Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates have seldom been among our nationâ€™s finest hours. According to the grading system of the media and many others, zingers, glibness and gaffes too often determine our â€œwinners and losers.â€ Because of the format and media bias, truth is usually the first casualty in these encounters because there is little time or inclination to call a fabricator to account.
A New Candidacy Paradigm
Despite the heavily charged environment, however, candidates have always felt compelled to demonstrate a certain amount civility and common courtesy. Like hypocrisy, civility was the tribute that vice pays to virtue. Average voters, it was thought, would not put up with anything less. That was the thinking â€“ until last night. Last night we saw boorishness-to-the-point-of-weirdness not just â€œslip outâ€ but used as a tactic. Obviously, Joe Biden and the Obama team think that weâ€™re operating under a new paradigm: that the increasing roughness of American culture can and should be incorporated into the candidacies of those holding and running for our countryâ€™s highest offices.
You may ask how does laughing while your opponent is discussing a nuclear Iran, mugging, interrupting, trying to bully, and flashing a grin worthy of Jack Nicholson in â€œThe Shiningâ€ possibly help oneâ€™s cause? How indeed.
A couple of thoughts. Bidenâ€™s was a base performance in every sense of the word. In the days since the presidential debate the Obama-Biden base has been in an uproar. Romney and Obama were shown for what they are and the air has been rapidly escaping from the Obama balloon ever since. When vast quantities of hot air are needed, who better than Joe Biden for the job? The union bosses loved â€œOlâ€™ Joeâ€ last night. They could have been more pleased only if Joe had overturned the moderatorâ€™s table and slapped Ryan around a little. They are ready to crank up the busses and hand out the â€œwalking around moneyâ€ on Election Day. What does it say about a candidacy that worried about its base this close to Election Day? And how does this bar room demeanor help them with women and independents? I canâ€™t figure that one out. Except for one thing, which goes to my next point.
Joe, The Entire Salt Jar, Without A Filter
Joe canâ€™t help himself. He never has been able to. The White House told him that the debate needed to be more salty and Joe unscrewed the cap and poured it all over everybody. If Joe had been one of King Henry IIâ€™s knights when the king said, â€œWill no one rid me of this turbulent priest?â€ Thomas Becket would have been just the beginning. The entire diocese would have been killed.
I met Joe Biden almost 20 years ago and served in the Senate with him for eight. In private conversation among equals he can be candid, introspective and thoughtful. But when he puts on his political hat he has no inner voice that tells him, â€œJoe, youâ€™re going on too long. Joe youâ€™re being a bully. Youâ€™re being discourteous to your colleagues. Joe, that makes no sense. Itâ€™s obviously not true. Donâ€™t say that.â€ He either has no idea how he comes across to normal people or he doesnâ€™t care. Iâ€™ve never figured it out. However he parlayed a handful of votes in Iowa into the Vice Presidency. I gotta give him that.
Ryan’s Courage, A Glimpse At The Future
I think that Paul Ryan handled him beautifully. He made his case in his usual sincere and intelligent fashion and was unruffled be the antics of the fellow one heartbeat away from the presidency. I know that some only judge a debate performance in terms of â€œaggressiveness,â€ but Ryan walked the fine line between standing his ground and being respectful and not being sucked into the pit by Joe. I even thought he looked at Joe with a certain amount of sympathy a time or two.
Ryanâ€™s strong suit is that he has had the courage to speak the truth about our fiscal crisis and propose actual reforms. It is not his oft-mentioned intellect that separates him from others. It is his courage â€“ the most-needed and most-lacking commodity in Washington. He represents the future if we are to have a future. Joe represents the old guard â€“ old-style, big-government liberalism. He is â€œThe Music Manâ€ meets the ice cream man. Just follow him. Heâ€™ll take care of you. Something for everybody. You know, just like in Europe. Never mind the future. Get yours now.
Biden’s (Lack Of) Substance
With regard to Biden on the â€œsubstance, where does one start?
â€¢ He totally threw the intelligence community under to bus on Libya. Does anyone believe that the CIA didnâ€™t know it was a terrorist attack or that they would commit themselves to the â€œvideo narrativeâ€ when there was never any indication that it was the reason for the attack. Just the opposite. The only question here is whether intelligence chief Clapper is a willing accomplice to the White House cover story.
â€¢ Biden said that â€œweâ€ didnâ€™t know that our consulate in Libya had requested additional security. Of course we know that there were numerous communications between the consulate and the State Department. (Thereâ€™s still room under the bus Hillary). On the other hand maybe itâ€™s a good thing that they donâ€™t keep Joe informed on the important stuff.
â€¢ The entire Obama-Biden economic platform rests upon one fundamentally dishonest position â€“ that raising taxes on â€œmillionaires and billionairesâ€ will solve our deficit and debt problem. Ryan nailed Biden on it. If Obama got every dime of the tax increases that he is asking for it would take care of 5% of our deficit problem.
â€¢ Biden, like Obama, flogs the class warfare line in a way that would make Huey Long blush. What these purveyors of envy and class hatred fail to point out, as they try to direct attention away from themselves, is that lumped in with the Warren Buffets of the world are married couples each making $125,000 a year. Romney and Ryan need to make this point more clearly and more often.
â€¢ Did Biden really say that he voted against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? He lumped them in with the prescription drug benefit, then said he voted against â€œthem.â€ False on the wars, true on the drug benefit. Was this Joe being clever? By the way, that prescription drug benefit that O. and B say caused the deficit was the same program that the Democrats in Congress wanted to spend more money on and now Obamacare expands by closing the â€œdoughnut hole.â€
â€¢ Bidenâ€™s pledge to bring the terrorists in Libya â€œto justiceâ€ reveals the self-defeating criminal-law mind set as applied to terrorism. These are folks that canâ€™t even get the FBI on the scene for two weeks, as news reporters and God knows who else rummage around the crime scene. My advice? Donâ€™t try to sell this script to the boys and girls who make those â€œCSIâ€ shows. Theyâ€™ll laugh in your face. However, if you do catch somebody and bring them to New York for trial, maybe you can sell the story to â€œLaw and Order.â€
Having said all of that, I must say that for the 14 people who read the transcript of the debate, and neither saw nor heard it, they may think that Biden did his job and made Obama look a little better after his own debate performance. Talk about a low bar.
- Fred Thompson