The attitude of the evening was without a doubt set by Vice President Biden.
Biden’s facial expressions and interruptions were true to form of someone who greatly disrespects their opponent’s views.
Despite my degree is in Communication, It doesn’t take a communications specialist to see that Joe Biden has little respect for Paul Ryan as a politician and as a candidate. When someone is speaking and the “listener” is laughing, rolling his eyes, shaking his head and interrupting, it is obvious that there is more than disagreement with policy.
Ryan was the more respectful of the two candidates, and he never flinched the numerous times Mr. Biden prefaced his answers with, “my friend”.
The two men certainly played ying to the others yang.
I love how Charles Krauthammer summed up his analysis: “If you read the transcript, Biden won. If you heard it on radio, Biden won. If you watched it on TV, Ryan won.”
Biden’s demeanor and facial expressions may be what most of us take away from this debate.
On substance, both candidates held their party lines and talking points. The evening began with discussing Libya and the consulate attacks. Mr. Biden said the administration “will find who did it” and said they will “make clear what mistakes were made” and that it won’t happen again. When Mr. Ryan’s turn came to answer the question, his first reaction was to give sympathy and mourn the loss of the Ambassador and others who lost their lives. I really appreciated Representative Ryan pointing out that our diplomats in Paris have better security than those in Benghazi had the night of the attacks.
When asked if Mr. Romney should have waited on discussing President Obama’s weaknesses on the same day of the attack, Mr. Ryan gave a stellar answer: “It is never too early to defend our nation.”
Of course, Mr. Biden’s response to Mr. Ryan’s entire answer followed suit for his attitude during the debate saying it was “a bunch of malarkey,” going on to defend the President by saying he has “repaired our alliances so others will follow us again.”
It was shocking to hear the Vice President say they “weren’t told” more security was needed in Benghazi; with the current hearings on Capitol Hill, his answer certainly didn’t add up.
“We shouldn’t apologize for our values” was a statement that stood out by Representative Ryan. He admitted there are actions that were unacceptable by our military, but for Ryan to stand up for values and publicly say “we don’t need to apologize for America’s values” definitely carries weight (and reminds us of the unnecessary “apology tours” taken at the beginning of the Obama administration).
Biden especially went on the attack when it came to questions regarding Iran. Defending sanctions on Iran, Biden said they were the “most crippling sanctions in history.” He tried to push Ryan with his question, “Do you want to go to war?” and went on to say, without sharing confidential information, “We feel quite confident we can deal a serious blow to the Iranians.”
Vice President Biden’s response about Israel–and whether Iran is as close to having a nuclear bomb as Benjamin Netanyahu said they are–was again condescending. Biden seemed to be trying to convince everyone that Iran isn’t a threat. “Iran doesn’t have a way to launch the weapon,” he said, adding that they “don’t have the material needed yet.”
“Facts matter” was one of Biden’s retorts to the Iran/Israel question.
When asked, “Which is worse: Iran having a nuclear bomb or war in the Middle East?” Ryan was quick to say “Iran having a bomb” and Biden said, “War should always be a last resort…This President doesn’t bluff”.
As with President Obama, in regard to the economy, Vice President Biden went back to the “great recession” when they took office. The daggers flew on this topic, with Biden quickly reminding everyone that the Obama administration “immediately rescued GM” and then attacked Romney, claiming the governor “wanted Detroit to go bankrupt”.
“I’ve had it up to here of the 47%,” Biden said. “They should say to the middle class, ‘we will level the playing field’”. Biden was strong on this point, talking about how his parents were middle class and that “it’s about time these guys take responsibility.” Ryan reminded the audience that he and Biden grew up in similar towns and asked Biden if he knew the current unemployment rate in Scranton, PA where Biden grew up. Biden said he did, although his tone suggested that he probably didn’t. Ryan followed by stating the unemployment rate is currently sitting at 10%, reminding people it was 8.5% when Obama took office.
A few times Biden went after Ryan saying he “voted to put wars on credit cards” with Ryan voters that Obama and Biden came into office “with one party control”.
Jabs went back and forth with little hesitation in this spirited debate but in my opinion the best line of the night came from Representative Ryan.
When talking about Biden’s famous gaffes, Ryan said, “I think the Vice President very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way”.
Mostly, the debate was filled with Biden’s snickers and signs of disrespect toward Mr. Ryan (as well as toward the moderator). When Mr. Biden wanted to talk to his Democratic base, he stared directly into the camera saying things like, “If you are a senior, do you have more benefits today? You do.” “Now they have a new plan, folks trust your instinct” and “Their ideas are old and their ideas are bad.”
The night continued with more foreign policy debating and healthcare discussions with a childish exchange about Mr. Biden being “under duress” and Mr. Ryan “taking the entire four minutes to answer questions”.
Overall, I don’t think either candidate ran away with the debate; mostly it seemed like an exercise in taming tempers and managing manners. But there was definitely a distinct difference between the two men with their comments: Biden was very down to earth and straightforward with very little filter while Ryan appeared more controlled and thoughtful about his words.
Vice Presidential debates don’t hold large amounts of sway in determining the outcome of an election, but they are an opportunity to see which candidate might best take the reins, if that situation ever occurred. In that sense it was obvious who was the more diplomatic possibility. Biden would be great at a softball game, but Ryan seems a bit more controlled in a professional setting.
The two Vice Presidential candidates ended the evening answering a question about their personal character and what they can contribute.
In one word, Mr. Ryan replied, “Honesty”. Vice President Biden said his record “stands for itself”.
Those answers, for me, summed up the night very well.