While Biden Smirked and Lied, Ryan Kept His Composure
Besides the hilarious GIF that I posted earlier, I have some additional thoughts on the vice presidential debate. Essentially they’re all summarized in the title, but do read on.
First, I don’t think anyone really was surprised that Biden came out of the gate like a “cannonball”. We all expected something like that to take place. What we didn’t expect was that he would do that by simply being as rude to Paul Ryan as he possibly could. Fred Barnes put it well when he said that you do not win a debate by being rude and constantly interrupting the other fellow. Like others have noted after the debate, I am sure that it played well with his base, but undecideds and moderates who watched the debate can’t possibly have found Smirking Joe especially compelling.
Second, one could tell that from the outset that Biden was going to continue the campaign’s tactic of calling out Romney and Ryan for anything that they think is a lie. The only problem? It just isn’t so, which makes it even more tragic when Biden attempted to appear offended by some of Ryan’s statements.
Instead, Biden seemed to be the one throwing half-truths and distortions at the public tonight. Two examples. The first one is from the exchange where Biden categorically denies that there ever was a request for more security in Libya. Katrina Trinko over at National Review Online points out that such a request did indeed take place.
The other example is on the issue of Medicare, where Biden claimed that Ryan wants to turn Medicare into a voucher program. I happened to catch part of CNN’s post-debate coverage where a fact-checker verified this claim, saying that Romney intends to turn Medicare into a voucher-program. The only problem for both Biden and CNN is that the plan supported by Romney doesn’t do anything of the kind. Here’s Yuval Levin:
This was one place where my own policy obsessions left me thinking Ryan could have said more, and particularly that he might have pushed one more time on “vouchers.” I don’t have any particular problem with the term “voucher” in a lot of policy contexts, but it is simply not an accurate description of a premium-support reform of Medicare, in which seniors would get their choice of coverage, not a voucher, and those whose choice was among the more expensive would make up the difference themselves while those who choose cheaper options would have no further out of pocket costs and might get some money back. At no point is there a voucher. This is exactly how the Medicare prescription-drug benefit, Medicare Advantage, and the federal employee insurance system through which Joe Biden’s family has gotten insurance for forty years function. Are those voucher programs?
All in all I thought it was a spectacle of a debate and I am amazed that Paul Ryan managed to keep his composure and remain calm when Uncle Joe was going at it. As for the polls I don’t really expect this debate to have had much of an effect. Biden probably managed to give his base what they wanted by, as Rich Lowry put it, acting as a “MSNBC host”.
I would also say that Paul Ryan performed well in his first (second if you count the convention) appearance on the national stage. In fact, he might even have managed to attract undecideds and moderates by remaining calm and reasoned throughout the debate.