“Bizarre” might be the most appropriate word to describe what transpired in the VP debate last night, and the centerpiece of Bizzaro World was the rude, disgusting behavior of our current vice president. Never in my many years of watching and analyzing political debates have I encountered such a boorish display. I’ve witnessed rudeness before—think of Al Gore’s massive “sighs” in his debate with George Bush—and supreme arrogance—John Kerry at all times—but Joe Biden left all contenders for the title of “Most Reprehensible Candidate” in the dust.
I’m not alone in this assessment. Veteran newsman Chris Wallace declared this was the most disrespectful treatment of a political opponent he had ever encountered in his career. Britt Hume looked absolutely stunned by what he had seen and heard. Every time Paul Ryan spoke, the split-screen revealed Biden laughing derisively, vehemently shaking his head, and rolling his eyes. That was only the opening act. As the debate progressed, the vice president continually interrupted Ryan, not merely as an attempted corrective to what he was saying, but in a boisterous manner reminiscent of the schoolyard bully used to getting his way. The tally for the number of times he interrupted stands at 82. Quite simply, Biden’s “performance” was embarrassing. One headline afterwards caught the spirit of what had occurred: Smirkathon.
I have to give tremendous credit to Ryan for maintaining his poise in the midst of this tactic, and it was truly a planned tactic. Obama was so listless in his debate that the overall strategy for this one seemed to be to make up for it by exuding energy and taking control of the event. Ryan, subjected to this barrage, attempted nevertheless to keep the audience focused on the issues. How well he succeeded was borne out of the Insta-Polls that followed. Of the four I read about, he won three. The obligatory Frank Luntz focus group of undecided voters was, in my opinion, as befuddled as any group of undecideds I’ve seen lately. None of them indicated that this debate had helped them make their decision. As I’ve noted many times before, to be an undecided voter at this point in the campaign reveals the absence of any concept of a philosophy of government to begin with. If one cannot choose between these two distinct visions of how government should operate and what the future of the country ought to be, perhaps the best option would be not to vote at all.
Lost in the haze of Biden’s immature behavior was the substance of the comments on both sides. Let me start with Mr. Biden. Any decent analysis of the truthfulness of his comments must take into account at least three of his claims. First, he blamed the intelligence operatives for not providing the administration with the facts about the attack on the American consulate in Libya and the murder of four Americans there, including our ambassador. He took no responsibility whatever for the administration’s false narrative about a YouTube video being the cause of the attack. But that’s a pattern for Obama and his people—always blame someone else.
Second, he declared the administration had never been given any indication that there were security issues at the consulate, directly contradicting the facts that came out clearly just the day before in a House investigation of the matter. State Department officials admitted that embassy personnel in Libya had repeatedly requested a security upgrade, and that they felt threatened by the turn of events there. The ambassador himself had sought help. All requests were denied by the Obama State Department headed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Third, Biden blamed the Bush years for the massive national debt rather than the wildly reckless spending of the past four years, which far outstripped anything Bush did in eight years. Further, he said he had voted against spending money on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, he voted in favor of those wars. What we have here is a lie so blatant he ought to be called out on it by every media outlet. Will that happen?
What about Paul Ryan? I’ve already noted he kept his composure under very trying circumstances. He didn’t descend to Biden’s level, although he did get in what might have been the sound bite of the night when, after Biden criticized Romney for talking about the 47% on the government dole, Ryan told the vice president that he, of all people, should understand that what comes out of one’s mouth is not always the way one intended for it to sound. It was a deftly placed comment on Biden’s tendency to be a human gaffe-machine. That line earned what seemed to be the only genuine laughter from the audience throughout this debate ordeal.
Ryan was direct on the failures of the Obama administration in foreign policy, and he did very well, as expected, when talking about the economy, which is his forte. His closing statement was directed straight into the camera to connect with the television audience, and it was crisp and specific. For me, though, his best moment came when he defended his views on pro-life. He not only referenced his faith as a basis for believing as he does, but also drew the audience’s attention to the science behind the fact of when life begins.
Joe Biden tried to turn last night into a circus. He succeeded in a limited way: he came across as the clown.
I don’t know who started this, but after the debate, both on Facebook and in the Twitter universe, a Bible verse started making the rounds.
Proverbs 29:9—When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest.