I didn't really want to watch the VP debate last night. I don't believe that any traits necessary to be president (or VP for that matter) are demonstrated in the debate format, and I didn't want to see a Palin train-wreck on the order of her interview with Katie Couric. Maybe it was the train-wreck possibility that made me turn on the debate anyway.
I thought Palin looked weak in the first half of the debate, stammering answers and avoiding many questions inelegantly. After about half the debate, I got fed-up with Biden's smarmy answers and unanswerable attacks, on regulation/de-regulation, for example. I turned the channel to something more important: the Pitt/USF football game and the NLDS baseball game.
There was an interesting post and comment thread on Volokh yesterday about the legal goings-on in Sen. Ted Stevens corruption trial in Washington. It seems the prosecutor has failed to give the defense some exculpatory evidence that seriously undermined the prosecution. (The prosecution used a version of the "I Forgot!" defense.) The trial judge was taking the subject under advisement and would decide later what the penalty should be. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems he has three choices: (a) he could sanction/punish the prosecutors and let the trial proceed. (b) he could declare a mistrial. or (c) he could dismiss the charges completely.
I gather from the comments in the VC post that his decision will be made partly on how much damage he thinks has been done to the defendant's case. Some commenters thought there had not been much damage since the affected witness was still on the stand and could still be cross-examined. Others thought the damage was significant since it affected the entire defense case, from the opening statement on. I don't think any of them called for outright dismissal.
I was reminded of this today as I thought more about Joe Biden's performance last night. He made a number of inaccurate statements (see here, here, and my earlier post here). Gwen Ifill didn't correct him on any of these, so either Palin had to know enough to know how wrong Biden was in each instance, or she had to react to bogus, inaccurate assertions from Biden. It is understandable that she might be hesitant in responding/replying.
Should Biden be sanctioned or penalized for his errors and misstatements? Certainly Palin made some inaccurate statements, but Biden isn't being judged on the smoothness of his answers.
I'm thinking that maybe the appropriate response is to realize how unimportant Palin's hesitance and uncertainty in answering were. I think I'd rather have a hesitant VP than a smooth, stupid one.