Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

V.P. Debate: Biden's Tantrum

V.P. Debate:
Biden’s Tantrum

          When I write my debate recaps, I always do it immediately after the debate without watching any of the commentary.  And I also focus primarily on issues directly related to Catholic principles, rather than more prudential considerations.  Tonight’s vice presidential debate between Paul Ryan and Joe Biden was defined, I think, more by its tone that by its substance.  It came off as an adult trying to have an adult discussion with a snotty teenager.  Before I get into that, though, there were some areas of substance that should be noted.
          There was much talk on foreign policy.  Both candidates laid out plans as to how they would keep the United States out of war while accomplishing our foreign policy objectives.  The most important thing to come out of this part of the debate was that Joe Biden does not seem to take the Iranian nuclear threat very seriously.  He consistently focused on how much time we have and how far Iran is from a weapon.  That is a devastating mistake that voters should take very seriously.
          There were the predictable disagreements about Medicare and the most significant here was Biden’s refusal to acknowledge the “death panels” included in Obamacare.  He mocked the idea and tried to compare Ryan to Sarah Palin.  The only problem is that they are real and Obamacare promises a rationing of health care for our seniors.  The panels are an undeniable fact, and an honest analysis of their role leads to rationing.
          The other big policy area that Catholics should have particularly noticed was when the moderator asked both candidates how their Catholic Faith informed their positions on abortion.  Paul Ryan is pro-life and gave a very reasoned defense of that position, not only from the point of religion, but from science and reason as well.  Mr. Ryan does not believe in exceptions for rape and incest, which of course no Catholic can, but Governor Romney does, so he carefully worded his response to the effect that a Romney administration would be pro-life, with those exceptions.  He did not endorse them himself.
          Mr. Biden, of course, is pro-abortion, and has supported taxpayer funding for abortion both at home and abroad.  This is indefensible and as a Catholic, it is scandalous.  I will not say more about that because it is an issue between him and God, and the state of his soul is not for me to judge.  He was, however, greatly misleading about how the HHS mandate robs the Church and others of religious freedom.  Mr. Ryan made the good point that if the mandate respected the rights of the Church, the Church would not have to sue the federal government to protect those rights.
          When it comes to issues, Mr. Biden did far better than Mr. Obama did last week.  Liberals will probably think he won on substance.  Conservatives and most moderates will not.  However, it was the tone of the debate that was the real story.
          Mr. Biden knew he had to be more aggressive than Mr. Obama was, and he was determined to push the message that Romney and Ryan are liars.  In doing so, he looked ridiculous. 
          For the entire first hour of the debate, every time Mr. Ryan spoke, he was interrupted by Mr. Biden.  Unfortunately, the moderator did a miserable job of giving the men equal time to speak, especially without interruption.  She would let Biden pontificate, and then let him interrupt.  Ryan himself allowed far too much of it.  At one point, clearly frustrated, he did tell the vice president to stop interrupting.  Mr. Biden was being so annoying at that moment, I’m not sure I would have had the self-control to keep from punching him, to be honest.  I hope I would have, but to be safe, that’s why I will not be running for office.
          When he did let Mr. Ryan speak, he condescendingly laughed non-stop.  To statements of fact or detail, Mr. Biden made such intellectual responses as, “That’s a load of malarkey,” or “a bunch of stuff,” or “Incredible.”  What Mr. Biden seems to have forgotten is that Americans seem to be pretty interested in the debates this year.  He looked juvenile and ridiculous.
          Now, at some point he must have realized that because he toned it down big time for the last half-hour, and we actually got 30 minutes of real, civil discussion.  Ryan finished particularly strong.
          So who won?  On substance, perhaps it was a tie.  Ryan was, for the most part, clear, concise and intelligent.  Biden was very fluid with his points and had the benefit of long speeches without interruption.  However, I have to believe that Mr. Biden was just so unlikable that he may have turned a lot of people off.  By cleaning up his act the last half-hour, he may have salvaged some of the impressions people left with, but all in all, I think his rudeness probably cost him.