Last night’s debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden (transcript here) is tough to call. Both sides are claiming victory. It seems that both Biden and Palin won, possible since they were not really competing against each other.
Biden had to make sure that he did not put his foot in his mouth or come across as mean or aggressive. He remained amiable and gracious throughout, passing up several chances to attack Palin’s misstatements. His tears during the mention of his first wife’s fatal car accident came across as honest and spontaneous, and he attacked McCain, not Palin.
Palin’s task was more difficult. After two awful weeks for McCain, because of both the economy and Palin’s incomprehensible answers during her Couric interview, a poor performance for Palin could put the nail in the coffin of McCain’s campaign and rule out any national political career for Palin. What’s more, she was going up against a veteran senator with long and deep foreign policy experience. She was able to remain on the offensive for much of the debate, and even took control of the topic being discussed at times, albeit in a sometimes awkward fashion. She was able to project her personality through the television that endeared her to conservative and rural Americans. And, most importantly, she had an answer for every question (even if it wasn’t the question being asked), and did not freeze up or say that she did not know about a certain subject.
Both candidates had their misstatements, but there was one that continues to stand out in my mind.
When we kicked — along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, “Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don’t know — if you don’t, Hezbollah will control it.”
Now what’s happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel.
What? When was Hezbollah kicked out of Lebanon? How could they be a legitimate part of the government if they were kicked out?
Perhaps he was referring to Syria leaving Lebanon, according to Jeremy Pelofsky at Reuters. Syrian troops left Lebanon in the aftermath of the Cedar Revolution in April, 2005. But France and the United States did not play meaningful roles in that event, offering only statements of support for the Lebanese people. That was a Lebanese affair. In addition, no one advocated putting NATO troops into Lebanon to replace the Syrians who had just left.
I believe Biden left out the word “south” in his answer, referring to Hezbollah’s retreat from south Lebanon to new lines north of the Litani River at the end of the Second Lebanon War in August, 2006. There, the U.S. and France took leading roles in crafting U.N.S.C. Resolution 1701 that outlined the terms of the cease-fire. But, again, saying France and the U.S. kicked Hezbollah out of south Lebanon is an disingenous way of framing a war in which Israel lost 120- plus soldiers in order to accomplish what Biden is crediting the U.S. and France with. Also, no one has yet been able to dig up any instance of Obama or Biden pushing for NATO troops in south Lebanon instead of UNIFIL soldiers.
Imagine the reaction in the media if Palin had made such a strange claim on a foreign policy issue.
Annenberg’s Factcheck.org does not even deal with Biden’s Hezbollah gaffe in their “non-partisan” critique of the debate.