Friday, October 12, 2012

Sotto Voce: The Vice Presidential Debate


This should probably be titled "yelling at the television," not "muttering under my breath."

Joe Biden was who we thought he was.

Was Joe Biden an a**? Absolutely. But, there were times he really took it to Paul Ryan, especially during the segment on Social Security.

Everyone's focusing on Biden's smirks, interruptions, and giggles, but those were only a portion of his presentation. In fact, the debate featured four distinct Joe emotional modes:

PHASE 1: The Happy Warrior: the first 30 minutes saw Biden laughing, smirking, interjecting, and guffawing. These moments coincided, funnily enough, with the moments when Ryan was laying into the Dems on Libya, taxes, the economy, etc. Biden wouldn't let Ryan have a moment to speak because Ryan's words were dangerous.

PHASE 2: The Angry White Male: at some point, Joe shifted (I think during the Social Security segment) and became visibly angry, yelling at Ryan and at the moderator. His anger reached a crescendo during the Afghanistan discussion when Biden accused Republicans of wanting to start another war. (Paul Ryan: "No, we want to prevent war!" Me: "And not lose the wars that we were winning when you took office")

PHASE 3: The Invisible Man: for a short time, Joe seemed to disappear, although it could be that he simply started acting like a regular person.

PHASE 4: The Penitent: during the segment on abortion and the Catholic Church, Joe suddenly spoke with a hushed voice, refusing to even look at the camera. It was almost as if he were looking at his shoes. I don't buy this business that he is personally pro-life but doesn't want to impose his religious beliefs on the rest of us (wow, thanks). Sorry, but Joe has been an abortion warrior through too many Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Paul Ryan is well known as a budget/numbers wonk, but he was suprisingly effective on the questions of Iran and Afghanistan. Kinda makes you think that having the right answers in foreign affairs is less a matter of knowledge and more a matter of knowing where our interests lie.

Ryan's pro-life statement towards the end of the debate also excellent. Superb, in fact. Pro-life Republicans with perfect voting records are a dime a dozen, but few have spoken as effectively as Ryan did last night.

In fact, I need to stop for a moment and crank the PA system up to 11: HEY! TODD AKIN! CAN YOU HEAR ME? I'M YELLING BECAUSE I WANT TO MAKE SURE YOU CAN HEAR ME OUT THERE IN MISSOURI! The next time someone on teevee asks you about abortion, or life issues, do what Paul Ryan did: keep the focus on the innocent unborn, completely helpless and fragile, rather focus on bobbing and weaving to avoid answering the sort of questions that every Republican who seeks higher office will face.

It's no surprise that Biden would lie throughout the debate, but it was annoying how the moderator was willing to let so many obvious falsehoods go by.

There was his claim that he had voted against "both wars" that Paul Ryan voted to put "on the credit card." Really, Joe? You voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Afghanistan? As it happened no one in the Senate voted against AUMF, althought there were two abstentions.* Joe Biden was not one of them.

There was the more plausible, but still false claim that he voted against the Iraq War. Yeah, there were some leftist Senators who voted against that, but not "middle class" politicians from Deleware trying to appeal to some mythical voting bloc in Scranton.

There was his side of the mouth comment that he's always coming to these VP debates and hearing Republican Vice Presidential candidates talk about death panels. Ryan, of course, never said "death panels." Neither did Sarah Palin. She coined the term in 2009 during the Obamacare debate.

Either the moderator is not as plugged in or politically aware as she thinks she is, or she was simply unwilling to call Biden out on this patent BS.

Joe Biden's performance reminded me of WH Auden's line about how the Thirties were a low dishonest decade.   If his schtick works, and sometimes it does, we are in big trouble.

* (Jesse Helms and Larry Craig, if you must know).

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