PolitiPost: VP Debate – Biden vs. Ryan

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 Bidenstrengths – 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 Ryanstrengths – 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…



  1. Charlene says:

    I agree with your assessment. I wish we had them running for President instead of Mitt and Obama.

  2. Nathan says:

    I would like to just get a quick thought in here. Ryan’s answers to jobs, the economy, and unemployment rates were riddled with inaccuracies and horrible math. Unemployment has been above 8% for 43 months. Incidentally, Obama has only been in office for 43 months. If the unemployment rate dropped below 8% this month for the first time in 43 months, then Ryan is completely wrong when he says the rest of the country is going the same way as Scranton (Biden’s hometown). If the unemployment rate dropped below 8% for the first time since Obama was in office, then the jobs situation is clearly better now than it was when he took office. Period. This is a mathematical truth. Now, if Ryan can’t even see that bit of math, how in the world can we trust that he and Romney can balance a budget, lower taxes, and increase defense spending all at the same time? Rant over.

    1. Bobby Myers says:

      I agree. And I made sure to point out that Martha Raddatz called the Romney-Ryan bluff on mathematics, because their math simply doesn’t add up – ever.

  3. Vince says:

    This is not a bad analysis, though I don’t think it follows to your conclusion.

    I disagree heavily with several analysis points. There are two things I would like to reflect on, is we don’t have an “exact date” for withdrawal from Afghanistan instead we have a timeline to withdrawal by the end of 2014, which the Romney/Ryan ticket agrees with. We did the exact same thing in our withdrawal from Iraq and all of the horrible consequences the opposition said never occurred. The same will happen this time.

    The other issue is its completely fair to remind voters of where we were in 2008 before Obama took office, the economic markets were in utter chaos. The first two years of the Obama administration saw unprecedented policy moves, which all stop when republicans took over the US House and made their stated goal to ensure they deny Pres. Obama any policy victories to deny him a second term. Republicans are just as much to blame about our current fiscal problems as is the Obama Administration, it’s important both sides take responsibility.

    It’s clear that last week Gov. Romney won the debate regardless of style and facts, just as its clear that VP Biden was the winner of this debate.

    1. Bobby Myers says:

      I seem to have thought opposite you about debate victor for both weeks. Perhaps I just like to pick the person who I felt was less abrasive in the debate (the perceived underdog) – last week Obama, this week Ryan. And honestly Paul Ryan’s opening and closing were far superior (which like it or not will be key parts that register with some people). It was obvious where VP Biden was well-rehearsed (the “meat and potatoes”) and where he was unprepared (his tone decreased, he used “uh” and “um” more frequently). I think the key difference with this Debate was that Biden didn’t underestimate Paul Ryan (as Obama had done Romney). I don’t think it helped Biden’s case (in my mind) knowning that he’d misspoken in the weeks leading up to the debate resulting in Obama’s camp. playing “clean up.”

      I’ve not been particularly fond of Joe Biden – I think he’s a typical politician (case and point, he avoided the first question of the debate) who hasn’t made the impact he’s needed to make as a Vice President.

      I also agree that it’s important the GOP and America be reminded that President Obama and his Administration inherited a debt crisis, among various other things. But by this point, it’s common knowledge. Obama hasn’t had a perfect first term and hasn’t delivered on every promise he made – then again, no President ever does. I just wish Obama would admit it, regroup and move forward – which he sort of did with his comment last week:

      “Everything I’m promising…is designed to make sure the American people…get a fair shot…I promised I’d fight every single day, and I’ve kept that promise.” – Pres. Obama

      In a way, I feel bad for Obama – in 2008, he ran an amazing campaign (capitalizing social media) and kept a mostly positive aura about it. This time around, he seems to be unorganized, less visible, and more oriented with negative, dirty politics – but I honestly think his heart is still in the right place and that he’s the best candidate for our country.

      Either way, that was a great debate and I hope you’ll come back for the analysis of Obama-Romney next week.

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