone else including me has observed, Palin managed to pass her own particular test in this debate -- which was to improve on her alarmingly ill-informed and paralyzed appearances with Katie Couric. Biden's test was to "do well" in the normal, not the making-special-allowances, sense of that term. Each passed the respective test, but that doesn't mean there was no difference in how they performed.

In his famous 1960s book Paper Lion, George Plimpton described the thrill of running a few plays as quarterback during a Detroit Lions scrimmage. He rightly considered himself a  success simply because he didn't get pulverized. That he avoided being killed by the opposing linemen was indeed impressive, but it didn't mean that they were "no better" at what they did.

The title of one of Plimpton's other books, about what happened when he got to pitch to several major league batters, gets across the idea of the different standards being applied to his appearances in pro sports lineups  -- and to Palin's performance in the debate. It was called Out of My League.


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