Tonight’s debate between Vice President Biden and GOP hopeful Paul Ryan was more intense, intelligent, and lively than last weeks Obama-Romney encounter. Paul Ryan delivered an amazing opening and closing, while Biden edged out Ryan with policy chatter – all under the watchful eye of Martha Raddatz. To demonstrate the amount of battle, at one point Paul Ryan said:
“I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground.”
However, if one were judging the debate on ground covered, Biden would take the cake – but sometimes, actions speak louder than words. To be fair, last week I called out Mitt Romney for his highly aggressive and abrasive, rude antics. This week, I’ll call out the Vice President. I’m not sure if it’s because there is a near 30 year age gap between Biden and Ryan, but the VP came off condescending tonight with his eye-rolls, finger-pointing, dismissive tone, and blatant interruptions. It, to me, was a tasteless way to handle an opponent and seemed to be done more for theatrics than necessity.
That said – I’d like to take a different approach to analyzing the candidates in the debate tonight.
Joe Biden: strengths – knowledge and completeness of the Obama Administration’s policies and thoughts regarding Iran, Jobs and Unemployment, Medicare and Entitlements, Taxes, Syria, and Abortion. weaknesses – the opening question regarding policy on Libya – Biden’s answer was repetitive and avoidance based. He dodged the first question! Biden’s fizzy beginning erupted like a shaken soda that exploded, but by the Abortion topic and Closing – he had fizzled out.
Paul Ryan: strengths – he had a powerful opening that we pro-rasslin’ fans would say “laid the Smackdown on Joe Biden’s candy ass.” Ryan also drew my support by saying President Obama has a weak foreign policy (an area where I agree with Romney/Ryan) and with his positions on Afghanistan. In addition, Ryan, though clearly out of his element in the middle, financial portion of the debate, remained collected and calm – meaning he was emotionally transparent. Finally, Ryan’s other strength was his powerful closing statement (though it became cliché with all the tag lines inserted): “…It’s been an honor to debate with you…What is America going to be?…The choice is clear, and the choice rests with you, and we ask for your vote.” weaknesses – policy specifics from the Romney campaign, which President Obama alluded to last week as a “trend.” Despite a significantly strong opening, Ryan’s ability to be offensive with Biden was virtually non-existent, he was on the defensive rather.
Though each candidate had their own strengths and weaknesses, moderator Martha Raddatz was exceptional and commanding. She took both candidates to task and committed to time and topic accordingly. She showed America how the moderation of a debate is conducted. One shining moment/exchange she had on the program (among many) was:
[To Paul Ryan, RE: Tax Policy]: Do you have specifics or you still working on them and that’s why you won’t tell the voters?
Paul Ryan did his best to answer Raddatz’s question, but she persisted, “You’re sure the math adds up?” Ryan’s weaknesses glared here against the moderator as he segued into defense to which Raddatz retorted, “Yeah [let’s discuss defense] because that’s another math question.” Raddatz was equally cut-throat with Vice President Biden silencing his “he had more time than me” concerns and one key question:
[To Joe Biden, RE: Afghanistan]: Are they [Taliban] taking advantage of our timeline [withdraw by 2014]?
The Vice President stated the withdraw was taking longer because America was training Afghani forces for when America withdrew. Biden reinforced his position by assuring, “We are leaving in 2014. Period.” It was during this sentiment I agreed with Paul Ryan when he said it wasn’t America’s responsibility to train the Afghani forces and:
“We don’t want to embolden our enemies with a date to mark on their calendars.”
In fact, though I gave the edge to Vice President Biden during these middle debate topics I agreed with Ryan’s sentiments regarding a specific, publicized withdraw date from Afghanistan and that if Iran developed nuclear weapons there would be an arms race to see who could take them from Iran.
While I agreed with the Romney/Ryan stance on Afghanistan and Iran, I severely disagreed with their humanitarian/social message regarding Syria. Martha Raddatz tasked Mr. Ryan with “What are your criteria for intervention?” Ryan said, and I’m paraphrasing, that a US intervention (when thousands of people being killed by an oppressive government) would have to serve the country’s national interest – basically, the US wouldn’t be intervening. I battled with that for a moment and thought, “fine, it’s not our business,” but then on second thought, I couldn’t help but wonder about the risks of allowing repeat Holocausts or Rwandan genocides.
Finally, Vice President Biden twice referred to the Obama Administration inheriting a “tough situation.” Paul Ryan acknowledged and agreed with the sentiment, but he and I both agree once more that the Obama Administration has been in place since 2009, it’s time to move beyond the Bush-era and start owning the successes and shortcomings of Obama’s first term.
This debate was full of zingers and intense battle – that said, it’s time to declare a winner.
Winner: Edge to Paul Ryan; Martha Raddatz
Agree? Disagree? I want to know…