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A Change in America

I have to admit. I have yet to catch a debate in real time – various obligations have outweighed the desire to watch the debate each time. Usually, I’ve caught them a couple of days after the fact online. Last night was no exception. Although this time, I DVR’d it and watched a couple of hours after the fact.

Why am I prefacing this post with all of this? Because I think it important to note the importance of this change in how we get our information. Sure, people have been talking for years about the time shifting that is occurring in viewing habits, but I think this will be the first Presidential election where the full impact of this change will be felt.

Do I feel inundated by political campaign commercials this season? No. I don’t watch them, or at least not more than once (usually viewed online). On those rare occasions when I watch a television program, it is, like last night’s debate, according to my own schedule with my finger firmly pressed on fast forward during those commercial breaks.

This option is being taken advantage of by more and more Americans each and every day. If you’re like me, you didn’t catch the Katie Couric interviews of Governor Palin live, but sought them out after hearing how poorly she did in order to see the soundbites in their context. The same is true for Tina Fey’s Saturday night depictions of the Alaska Governor. I haven’t watched Saturday Night Live since my teenage years. Sitting through all of the mediocre skits to see that one good one just isn’t my idea of entertainment. But, the internet may just give Saturday Night Live a relevance for a whole new generation.

So, keeping all of this in mind, a couple of thoughts on last night’s debate between Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin. First, the good news – I found them both to be very likable. Senator Biden’s knowledge of the world stage made something very clear. He has been a working Senator, and he had one of my favorite observations of the night:

Mike Mansfield, a former leader of the Senate, said to me one day — he — I made a criticism of Jesse Helms. He said, “What would you do if I told you Jesse Helms and Dot Helms had adopted a child who had braces and was in real need?” I said, “I’d feel like a jerk.”

He said, “Joe, understand one thing. Everyone’s sent here for a reason, because there’s something in them that their folks like. Don’t question their motive.”

I have never since that moment in my first year questioned the motive of another member of the Congress or Senate with whom I’ve disagreed. I’ve questioned their judgment.

I have quite a few politically active friends on both sides of the aisle, and I can’t tell you how true this is. The vast majority of those representing us (and working to elect them) are good people. Their hearts and intentions are in the right place. I found it interesting that a very similar comment was made be Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) in his recent floor speech against the bailout:

Mr. President, I have friends and colleagues whom I respect deeply who are on all sides of this bailout issue. One of them just spoke. We all to want do what is right for America, and I believe those who have crafted this plan had pure and noble motives. They want this country to succeed. They want prosperity. I just do not believe that this bill gets the job done. In fact, in the long term, I am convinced it will do more harm than good.

Sometimes its too easy to forget that most people are good people – although there are definitely some bad apples in the process. Both Senator Biden and Governor Palin are clearly good apples. But, there is a fundamental difference between the two. Governor Palin truly represents the future and Senator Biden the past. For all of his talk of change, Senator Obama could not have made a worse choice than Senator Biden to be his running mate. Not because Senator Biden is a bad or incapable person – I don’t believe either is true, but because this is Senator Biden’s last hurrah.

Assuming that change is really what we need, and I believe all indicators support that, the Obama campaign brings a big pink elephant into the room. The fundamental effects of change through a Democratic process are not felt in four years – maybe, not even in eight. So, if Senator Obama is elected at the end of the day where is his succession plan? The answer: He doesn’t have one.

On the flip side, Governor Palin last night made it very clear that she is the symbol for the succession plan for the Republican Party – something we have been sorely lacking. She has exactly the type of keep it real and get back to bascis philosophy we need. As David Brooks fairly notes, Governor Palin’s personal charm would not have worked well in the past:

Their primal need for political survival having been satisfied, her supporters then looked for her to shift the momentum. And here we come to the interesting cultural question posed by her performance. The presidency and the vice presidency once was the preserve of white men in suits. As the historian Ellen Fitzpatrick pointed out on PBS Thursday night, if, in 1984, Geraldine Ferraro had spoken in the relentlessly folksy tones that Palin used, she would have been hounded out of politics as fundamentally unserious.

But that was before casual Fridays, boxers or briefs and T-shirt-clad Silicon Valley executives. Today, Palin can hit those colloquial notes again and again, and it is not automatically disqualifying.

But, it is not the past that concerns us. It is the future, and for our future Sarah Palin showed last night why she fits the bill perfectly. Is she an expert on all of the issues? No. But, this is where a knowledge of business is critical. The most successful CEO’s in America know that they don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. They need to surround themselves with those people, and then make an “executive decision” based on the facts those people present.

Some you may say that’s how President Bush was sold to us. Unfortunately, President Bush has one fatal flaw as a great executive, and it is not his motivation or ethics. It is his loyalty. Time and time again, he kept people in jobs when they should have been transitioned out.

Now, let’s bring this full circle. Who won last night’s debate? Governor Sarah Palin won. She won because she was the one with the most to lose. The biggest question America had regarding Sarah Palin is can she hold her own, and the answer last night was a resounding yes. Is she more knowledgeable than Senator Biden? No. Considering the age and experience gap, Senator Biden would have to be a fool for that to be true, and Biden is not.

However, Biden is no longer running for President. Barack Obama is. And, like Sarah Palin, Senator Obama is a very capable person, but a person who needs a few more years of on the job training before moving into the position of the presidency. In fact, in many ways, Obama is less prepared than Governor Sarah Palin to lead.

There is a change needed in America. The cultural change has already occured, and in my humble opinion, Governor Sarah Palin demonstrated last night why the McCain/Plain ticket is the embodiement of that change, and the Obama.Biden ticket is not.