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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Beldar on the Ryan-Biden Veep debate

I'll give you even odds on whether the doctor who last adjusted Slow Joe's meds will be thrown under the Obama bus by Monday.

I started seriously touting Paul Ryan as the best potential GOP presidential nominee back on May 17, 2011; toward that end, I created a "Draft Paul Ryan" sidebar graphic on May 26, 2011. Every significant event since then, culminating in tonight's debate, has left me more convinced that he would be the best available person to undertake the world's most difficult job. But I will now settle with reasonable contentment for Ryan being the proverbial heartbeat away, and will cast my vote accordingly.

Strategically, big picture:

Biden over-reached, undoubtedly under prompting by Axelrod and the Chicago gang. He was not much more incoherent than normal, which is to say that when the Democratic talking heads who can still speak in sentences and paragraphs re-interpret and translate his remarks, they'll be able to pretend there's at least a kernel of reality associated with most of Biden's vocal shrapnel. I don't think he made the kind of gaffe that he's famous for; but he was never famous for making gaffes at debates. But instead, his bizarre behavior opened (or reopened) the most basic questions about his own temperament and competence. And it's much harder to spin bizarre behavior than sloppy factual assertions. There's nothing any talking head can ever say or write that could transform Joe Biden's performance tonight into anything remotely "presidential."

Biden put his own fitness as a potential presidential successor into issue. Ryan ended any remaining doubts about his. Therefore: GOP leads the series two to zero with two yet to play.

I think it's still a very close question whether the American electorate prefers the Obama-Biden ticket to the Romney-Ryan ticket. But only the most blind and stubborn of partisans — and I concede there are many such — can still pretend that anyone in America is anything but terrified of the words "President Biden."


UPDATE (Thu Oct 11 @ 10:45pm): By way of concluding postscript, from memory and without benefit of replay or transcript:

Ryan mentioned John F. Kennedy's tax cuts in 1961 and the resulting economic growth. Biden interrupted with what seemed to me to be a half-formed taunt along the lines of, "So now you're claiming to be Jack Kennedy?" I say "half-formed," because it was an allusion to, but without an explicit naming of, Lloyd Bentsen's devastating "Jack Kennedy was my friend, Senator, and you're no Jack Kennedy" put-down of Dan Quayle in their 1992 debate.

Ryan caught the reference and smiled, but tried to continue with his answer rather than responding to the taunt or following up on the allusion. And modesty forbade Ryan from doing the latter, I think.

But my immediate reaction was that Biden's instincts had caught him this once, and saved him from a possible disaster: He was wise to bite back the full taunt.

You see, unlike Lloyd Bentsen, Biden did not know Jack Kennedy personally or serve with him in the U.S. Navy. But if Biden had tried to say, out loud and in so many words, "Congressman, you're no Jack Kennedy," then I think that most of those Americans who can actually remember Jack Kennedy — those who can remember how articulate and poised and self-confident and self-deprecating Kennedy was at his best, and who can remember, more than anything else, his youthful vigor (or "VIG-gah" as they said at Hyannisport) — would have said to themselves, "Well, actually, Paul Ryan does remind me of Jack Kennedy!" It was best for Biden for his allusion to go unremarked and uncompleted, in other words, because it would have blown up in his face.

(As did Biden's first attempt to throw Romney's "47% gaffe" in Ryan's face. Ryan was obviously prepared, and his responsive sound-bite will be one of the most quoted and replayed lines from the debate. To all those who thought Obama was foolish not to have confronted Romney on that particular point during the first debate, I've always thought: Do you think Romney didn't have a super-polished focus-grouped response prepared for that? Do you think anything could please Romney more than having a chance to re-deliver and improve upon, during the debate itself, the walk-back he'd already been trying to get the press to cover? That was a deliberate choice on Obama's part, and in fact a wise one in context.)

I think, and certainly hope, that we saw the effective end of one long political career tonight, and the full unveiling of another whose potential is deep and vasty.

Posted by Beldar at 10:28 PM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink


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(1) Ken Finney made the following comment | Oct 11, 2012 10:33:46 PM | Permalink

Is it just me, or did it seem that about 3/4 through the debate, Biden suddenly shutdown the buffoon act, and started acting all serious and everything. It was so noticeable -- as if somehow someone had managed to signal him...

(2) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 11, 2012 10:36:46 PM | Permalink

Meds and their half-lives, Mr. Finney. That, or tranquilizer darts from offstage.

(3) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 11, 2012 11:20:37 PM | Permalink

Re Biden's smirks: See this Beldar war story about the perils of losing one's poker face as a lawyer. Moral: There's no upside to it.

(4) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 12, 2012 2:09:55 AM | Permalink

On further reflection, I think Biden may have been trying to reproduce the Bentsen-Quayle dynamic with all of Biden's smirking and heckling. But there are three reasons why Biden failed whereas Bentsen succeeded:

First, Lloyd Bentsen had genuine gravitas; Joe Biden has only that which comes from having been reelected to a safe Senate seat long enough to lose all his hair, but that makes him the best that the Democratic Party can serve up these days.

Second, Paul Ryan is no Dan Quayle. I will grant you that the ruthless mockery and lies about Quayle were as shamefully overblown as those about Gov. Palin in 2008 (and since), but still: Quayle set up the petard on which Bentsen so memorably hoisted him by comparing his own experience to Kennedy's, which was an over-reach, and Ryan doesn't typically lead with his chin like that (and certainly didn't ever do so tonight).

Third and most differently: For the rest of the Quayle-Bentsen debate, Bentsen was at worst mildly patronizing, if you really searched for that. Bentsen certainly never approached the sort of repeated and long-running monkeyshines that Biden showed tonight or that Al Gore showed in two of his debates against Dubya (the "sighs" debate and the "personal space invasion" debate). So when Bentsen did deliver his one outrageously scornful put-down, it was a concentrated and devastating dagger-thrust that killed Quayle's struggle for credibility fairly permanently.

The only people who weren't put off by Biden's misbehavior, I think, must be the same people who think it's a really good thing to speak in a loud voice to the characters on-screen at the local cinema, so everyone in the audience can have the benefit of their insightful conversation with the movie stars. One has to be very partisan indeed to convince oneself that heckling is presidential.

(5) stan made the following comment | Oct 12, 2012 12:10:36 PM | Permalink

Don't you think that Biden was a perfect representation of the Obama admin and Democrats in general? This is exactly how Obama has treated the GOP the last 4 years.

No wonder we have a fiscal cliff. Who could conduct reasonable negotiations with that?

Bullying, infantile, rude, disrespectful, dishonest, yet completely confident in his own virtue. The most interesting aspect of the Biden debate performance is the way that liberals have embraced it. It defines them and they happily agree.

(6) ColoComment made the following comment | Oct 12, 2012 1:35:54 PM | Permalink

Stan, my thoughts exactly. This is what I wrote this morning on FB.
Biden was unacceptably disrespectful. His smirks were disgusting. I wanted to slap him for his adolescent behavior (with apologies to adolescents everywhere). And what's with his waving his pen and wagging his finger in the face of the moderator? And the only uninterrupted Ryan speaking time that Biden allowed was Ryan's final statement.
We, the public, the voters, deserved better behavior from Biden. What I saw was a prime example of the arrogance, the "I won" attitude, the disregard for respectful discussion of the issues, that has marked this whole administration.
And I don't know why the Dems keep harping on Romney/Ryan's lack of detail in their tax planning: the President should set the overall objective, and it's for Congress to hash out the details of tax reform. And, it's not like the Obama team has provided any details of how they are going to pay for un-reformed SS, Medicaid & Medicare beyond the next few years (clue: there's not enough rich people to stick with the bill so the middle class -- that's you and me -- had better be prepared for a big tax bill), and they are the incumbents. They haven't even passed the required federal budget during Obama's first term.
Pot, meet Kettle.

(7) Bill M made the following comment | Oct 12, 2012 2:38:46 PM | Permalink


I agree with your assessment of Paul Ryan. I think we may have seen, in the past two debates, the next 16 years of Republican administrations.

(8) Greg Q made the following comment | Oct 15, 2012 1:30:00 AM | Permalink

Bill M,

While I'd like to believe that is true, the simple fact is that the only 16 consecutive year run of President followed by his VP we've ever had is FDR - Truman, and the only reason that stretched for 16+ years is because FDR won 4 terms. (Ike + Nixon won four elections, but had an eight year gap.)

I'd love to see the Democrat Party destroyed, and replaced by a party not so fundamentally dishonest. But short of that, our chances of getting anything more than 12 years out of this duo are somewhere between slim and none.

Let's settle for beating Obama, flipping the Senate, and keeping the House. :-)

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