Emotion versus reason: The vice-presidential debate scorecard

Photo by Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

The Democrat’s goal of this debate appeared to be to rattle the Wisconsin Congressman, and Mitt Romney running mate, Paul Ryan.  Either that, or Democrats wanted Joe Biden to lead voters to believe that Ryan’s rising star should be diminished.  On the latter count, many would have to admit that that their efforts were relatively successful, but did Biden do anything to enhance his party’s election chances?

Many found it difficult to concentrate on anything Paul Ryan said due to the debate tactics employed by Vice-President Joe Biden.  Biden looked to the camera, to make sure it was on him, and then he rolled his eyes, smiled with incredulity, laughed, and in many ways scoffed at just about everything Paul Ryan said.  Biden also interrupted Ryan on numerous occasions, asked for more time, and made other avuncular noises when Ryan spoke.  “I’ve never seen a candidate as disrespectful as Joe was tonight,” said MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews.{1}

Joseph Robinette Biden is 69 years old.  Paul Davis Ryan was one month away from being born in ‘69.  Biden’s political career (as a member of the New Castle County Council member) began the year Paul Ryan was born, and Biden sought to take advantage of Ryan’s youth, and inexperience on the national stage, by attempting to manipulate what we think of him with these actions.  It followed the campaign’s line of thought that what we think on matters should mirror what they think, as Obama did when he suggested that “he did not agree with Romney’s agenda.”  The latter would initiate an “Of course you don’t!” answer from those of us who pay attention to politics, until one realizes that Obama believes that we go to him to discover how we should think on matters…including his opponent’s ideas.

Joe Biden’s actions in the VP debate was, by some accounts, condescending, boorish, and dismissive.  “(Biden) looked mean and second-rate,” said Peggy Noonan.{2}  “(Biden) was like the teenager hamming it up in the background of a live television shot,” said Bill O’Reilly.  Joe Trippi, while being generally complimentary of Biden’s performance, said he found the smirking “to be condescending and overdone.”{3}

Overdone, says Trippi, as in he could see the modus operandi of the Democrats in the debate, but that they selected a guy who may not do things strategically or subtly.  Joe Biden doesn’t know subtlety, as anyone who has followed his career knows.  He came out, as Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers hilariously illustrated before the debate: “There’s like a 50% chance (Biden’s) going to come out at the next debate with his shirt off.  He’s probably covering himself in animal fat right now to make him harder to grab.”  Biden did come out with a shirt on, but he appeared ready to do anything else he could think of to achieve a victory.  He appeared ready to gouge eyes, and depants Ryan, and go for the genitals.  And that would all be fine if the battle involved Jell-O wrestling, but this was a nationally televised debate and decorum points count.  As Joe Trippi basically said, if Biden had limited his arsenal to a few strategic facial gestures, he may have succeeded in undermining Paul Ryan.  What he did, instead, was further cast himself as a loon in most eyes.

One of the best Biden quotes of the night, if one were to listen to Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, is: “I do not believe that we have a right to tell women that they can’t control their body.”  The exact quote is: “I refuse to impose (my religion) on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others.” {4} He said this in reference to a possible conflict between his Catholic views and abortion.

Biden has been accused of plagiarizing many time before.  He was accused of plagiarizing 5 of 15 pages of his law review article in his first year at Syracuse University. {5} He had to withdraw from a 1988 primary battle, for the DNC ticket, when it was discovered that he quoted British Labor party leader Neil Kinnock without attribution. Biden’s use came under further scrutiny when it was discovered that he distorted his own family’s background to match that of Kinnock’s.  Biden was also found to have found to have lifted passages from Bobby Kennedy, John Kennedy, and Hubert H. Humphrey in that same year. {6} Though this Mario Cuomo idea (about separating abortion from religious views) is not a direct quote that requires attribution, it does tell us a lot about Joe Biden that he is not able to come up with his own approach regarding the abortion issue conflicting with his religious beliefs.  We’ve all found that perfect quote, or idea, that captures a situation perfectly for us, but we usually provide proper attribution even when we’re only lifting the idea as opposed to a direct quote.  Biden, it appears, wanted to be lavished with praise for his nuanced approach to the idea when, in fact, it wasn’t his.

Catholic liberals, like Nancy Pelosi and others, have used this Cuomo quote, or idea, when they address the conflict between their religious views and abortion, but they are never made to answer for their selectivity in “imposing” other ideas upon us.  They’re not afraid to impose their ideas on abortion on religious institutions through their insurance companies…and they’re more often than not self-insured.  They’re not afraid, as Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh said: “To impose Obamacare and taxes on us.”  They’re not afraid to offend Christians by taking God out of the public schools, the Ten Commandments out of courthouses, and the word God from the DNC platform, but when it comes to legislation they favor, such as abortion, they don’t want to impose their religious views on us.

Even the most ardent liberal would confess to the fact that Biden is not an original thinker, that he’s not an academic, and that he’s a street politician that comes from a long line of car salesman that know how to make a sale.  Paul Ryan, on the other hand, is perceived as a wonkish nerd that can site budgetary facts and figures in his sleep.  Paul Ryan became the chairman of the House Budget Committee in 2011, he was selected to deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union address, and at the age of 42 he has been called the intellectual leader of the Republican Party.  It could be said then that Joe Biden knew he could not compete toe to toe with Ryan, and he feared the points that Ryan would score by talking about life in America these last four years.  So, every time Ryan started in on a point, Biden paraphrased the 2000 Gore sighs with smiles, laughter, and eyerolls.

It could also be said that Romney so devastated Obama in the first presidential debate with facts and figures about the last four years that the Democrat strategy was to simply talk over, interrupt, or otherwise change the subject from the heart of the discussion that Ryan wished to discuss.

As anyone who has read this writer knows, I loathe the symbolism over substance argument, but when the symbolism reaches a point where it is impossible to discount its effect on a debate, it has to be calculated into the final score.  As Brit Hume said on the Fox News Network: “(Biden) looked like a cranky old man debating a polite young man.”  Charles Krauthammer said, “If you read the transcript, I think it’s dead even.  If you heard it on radio, Biden won. If you watched on television, he lost.”{7}  It was overdone, and you have to deduct a point from Biden on style.  If it was his goal, and the goal of the DNC, to prevent the electorate from hearing Ryan’s substance, and thus to disrupt or discount his message, Biden scores a point.  As Krauthammer says, it’s left dead-even on the final scorecard.  This would lead most liberals to believe that a tie is a victory for the less intellectual Biden, after looking at the pre-debate tale of the tape, until one factors in the idea that liberals have always believed that they have the market cornered on reason and intellectualism.

{1}http://www.businessinsider.com/chris-wallace-joe-biden-debate-reaction-smiling-smirking-laughing-2012-10 {2}http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:vRyJ9rRDnsUJ:online.wsj.com/article/declarations.html+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a {3}http://www.newshounds.us/fox_news_the_birther_network_complains_biden_disrespected_ryan_10122012 {4}http://www.ncregister.com/blog/pat-archbold/joe-biden-and-the-abortion-question/#ixzz296rQP04r {5}http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Biden  {6} http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/frenzy/biden.htm {7}http://dailycaller.com/2012/10/12/krauthammer-bidens-disrespectful-hugely-condescending-undid-a-potential-debate-win/#ixzz297UIM7OW


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