Debate Night in America: Biden v Ryan
Quite clearly, the vice-presidential debate will be an occasion where liberals believed Joe Biden was the better man, and conservatives Paul Ryan. And, whichever man is declared the loser by Media will blame the proactive moderator for having asked too many tough questions of their man. Martha Raddatz, while I’m on that theme, moderated finely, hosting an excellent debate, asking her pointed questions in a way that only made Jim Lehrer look worse.
As to the candidates, if Paul Ryan is to be declared the loser — and of the two, it would be he who is most likely to come off worse — is it because he sort to evade the questions frequently, lying through his teeth about the President’s record, and avoiding specificity on his own plan for the economy. Ryan once more failed, for example, to explain how exactly he would pay for his voodoo economic plan: a 20pc tax cut across the board while increasing spending on defence. All he had to do was name one deduction he would end: he couldn’t.
Moreover, on the topic of abortion, Ryan gave a concerning answer when pressed if he would seek to remove the protections that gave women a right to choose. Raddatz asked, “If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?”. Ryan, before asking, pushed, sighed, and snorted a little through his nose:
We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination.
In other words, if Republicans control the House, Senate, and the White House, Ryan would encourage the restriction of abortion access through legislation, in opposition to Romney’s current stance on the topic.
On foreign policy, his responses were vague, canned, and oftentimes mendacious. I offered these rebuttals are the debate progressed:
The reason that was no security or marine detachment in Benghazi was because the GOP-controlled Congress removed funding for it #vpdebate— Liam Hoare (@lahoare) October 12, 2012
The so-called Cairo statement came from some terrified attaches under siege in the embassy, not from the Obama administration #vpdebate— Liam Hoare (@lahoare) October 12, 2012
The United States and NATO went through the UN with regards to Libya, and won approval. Why would you not for Syria? #vpdebate— Liam Hoare (@lahoare) October 12, 2012
As for Biden, the slightly menacing Gore Vidal-esque smile etched across his face for much of the debate has been much discussed. It will be interesting to see how his demeanour will play with the so-called undecided or swing voters, as will the occasions where it seemed to me he was a little too over-enthusiastic, too keen to go on the attack and become animated.
Overall, it was a strong performance, though on foreign policy where he should have been able to cream Ryan, from time to time his tongue let him down, as it tends to do, fumbling the riposte. As an example, in answer to the question, why no intervention in Syria if it was good for Libya, Biden said:
Different country. It’s a different country. It is five times as large geographically, it has one-fifth the population, that is Libya, one-fifth the population, five times as large geographically.
It’s in a part of the world where they’re not going to see whatever would come from that war. It seep into a regional war.
You’re in a country that is heavily populated in the midst of the most dangerous area in the world. And, in fact, if in fact it blows up and the wrong people gain control, it’s going to have impact on the entire region causing potentially regional wars.
I know what he’s saying, but only because I understand the argument he should have been making: that each nation has its own circumstances; that intervention in Libya was easier than in Syria. But that’s not clear from the answer he gave.
I was also concerned, on the part of both candidates, that in the discussion on Afghanistan, neither mentioned Pakistan, the latter arguably as great a problem at this juncture as the former. This was especially disappointing coming from Biden, who was one of the first to see that the war in Afghanistan was in fact an Af-Pak mission.
To the question of who ‘won’ the debate, that call could very well come down to the final responses. When you read the closing statements back in the cold light of day, Ryan’s is clearly more coherent than Biden’s. But on the night, Ryan delivered his piece straight to camera in a corny voice that sounded like he was making a campaign commercial, that he had rehearsed the statement and wasn’t actually thinking about what he was saying. It was awful. Biden was ad-libbing, or I hope he was, but it came over sincerely:
Let me tell you. I — my — my record stands for itself. I never say anything I don’t mean. Everybody knows, whatever I say, I do. And my whole life has been devoted to levelling the playing field for middle-class people, giving them an even break, treating Main Street and Wall Street the same, hold them to the same responsibility.
Look at my record. It’s been all about the middle class. They’re the people who grow this country. We think you grow this country from the middle out, not from the top down.
And the president and I are not going to rest until that playing field is levelled, they, in fact, have a clear shot, and they have peace of mind, until they can turn to their kid and say with a degree of confidence, “Honey, it’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK.” That’s what this is all about.
Odd, but it worked.