Despite the hype and over-the-top exaggerations regarding Governor Palin’s
abilities coming from the RNC cheerleaders, the vice-presidential debates
present an unequal contest even greater then when Lloyd Bentsen so easily
outgunned Dan Quayle. In every possible category, from knowledge to
experience to temperament, Joe Biden will be operating from a position of
easy strength. And although I’ve heard both friends and media-types
speculate that there’s a pitfall in Palin’s being a woman, and that
therefore Biden must negotiate a high-wire between appearing either
aggressively dismissive or too much the gentleman (with the risk of
looking like he’s patronizing her), I think the fears are unfounded.
Biden has a long and substantial record as a leading advocate of women’s
issues, ranging from the dirty secret of domestic violence to
bread-and-butter matters such as affordable daycare for working mothers.
Past items of legislation which Biden has authored, in part or in whole,
are well-regarded as primers on how best to sieve mountains of research
and interviews down into a document both lucid and succinct, and, with his
interest in letting all relevant voices be heard, Biden has spent much of
his time in the Senate listening, asking trenchant questions, searching
for common ground, and listening some more. He has worked with and sought
the opinions and advice of women who are leaders in the health industry,
in the academy, in labor-management relations, and numerous other areas.
No one who has watched him in action, especially during the half-dozen and
more Supreme Court confirmation hearings, can have any doubt that he
treats individuals with respect and decency, even when he disagrees with
their responses, and even when he must prod them to be more forthcoming or
provide greater detail and so on.
Most importantly for me however, Joe Biden performed extremely well in the
Democratic debates, always taking the high road and doing so with humor
and good cheer. And remember, one of his fellow debaters was the most
intelligent and tough female politician of the last two decades, Hillary
By comparison, Governor Palin may look like easy pickings, but Biden has
shown that he won’t fall into the trap of overconfidence, nor will he
treat her with kid gloves. He will show her the respect he shows to every
fellow American and he will do just fine.