Two of the big stories on the Sunday morning tv news shows — the much-lamented death of Paul Newman and the much-savaged interview of Sarah Palin — blurred for me today. Talk of Newman’s career brought to mind his famous character “Fast Eddie” Felson from the 1961 movie “The Hustler,” and the encore “The Color of Money” (1986). And, all the commentary on Palin’s faltering performance in her one-on-one with Katie Kouric reminded me that the Great Pre-Debate Low Expectations Game is in full swing.
Hustlers are willing to lose a bit to lower expectations and lull their opponents into overconfidence. Sarah Palin probably plays a pretty good game of pool, and she just might be pullin’ a Felson in anticipation of her really big-stakes match next Thursday, in St. Louis, at the Vice Presidential Debate with Sen. Joe Biden. She’ll be heading to the podium next Friday with expectations lower than a snake’s belly, and heading toward the level of a gopher’s behind. If Gov. Palin convinces the nation she can either walk or chew-gum, she will be hailed as passing muster and vastly out-performing the predictions of pundits across the political spectrum.
Beating the odds and expectations seems to be what the debates are all about in the media. Sarah Palin will surely surpass all expectations — perhaps rising to the heady heights of mediocrity. Joe Biden’s my candidate, and I sure hope he isn’t underestimating his Republican opponent. If Joe’s feeling cocky, he probably should watch the YouTube videos of the First Game and the Final Game between Fast Eddie and Minnesota Fats.
The TinyURL for this post is http://tinyurl.com/PalinFelson . For more, see the Daily Kos posting, “watch out for the Palin expectations trap” Sept. 28, 2008; and find a video of the entire 2006 Alaska Gubernatorial Debate at The New Argument.
[Speaking of Debates, don't miss our finger-puppet "presidential debate redux," which asks a lot of questions Barack forgot.]
update (October 3, 2008): Darn right. She didn’t run the table, but the oft-winking Gov. Palin exceeded all those low expectations and stays in contention for the big prize. (See New York Times, “The Vice-Presidential Debate“) As David Brooks said today, in “The Palin Rebound,” “By the end of the debate, most Republicans were not crouching behind the couch, but standing on it. The race has not been transformed, but few could have expected as vibrant and tactically clever a performance as the one Sarah Palin turned in Thursday night.”
the spot where I buried
the last of my pets
of the pool hall sign
p.s. Paul Newman has long been my favorite actor from my parents’ generation — even before I could relate to his character in Nobody’s Fool. The f/k/a Gang is going to eschew further posting this evening and curl up on the futon with a tape of his 1982 movie “The Verdict,” which is near the top of every “best films about lawyers” list I’ve ever seen (e.g., our prior post). You will indeed be missed, Mr. Newman.