As with last week’s presidential debate, we begin our discussion of last night’s vice presidential debate with the moderator. ABC’s Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz asked the right questions, made sure the candidates provided real answers, kept the discussion moving, commanded respect, and frequently displayed her own wide breadth of knowledge and understanding about complex foreign and domestic issues. The debate was a huge success, thanks largely to Raddatz’s consummate skills and professionalism. Her moderation was a coup for both the field of journalism and the American people, whom she truly helped learn both the candidates, their stances, and the truth.
I have to say, while I thoroughly enjoyed watching Joe Biden wipe the floor with Paul Ryan, I got the impression that the debate was more about contesting facts than anything else. Which is confusing, because when I was in school, I learned that facts were, well, facts. Both Biden and moderator Martha Raddatz questioned Paul Ryan’s statements and his ability to do maths – which he dodged answering, naturally. It has later been shown that Ryan’s ‘economic studies’ were in fact blog posts and op-eds. The fact-checkers will be at it today, digging into both Biden and Ryan’s statements, but I have to ask: why don’t we have fact-checkers at the debate, interrupting the candidates when their ‘facts’ turn out to be ‘not so much-es.’ How many Americans will take Ryan’s statements at face value? Or Biden’s for that matter? How many Americans will read the analyses and make an informed decision about who is telling the truth? What these debates really boil down is who is more convincing.
Last night’s debate seemed to take place between a seasoned, involved, dedicated politician and a smarmy infomercial salesman unable to provide detailed facts or coherently debate the facts presented by his opponent. Though Congressman Ryan delivered his rhetoric slowly and calmly, much of what he said was blatantly untrue or spun in a grossly misrepresenting manor. It was no wonder Vice President Biden could hardly stop himself from smiling in disbelief as Ryan repeatedly conveyed untruths and misinformation. Vice President Biden has been committed to improving the quality of life for Americans and preserving the United States’ reputation and security abroad since he became a US Senator nearly 40 years ago. His experience and commitment was evident in every answer and explanation he provided.
In comparison, Congressman Ryan was consistently unable to match either the Vice President’s knowledge base or personal relationships with world leaders. This was particularly evident during their discussion of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Congressman Ryan claimed that President Obama didn’t meet with PM Netanyahu during his recent trip to New York because he was too busy appearing on The View. Unlike Governor Romney, President Obama actually has a full time job to do in addition to campaigning to become President of the United States. Any implication that he would neglect that job in favor of campaigning shows an irresponsible lack of understanding of the duties and commitments of the President. Last night, Vice President Biden actually had to explain to people that he and Obama did in fact have a conversation with Netanyahu that day that lasted over an hour. It would seem that people expect politics to be played out in front of them like reality television. The reality is that for security and diplomatic reasons, the average American citizen will not and should not know exactly what is said, who is met, and what is discussed in classified political settings. That is why it is so important to vote and elect politicians with integrity whom you would entrust to make critically important decisions for the future of the country behind closed doors.
In the end, Congressman Ryan was over-rehearsed, disingenuous, and displayed a fundamental lack of understanding of various political situations, from military action to the budget to health care reform to international relations to Medicare. He simply could not refute the facts conveyed by Vice President Biden, whose proved again and again why he is critical to the administration.
During Congressman Paul Ryan’s closing remarks, his big questions such as ‘What kind of country are we going to be?’ and ‘What kind of country are we going to give our kids?’ followed by his big, pandering reach-out statements like ‘Mitt Romney and I want to earn your support’ and ‘You deserve better’ took me back to a specific part of childhood. Does anybody remember this guy?
This is what Ryan sounded like to me. A salesman, an actor, someone who has memorized his script.