I want to give the sitting Vice President his due. He is a powerful man and he deserves respect. I just thought he knew how to give respect as well as he gets it.
For a full 90 minutes in Danville, Kentucky, Joe Biden’s conduct was childish, rude, and did not live up to the high office he holds. It has me questioning everything from Biden’s sanity to his sobriety. The general sense even from some in the media was that Joe was some iteration of a cranky old man carping at a younger adversary. He interrupted Paul Ryan 82 times, regularly laughed during Ryan’s answers, and maintained a condescending attitude throughout the debate. If President Obama showed his disdain for the GOP ticket by shrinking and being meager, Vice President Biden showed it by lashing out and acting like a fool.
Substantively, the topics varied between domestic and foreign policy. Moderator Martha Raddatz began with Libya and moved to Afghanistan and to Syria. Ryan defended his running mate’s early response on the embassy attacks last month by saying, “”It’s never too early to speak out for our values,” to which Biden literally called “malarkey.” After Ryan attacked the administration for sending mixed signals to Iran, Biden quipped, “This is a bunch of stuff,” an Irish saying, Biden explained.
On the domestic side, things got pretty heated when Biden finally invoked Mitt Romney’s infamous 47% comment and his wealth. Ryan responded with a personal story about Romney, a fact about his vast charitable giving, and what turned out to be the zinger of the night: “With respect to that quote, I think the Vice President very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.”
On entitlement reform, Biden attacked Ryan’s budget plan as well as defended Obamacare. In a heated exchange and after many interruptions by Biden, Ryan quipped, “Mr. Vice President, I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think people would be better served if we don’t keep interrupting each other.” The substance almost didn’t seem to matter because the fighting was so rough and the clash of facts so stark that it’s really up to the fact checkers to decide.
It seemed Joe Biden’s job was to do the opposite of Obama. He was supposed to take it to Paul Ryan and get the left flank energized about the Democratic ticket. If that was his objective, he may have succeeded to a degree. But where I believe the Obama team miscalculated was that this display of Biden’s wild side may very well turn off the very independents they will need to win the election.
As I said in my preview, VP debates are very inconsequential in the grand scheme. Neither candidate did their side too much damage. Thus the debate can be considered a draw by most non-partisan thinkers. Now the stage is set for round two from the top of the ticket. That clash will mean a lot more than Biden belligerence at this debate.
*The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.