If the vice presidential debate had been a prize fight it would have been called after two rounds.
In opening the debate on Libya, moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC put front and center the explosive, unfolding, misleading administration response to the 9-11 terrorist attack on our Libyan embassy. That failure not only plays to a Republican strength, defense, but also forced Pinocchio Biden into fibbing about the Libyan ambassador’s rejected call for security – and the White House’s false claim that the attack was the result of a YouTube video. Ryan only had to note the obvious: “This was the anniversary of 9-11 and they did not give our ambassador a Marine attachment?”
That foreign policy incompetence was then bookended by Question #2: Why isn’t unemployment under 6 percent as the president had promised?
Game. Set. Match. And we were just 32 minutes in. But this being television, it’s in demeanor where Joe Blow really blew it.
The rest of the debate was a Biden clinic on how to be a jerk. Sneering, laughing, smirking, and interrupting, interrupting, interrupting – 82 times by one count – Biden lived up to the caricature of the unlikeable uncle at the Thanksgiving dinner table annoyed by his young, successful nephew.
“That’s a bunch of malarkey,” snarled Uncle Joe. “This is a bunch of stuff,” he huffed. “These guys bet against America all the time,” he demagogued. These dismissive huffs interspersed with rote references to “the wealthy” and “the super wealthy.”
Through this blather, Ryan remained composed, witty, bipartisan – and loaded with facts.
“Sometimes the words just don’t come out of your mouth the right way,” he said as Biden walked right into the trap of mentioning Romney’s admitted 47 percent gaffe. It was a Lloyd Benson “I knew Jack Kennedy” moment and it both disarmed Obama’s #2 and also humanized the smiling Ryan.
All this just 40 minutes into the debate. The rest was gravy with Ryan pressing on Obama’s $90 billion in “green pork,” violations of the Catholic Church’s First Amendment rights, and even a touching moment about naming his son “Bean” on a Raddatz question about abortion. All delivered with a confident smile and respect for his opponent.
Biden was the Grinch to the end – a fitting partner to a president whose disrespect for bipartisanship and divisive, thuggish campaign tactics have grown tiresome. The Ryan performance built on the first debate of a Romney-Ryan team – the CEO and the COO – that is serious about this country’s problems. Obama-Biden are just pols.