Today’s FYI: Yes, Joe Biden won last night, but it’s only halftime

Shhhh….hear that sound?

It’s the sound of millions of Democrats exhaling all at once.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell anyone here that Vice President Joe Biden got the job done in the VP debate last night – and then some. Paul Ryan was very disciplined, very even-keeled, and very well-prepared. But despite this, he looked lost numerous times during last night’s debate – and on a few points, he was rebuked by Biden so authoritatively that he just had no choice but to drop his spiel and pray for a new question.

The exchange on Afghanistan was a particular highlight. It was established by Joe Biden that the Obama administration plans to have our troops back home from that war in 2014 – PERIOD. The Romney/Ryan position, as far as I could tell, was that they ALSO want the troops home in 2014, but that they aren’t SAYING that, because actually SAYING that in a definitive way is bad.

As Ryan demonstrated last night, actually saying ANYTHING in a definitive way is bad when it comes to policy proposals. How to pay for those across-the-board tax cuts? Sorry, that’s for me to know and you to find out. Iran? Well, we’re not saying we go to war with them, but we’re saying we should do more than what we’re doing. Even though, short of war, we acknowledge that there’s really not much more we can realistically do. Jobs? Hey, 5 point plan! None of the points go beyond generalities, and the 12 million jobs we’re promising to create are jobs that most economists believe will come back on their own anyway, but still…there’s 5 whole points in there! FIVE!

Many people (and that includes many Democrats) would criticize Biden for the whole grinning/laughing thing. I agree that it comes off as rude, but I have to be honest. It’s about goddamn time these blatant and unapologetic liars were treated with just a little smidgen of contempt. They have acted in a thoroughly contemptible manner from Day One of this campaign, and they have not been called out on it nearly enough – by the press, by the public, or by the Obama campaign. Any lack of respect that Biden may have displayed toward Paul Ryan last night was completely and totally earned by Ryan himself due to his own dishonesty. I will concede that not everyone agrees with me, and that for the sake of political strategy, Biden maybe should have toned it down a little. But for the sake of integrity, the only appropriate response to the foulness of Ryan’s bullshit was to laugh in his face. Standing there and acting as if the words coming out of your opponent’s mouth are NOT steaming heaps of dung, when they so obviously ARE, requires a forced obliviousness which Biden is not capable of. The beauty of being the VP – and the particular beauty of being Joe Biden – is that you have some flexibility in showing a bit more of your unfiltered self than you would if you were the president. Biden took full advantage of this fact last night, and I personally understand exactly why he did so. If you have to get up on a stage next to someone who is happily and knowingly misleading the entire nation, then the least a decent person can do is make it clear that you ain’t buying a word of it, and that nobody else should either.

All that being said, we must keep in mind that this was a VP debate. It was a much-needed shot in the arm for the base, but it will not likely be a game-changer in the way that Debate #1 was. For the narrative and the momentum to shift again, the second presidential debate must go as well as this one did. To begin with, we will need to have a moderator who will handle the debate like an actual DEBATE, and not like a free-for-all, talking points marathon (can I just get a standing ovation right now for Martha Raddatz? I mean, DAMN, she was good). By keeping the questions tough and the responses tight, they covered so much more ground, in a more substantive way, than was managed in the presidential debate. Candy Crowley is in charge next week, and I hope she took notes tonight.

Additionally, the president will need to study the tape of this VP debate over…and over…and OVER again, between now and Tuesday night. Look for the areas where Ryan had a hard time, and keep them in mind, because these will be weak spots for Romney, too. That lack of specificity on the tax cut proposal – hammer it. Do not let that slide. The fact that, in terms of dealing with Libya, with Syria, and with Iran, there were virtually no contrasts presented between what Ryan/Romney would do and what Obama is ALREADY doing – restate that and make it clear. The Medicare issue – illuminate some reality when it comes to that $716 billion that they keep talking about, and do not accept the rewrite they are pushing about how Obama “stole” it from the benefits seniors are getting. Abortion – man, that’s an area where there is no question that Romney and Ryan are on the wrong side of the Constitution, and that needs to be emphasized repeatedly and forcefully.

I think Democrats are feeling a lot happier this morning than they have been feeling over the past week. So thank you, Joe Biden, for standing up last night and representing everything we were thinking and feeling in such a powerful way. But even if we believe that he truly did win last night’s debate, that’s not gonna be enough. The game ain’t over yet; it’s only halftime, and right now it’s a tie. We’ve stopped the downhill slide, but let’s look ahead and recognize that we need two things to happen at the next debate before we can really feel like we’ve regained our footing. First, the president must be willing and able to rise to the challenge this time around, without trying to maintain his cool at the expense of making his points. And second, we Democrats must not go overboard in our reactions as we did last time. The way so many of us bought into the media spin about Obama’s “failure” and Romney’s “dominance” was both embarrassing and counter-productive (I’m looking at YOU, Chris Matthews!). But if Obama can learn something from what Joe Biden did last night, then we won’t have to worry about that sort of collective “WTF just happened?” sort of feeling coming back to haunt us after Tuesday’s debate. I know our president is up to the task, and I want to see him prove me right.



17 thoughts on “Today’s FYI: Yes, Joe Biden won last night, but it’s only halftime

  1. Great post and great points. It was a shot in the arm that the base needed. The President needs to come out strong. Hit him long, hard, and steady. But I don’t want him to come across as some people would like to see him. And that as the “Angry Black Man.” You know that if he even raises his voice a little some people are going to accuse him of being that. I think the town hall forum is his speciality and unless Mitt adopts another personality like he did in the last debate, he stands no chance. We’ll see if what Joe Bi did to P90X rubs off on the President.

    • You’re right, Obama is at a disadvantage because getting too animated when he speaks does open him up to those BS charges of “angry black man-itis”. But I think he has to engage more than he did last time, and I do think there are ways to do it without being overly aggressive. When Biden kept redirecting questions at Ryan last night, it was very effective. It forced Ryan to flesh out the stuff he was saying, instead of just allowing him to drop talking points and move on. Obama can press for facts and specifics all day long, and that will only look intelligent and thorough, not angry.

  2. I am not a political analyst — at least I’m not paid for my opinions. Having made that ‘perfectly clear’ I think that the question and the candidates answers on the abortion matter was the most important political point of last night’s debate.
    Ryan’s response appeled to the unalterable so-called ‘pro-lifers’ who think they should dictate the moralities of the whole world.
    Joe Biden’s response scored with everyone else.

    • Ted, I agree with you that the exchange about abortion was key to this debate and to many voters and viewers. It did clearly draw the line between those who would ignore the line between church and state, and those who would uphold it.

  3. Agree, agree, and heartily agree. Sorry I haven’t had time to check out your contributions previously, but you are now on my official reading list. And btw, if you could possibly share with me how to actually paste videos into the post, I’d be eternally grateful. Techno-challenged geezer that I am, I’ve tried to follow the wordpress instructions and failed repeatedly. Perhaps I simply need a dose of blog-viagra.

    • Thanks for the comment, and welcome to my little square of internet turf. 🙂 As for the video thingy, I usually use the embed code on videos that I find on YouTube or Hulu, and then I just paste those codes into the body of my post. When you are looking at a video on YouTube, for example, there is a “share” button. When you click it, it gives you an option to embed the video. If you click on “Embed”, you get a code which you can just copy and paste into your post. Also, here is a WordPress help page which might be useful, but if it doesn’t cut it for you, let me know and I’d be happy to email you with other info.

    • Absolutely – that 47% quote was something that worked well for Biden last might and it should be a part of the next debate as well. I would like to see Obama emulate a few things from Biden’s performance, actually, but we’ll see how it goes. They’re totally different people and totally different politicians. Doesn’t mean Obama can’t take a few pointers though.

  4. It amazes me just how much shit the presidential candidates throw at each other until they come to meet; then they turn into delicate little beings, walking on egg shells lest they upset any of the voters.

    America has become ungovernable. There is so much venum in politics that there is no longer any meaningful debate or exchange of ideas.

    This has spread to the people themselves. A kind of trickle down prejudice. I have been fightig various fires on some Social network sites of a political nature. People are so hateful with the things they say about Obama. Call them out on the facts and all hell lets loose. I have been accused of being a “bleeding heart liberal” a “communist, socialist, leftie” just because I questioned a few balmy ideas about POTUS having been convicted of insurance fraud, a sleeper terrorist, a Muslim and having been born in Kenya, Indonessia and so on….

    These people are not people just hanging round on the net, but members of proffessional groups in film and Television – the industry I work in. Talk about the business – no problem. Mention politics and they turn into slavering, slimy, pulsating, tentacled ooz secreating hideous monsters hissing repeated mantras about abortion, guns and gays.


    • Bill, you said a mouthful. And “trickle down prejudice” is exactly what it is. Those in power here have recognized how much more advantageous it is for them if America is divided rather than united. They work tirelessly to plant the seeds of paranoia and polarization every chance they get. We have lost touch with everything that was once great about this country. Patriotism has been replaced by loyalty to party ideology, cooperation has been replaced by obstructionism, hard truths have been replaced by comforting lies. It is a shame and I’m not too sure how far the pendulum must swing in this destructive direction before Americans recognize how off-kilter it has become. Of course, maybe they never will, but I like to think at some point, this craziness will become too much for the majority and they will be motivated to alter that momentum in a better direction. The political, economic and social climate has deteriorated enormously, and this country and many of its citizens have truly suffered for it.

  5. Oh, Chris, I could have written this same post, but not nearly as well as you did! I agree with everything you wrote. You’d have to be dead or superhuman (or Obama on a bad night) to not laugh with derision at the lies and utter nonsense that spewed forth from Ryan’s yap. It is quite a thing to behold – the utter abandon with which both Romney and Ryan fabricate numbers and scenarios. I don’t care who won this or who lost this debate. I definitely don’t give a damn what Chris Matthews or O’Reilly thinks. All I care about is that Obama watch this VP debate over and over again and get angry and passionate enough to state his case emphatically.

    • You said, “It is quite a thing to behold – the utter abandon with which both Romney and Ryan fabricate numbers and scenarios”. I couldn’t agree more. I am shocked on a regular basis by it. It amazes me that these men could be so unapologetic and so brazen in their attempts to mislead voters, and I am even MORE amazed to realize that so many people in this country are being so willingly misled. It seems there are some who would follow these two Pied Pipers of bullcrap anywhere, just because they are not Obama. It is sad, and it is infuriating.

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