I'm not sure if Monty Python and The Search for The Holy Grail is a great movie or not, but I do know it's one of the most quotable ones. As I was watching the Vice Presidential Debate last night, I saw Governor Sarah Palin's lips moving, but the voice I kept hearing was that of the King of Swamp Castle, who is forced into the unenviable position of trying to defend the reckless and chagrined Sir Lancelot:
"Friends, this is supposed to be a happy occasion! Let's not bicker and argue about who killed who..."
Several times during the debate, Senator Joe Biden scored points by tying John McCain's record to the policies and practices of the Bush administration, policies that Governor Palin herself admitted were "mistakes."
Governor Palin's standard response was to (try to) chide Senator Biden for "looking back" rather than looking forward. As I reflected on why that response seemed so lame, I realized it was not merely because it was a standard evasion, but also because in evading rather than rebutting, she left the impression unchallenged that the substantive characterization was true. Like the lord of Swamp Castle, who knows he cannot claim that Lancelot didn't kill the wedding guests and so must only assert that it is poor manners to bring it up, Senator Palin shaped her response not to answer the substantive charge but only to say, in essence, "Let's not talk about that, okay?"
Of course, the bad thing about Monty Python and the Holy Grail is that once it's in your head, you can't just do one bit. So, I guess we'll have to make Senator Biden the guy who refuses to let King Arthur get away with pretending he is doing something just by saying he is:
"That's not an economic plan! You've got two halves of coconuts and you're banging them together!"