I had an interesting experience last night. Erin and I were listening to the vice-presidential debate on the radio since we don't have the cable hooked up yet. She was interested in the debate, but I was really excited. I was looking forward to Palin having an opportunity to shine and perhaps adding some much-needed lustre to the McCain campaign.
Right from the beginning of the debate, it sounded like Palin was getting hammered by Biden. He seemed to come out of the gates speaking very technically about precise issues. He spoke intelligently about the economy and foriegn policy. He seemed to be running circles around Governor Palin, who sounded like a 19-year old girl arguing politics with a college professor.
I went to bed very depressed. So, imagine my surprise when I awoke this morning to newspaper headlines declaring the debate a draw, and even some giving the debate to Governor Palin! WTF?
All that I can chalk it up to is the difference between watching and listening to a debate. I saw pictures in the morning and Palin looked very good last night. There may have been some body language and expression that carried a lot of weight on TV, but (obviously) not so much on the radio.
Last night, listening to what I thought was a devastating loss for Palin, I comforted myself with the thought that sounding intelligent and being a good debater do not make one right, necessarily. I would be voting for the McCain/Palin ticket in any case based on things that I knew Obama and Biden believe in that I think are dead wrong. But it raises a couple of questions about modern politics and the future of the Republican party.
First, I think debates should be listened to. I'm happy that Palin appeared to come out on top on TV, but she should have sounded good. It was a more cerebral experience listening to the radio than watching TV. I'm glad that my VP hopeful looks great in pumps and a charcoal-gray business thingy. But conservatives should be able to go toe-to-toe with any educated liberal and come across as erudite and articulate. Conservatism is not merely guns and religion at the expense of reason.
Which leads to the second thought. The debate made me wonder about the future of conservatism. I think back to the Supreme Court nominations of this last presidential term, where the only qualified conservative candidates were Catholics. Do I think that there aren't any intelligent conservatives who aren't Catholic? I'm not so sure any more.
Being conservative means having a respect for history and Truth. This has long been the realm of those who are of a religious ilk. If you add to this respect a certain amount of intelligence and education, you get a Catholic. Why is this? Because amongst Christian religions, only Catholicism (and perhaps Eastern Orthodoxy) has roots deep enough to bear up against the load of post-modern intellectualism that has permeated virtually every corner of our culture.
So, you want someone who will energize the base and also be able to debate Joe Biden. Well, let's see, you'll need someone with traditional values who is also intelligent and firmly grounded in social and cultural issues. Well, my friend, you have yourself a Catholic.