There's a fair amount of concern online about just how Joe Biden should approach his debate with Sarah Palin. Palin's horrendous performance in her interview with Katie Couric (savaged here and mocked here) has only made the problem worse for Biden according to many. So, Joe Biden, how can you take on Palin and not come off as condescending, or patronizing or sexist? I have some answers
1.) Don't debate Palin--debate McCain. Actually, this is the same advice that Palin was given this morning on CNN. The VP debate really isn't meant to showcase who is better equipped to be second-in-command. The number of people who are swayed by a VP pick are miniscule, and since both VP candidates come from safe states, it's likely that neither is going to be a real factor in the final tally. You aren't competing against each other here--you're just along for the ride, electorally speaking.
2.) Don't sweat the sexism charges. I say this because it won't matter what you actually say or doesn't say on that stage--the McCain campaign is going to charge sexism. It's the no-win situation of all no-win situations. That's why point one is so important--if you're not debating her, then you lessen your exposure, and you make their charges even more hollow, and that's the best you can hope for here.
3.) Don't rise to the bait. Debate moderators are the equivalent of the smarmy kid in junior high who liked to say "let's you and him fight." Jim Lehrer, who is a fine newsman in general, turned into just that kind of jackhole in the debate between Obama and McCain. Gwen Ifill is likely to do the same thing here. If you get into a fight with Palin, you lose, even if you win.
4.) Don't go off script. Don't improvise. That's when you get in trouble. Remember--you are not running for VP so much as you are speaking for Barack Obama. If you screw up, you don't embarrass yourself--you embarrass him. Yes, it's a no-win situation. Yes, it sucks. But that's what you signed up for when you took the gig.
So that's my advice. Add any other advice you might have in the comments.