I have tonight off, which is great because, like most readers of this blog, I plan to watch the Vice Presidential candidates' debate. I feel other people's embarrassment too easily, and thus hope that both candidates are articulate, well-prepared, and polite to each other.
Beyond that, though, I don't have a good sense of what this debate is meant to achieve. What qualifies someone to serve as Vice President, other than the Constitutional minimum requirements?
We talk about Vice Presidents being a heartbeat away from the Oval Office; that has happened once in my lifetime, three times in my father's (and it's Dad's birthday today, so many happy returns). It hasn't happened in more than 30 years, though, and frankly I would not vote for either Joe Biden or Sarah Palin to be President of the United States.
The incumbent aside, traditionally the Vice President has represented the United States at state funerals, weddings and other ceremonial events, and the Vice President has been the Executive Branch's primary official liaison to the Legislative Branch. The Vice President serves as President of the Senate, and casts votes to break ties -- a real possibility in the next Congress.
Unquestionably, Joe Biden is more qualified to be President of the Senate than Sarah Palin is. Sarah Palin, however, is arguably better-looking than Joe Biden, and might look better in photographs at international funerals. As Vice President she might be as invisible and innocuous as Dan Quayle was, and as much fun for late-night talk show hosts.
Thus it seems to me that the standards for "winning" tonight's Vice Presidential debate are very different for Senator Biden and Governor Palin. Biden needs to convince us that he can help make a broken Congress work; Palin just needs to convince us that she won't be an international embarrassment.
I'm betting on Biden.