When the Vice Presidential debate finally ended the only emotion for many was relief. The ninety minute debate created substantial discomfort for many if not a majority of the viewing audience. The uncomfortable feeling was triggered by the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden. Biden was a caricature of a sleazy politician. His behavior was described by Republicans, Democrats, liberals’, moderates and conservatives as rude, unhinged, crazy, demeaning, disrespectful, weird, dismissive and unbecoming of a man just a “heartbeat” away from the Presidency of the United States.
Of course some of Obama’s supporters declared that politics isn’t bean bag…essentially if Paul Ryan, the Republican Vice Presidential candidate, couldn’t take the heat he should evacuate the kitchen...in effect he should not be a candidate for the Vice Presidency. Anyway it was just Joe being Joe…just being himself…you know Joe says what he thinks and feels…at least he’s genuine. The unfortunate result of Biden’s bombast and bluster was that his smirks, laughing, interruptions and rudeness distracted from not only the substance of the debate’s dialogue but dominated the post-debate analysis.
Before the debate began, Biden’s goal was to staunch his ticket’s bleeding, arrest its appreciable drop in the polls and re-energize his party’s base. Each problem was brought on by the President’s collapse during the initial Presidential debate. Paul Ryan’s objective was to improve his tickets standing with independents and women voters. He was also tasked with maintaining the tandem’s momentum into the second presidential debate. Both Biden and Ryan achieved their goals, but in Biden’s case at what cost?
Vice President Biden used the debate to question and attack the credibility of every Romney/Ryan proposal; spanning taxes, entitlements, national defense and foreign policy. Every program, every statement Ryan articulated was challenged derisively. Biden interrupted Ryan 82 times and was assisted by Martha Raddatz, the debate moderator, who injected 31 comments while Ryan was speaking. In contrast, Raddatz interrupted Biden less often with 19 stoppages (Raddatz’s neutrality came into question since Obama had attended her wedding; she had been a guest at the White House, had visited Biden at his residence & was considered a “liberal” albeit highly regarded journalist).
Mr. Biden did make some strong points by raising Romney’s famous 47% remark and stating, “I’ve had it up to here with this notion”…that Romney/Ryan needed to “take responsibility” for the harm their proposals would bring to the middle class and to “investments in America’s future”. Biden’s words sounded terrific yet overlooked the reality of the dual Romney/Ryan goals of deficit/debt reduction and a much needed reduction in spending.
Biden also emphasized the word ‘fact’ 16 times. In the context of the debate his use of ‘fact’ became a code word for a mistruth (ten quite significant examples occurred). According to the Vice President, it was a fact that, “Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security again”…sworn testimony before congress, the previous day, surfaced that added security had been requested numerous times. It was a fact that, “What we did is we saved $716 billion and put it back—applied it to Medicare”…the double counting of the $716 billion; cut from Medicare yet paying for Obamacare is simply not a savings. “It came from this man voting to put two wars on a credit card…I was there, I voted against him”…Biden voted for both wars—Afghanistan and Iraq. No religious institution has to pay for contraception…the congressman cut the embassy security budget…The President has met with Bibi [Netanyahu] a dozen times etc. In each case the Vice President looked directly into the camera and told each lie (oops fact) with sincerity. Biden did have his share of champions in the media who concluded he won the contest with ease while other Democrats were much more cautious.
Democrats/liberals who were hoping for a big Biden win to slow Romney’s momentum were quite disappointed. Ashley Parker of the New York Times mentioned, “Biden’s grin is Cheshire Cat caliber”; Brett Decker of The Washington Times said Biden’s “obnoxious, smirking, rude behavior on the debate stage was the most disrespectful performance of any presidential or vice-presidential candidate in the history of televised election debates”. Biden’s debate lexicon also earned appreciable comment since it included words and phrases such as ‘malarkey”, “this is amazing”, ‘not true”, “I’ve got a bridge”, “bunch of stuff”, “not mathematically possible” and “loose talk” to name a few. Biden’s histrionic debate performance surprisingly concluded without a summary statement of an Obama/Biden vision describing a second term.
Paul Ryan, in contrast, calmly and earnestly acquitted himself surprisingly well across a range of issues which included Benghazi, Iran, Iraq, Medicare, taxes, entitlements, life and his faith. His presentation at times was timid and he didn’t finish his arguments after multiple interruptions or moderator changes in subjects. Ryan also missed the opportunity to devastate Biden by directly asking why he thought a potential nuclear exchange or the carnage befalling innocent Syrians was funny as those topics were discussed.
Nevertheless, Ryan did very well on economic issues using his ability to communicate complex ideas in understandable terms. He demonstrated his principles by presenting his belief that life begins at conception and certainly made a strong statement on how his faith informs his life. Finally, Ryan ended the debate with a compelling vision of the future under he and Romney…a return to prosperity, 12 million jobs, entitlement reform aimed at securing the future of troubled programs, the repeal of Obamacare, a safer world due to a realistic foreign policy and leadership that solves problems and doesn’t cast blame.
Post-debate snap polls named Ryan the winner of two out of three polls. CNN found that Ryan bested Biden 48% to 44%. The poll also found that 28% felt Ryan help Romney more than Biden at 21% helped Obama. The poll gave kudos to Ryan as more likeable 53% to 43% and a better communicator by a 50% to 41% spread. CNBC’s post-debate poll had Ryan winning decisively 56% to 36%. However, a CBS snap poll showed Biden outdistancing Ryan 51% to 31%.
The Nielsen Co. estimated the debate audience at 51.4 million viewers. The age breakdown of viewers was notable in that it skewed to an older viewer; specifically the distribution was: 18-34 years-7,151,000, 35-54 years-14,941,000, and 55+ years-26,731,000. This age spread favored the Romney/Ryan ticket and Ryan in the debate for two reasons, (1) Older audiences lean Republican and a large number of older undecided voters would negatively react to Biden’s weird antics, and (2) women made up a majority of the total viewership. Women compose the lion’s share of both the undecided/persuadable voters and would also be unfavorable to Biden’s boorish behavior. So who won the debate?
More importantly, what was the careful observer’s debate take-away should Obama and Biden be re-elected? First, the highest office in the land is occupied by a failed, corrupt and media created leader who is seriously flawed. That office is backed up by a cranky, ill equipped windbag, willing to say anything and who has very little grasp of the serious issues confronting our nation. Second, a continuation of the economic malaise we are experiencing can be expected, i.e. high unemployment, very slow grow, crushing deficits and huge debt. Third, growing dependency on government, escalating poverty, much higher taxes and increases in power will proceed apace into the presidency. Fourth, a serious decline in America’s worldwide influence will become reality and result in a much more dangerous world. And fifth, a loss in National self-esteem will occur…America will no longer be that “shining city on a hill”.