Was Joe Biden on drugs or did he use Al Gore for his debate prep?
That’s the question anyone viewing the debate on TV should be asking.
Biden’s appalling petulant behavior, in conjunction with the moderator’s refusal to moderate the debate instead of debate the debate, allowed Biden to get out of control and make a clown of himself. That is all anyone will remember. The laughing, flailing, sighing, interrupting, smug and condescending demeanor, etc. Taken as a whole, it’s hard to imagine that after weeks of practice he was unable to control his disposition for 90 minutes.
There’s a difference between passion and petulant anger, and Biden clearly exhibited the latter. That is what will be remembered by the average voter. Unfortunately, the lack of a coherent debate format, along with so much time spent on foreign policy, probably caused most voters to tune out the substance. With Biden interrupting Ryan 86 times, and Martha Raddatz jumping in during the rest of his time, Ryan only had a few opportunities to shine, unlike Obama who actually spoke for more time during last week’s debate, despite Romney’s domination. As such, he didn’t have an opportunity to win the debate outright. But that won’t matter. The rest of the analysis is just for the politicos.
In terms of substance, here are some observations:
- Lies: Nobody in politics spews as many lies in such little time with such conviction as Joe Biden. It’s hard to dominate in a debate where someone is not following the format and uses his time to lie on verifiable facts while making up other narratives that can never be verified. Biden lied about voting against the wars. Indeed he voted for the Afghanistan resolution on Sept. 14, 2001 which authorized “the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.” He also voted for a resolution authorizing unilateral military action in Iraq on Oct. 11, 2002. He lied about the intelligence community initially thinking that the Libya attack was due to the anti-Islam film. Ironically, he wants us to believe what they say regarding Iran’s lack of a nuclear program. He lied about being on the same page as Israel regarding the timeline for Iran requiring a nuclear weapon. He lied about being Netanyahu’s friend for 36 years. Remember he lambasted him on Israeli soil a few years ago. He lied about premium support not being a bipartisan idea. The list goes on and on. He also fabricated a bunch of private discussions and referenced classified information that he could not divulge – both of which can never be verified.
- Moderator: While it’s important to talk about foreign policy, it is incredible how the majority of the only VP debate was spent on those issues and not the economy. Also, there was more time allocated for abortion than taxes. This was another failure of the moderator. Moreover, it is unconscionable that she did not stop Biden from interrupting Ryan early on in the debate. It’s one thing to let the candidate go a few seconds over his allotted time; it’s another thing to allow that person to interrupt his opponent 82 times. Then again, Raddatz was also interrupting Ryan for the second half of the debate.
- Abortion: Ryan gave the most poignant rationale for being pro-life that I’ve ever heard on a national stage. He lampooned Biden for his insouciance towards China’s one-child policy. His indictment of the anti-consciense mandates in Obamacare was superb. This is probably one of the underappreciated parts of the debate among the political chattering class.
- High points: I felt that Ryan shined in two other areas; taxes and social security. He finally took the fight straight to the Democrats and explained what we’ve been illustrating for a long time. There is no way you could possibly close the deficit with the few “modest” tax increases on the “very wealthy.” He clobbered Biden with a number of facts showing how these tax increases will only fund government for a few months, and watch out, the tax man is coming for the rest of us. Regarding social security, I appreciated the fact that he embraced the concept of private accounts for younger workers, instead of running away from the idea. It is incumbent upon the Democrats to explain why they confiscate our hard-earned money without offering us a choice for a better return. Regarding Medicare, I felt that Ryan failed to explain the most important element of premium support – that the market forces of the private sector will bring down costs and overconsumption so that Medicare spending will go down without reducing quality of care. Then again, nobody outside of the policy class was following that discussion.
- Great Closing Statement: In general, Ryan’s sobriety, intelligence, and authoritativeness will resonate more with swing voters than Biden’s appallingly rude behavior. However, he could have shown a little more passion. With that said, his closing statement was indeed a flawless and passionate indictment of Obama’s record. He looked directly into the cameras and asked the American people why someone with that record deserves 4 more years. “The choice is clear: a stagnant economy that promotes more government dependency or a dynamic, growing economy that promotes opportunity and jobs. Mitt Romney and I will not duck the tough issues, and we will not blame others for the next four years. We will take responsibility. And we will not try to replace our founding principles. We will reapply our founding principles.”
- Low points: Biden did land some punches. However, they were all the result of a lack of conservative philosophy on the part of the GOP ticket. He rightfully pointed out that Ryan voted for the debt ceiling deal that he now says will gut the military. He rightfully pointed out how he supported Medicare Part D. He rightfully pointed out that Romney lacks specifics on many issues. He rightfully pointed out Romney’s dubious position on intervention in Syria. All these things are not conservative and would not have hurt a truly conservative candidate. Nonetheless, it won’t make much of a difference beyond conservative policy wonks.
Bottom line: Biden came into the debate trying a little too hard to bend the trajectory. He failed, and possibly hurt the ticket. His circus routine will probably fire up the liberal base, but does anyone honestly think it will resonate will Independents, especially at a time when they are breaking for Romney by a 8-12 point margin? Paul Ryan barely got to speak uninterrupted during the debate, yet most of the post-debate polls show a narrow victory for Ryan.
Either way, Romney will continue with the momentum going into next week’s debate. In terms of impact on the race, the momentum will continue as if this debate never occurred. The only consequence of this debate is that Biden will never be viewed as a viable presidential candidate in 2016.