The punchline here is that we didn't really watch the debate last night; we watched the John Waters movie Hairspray instead. This would be the original Hairspray, which oddly enough has much better music than the musical, and in which the acting is intentionally campy, unlike the debates, in which the acting is more "kitsch". Overall, it was probably a better choice.
We did watch the last ten minutes of the Palin/Biden debate. In general, it seemed that both candidates "did well". The problem here is in how we look at these debates now: by "did well" what we mean is "they delivered their canned, bullshit talking points in a gentle and believable way". We're grading them on their acting. It's like American Idol.
So, they both passed to the final round. Biden was a bit rambling and halting, but in general came off as likable and knowledgeable and didn't make any big mistakes. Palin seemed a bit coked up and tended not to answer the questions she was asked; but in general she seemed intelligent and likable. Both of them would probably make good managers of a general store in the Midwest, or perhaps employees at the DMV.
They both stuck to the same talking points: Biden- George W. Bush is the worst president in American history and John McCain is his liege; Palin- Barack Obama is dangerously naive, but John McCain is a maverick. Neither of them seems to have any specific ideas to improve the country. The argument seems to be that Obama/Biden don't need real plans to fix things because it's enough that they're not Republicans, while McCain/Palin don't need to give specific plans to the treacherous media and voters because they keep calling themselves mavericks, so you never know what they'll do next. I keep thinking of those Crazy Eddie commercials- "Vote for me for President! My policies are INSANE!!!"
I think most people already know who they're voting for, and as we approach November I find myself strangely respectful of all of the voters. They're doing the best they can with what they're given. Hope springs eternal. Allow me to be a downer though. All I've been hearing from friends, relatives, editorial writers, and CNN talking heads is something like this: Palin did badly in her interviews but did really well here; Biden doesn't always do well but he did well tonight; we don't know if things will change due to their strong performances, etc. etc.
But, if we're at the point in which we grade our politicians based on how convincingly they deliver the same empty, meaningless, outdated nonsense, then let me suggest that we're already totally fucked.