Friday, October 12, 2012

VP Debate quick reactions.

As usual, listened on radio, slept on it, watched video the day after.

Impressions immediately after listening:

1. Biden was much more aggressive than he was with Palin four years ago. At that debate he managed to give the air of a patient elder statesman dealing with a novice while also going some lengths to be classy about it. He made his points and generally looked dignified in doing so.

2. That was decidedly not the impression this time. His numerous interruptions, (at times seemingly dropped after every other word of Ryan’s), occurring, as they often did, during the set  2 minute spots; his dismissive laughs (audible on radio) and his complaints on a couple of occasions that Raddatz needed to afford him time, were not indicative of class. What they were, however, was indicative of someone who knew he needed to punch back, address accusations or rebut points.  That, he was able to do, and needed to do. His boss failed in that regard last week.
3. Ryan remained calm, and did not rattle or lose his train of thought when the rapid fire interruptions occurred, but was able to continue with what he had to say. He did miss some openings however:

4. Inexplicably, Ryan did not counter the allegation that he was responsible for the disaster at Benghazi because he was  responsible for cuts in funding to consular security, a charge that was brought up yesterday at the House hearings by Elijah Cummings, and parried.

5. He did not forcefully point out the prima facie absurdity of Biden’s claim that “we” did not receive requests for additional security in Libya. That claim is directly contradicted by the testimony yesterday.

6. He did not examine Biden’s claim that Iran, even if it is able to produce weapons grade nuclear material, does not have a delivery system. On its face, this claim is implausible if it is a claim that the Iranians do not have missiles. Also, even assuming its truth, there are more ways to skin that delivery cat. This was not addressed. It was a strange argument to make, and Ryan let it lie.

7. When Biden brought up GM, and Ryan pivoted to talking about Romney’s good-car-guy bona fides, that seemed forced, and veering off topic. He should have discussed the fiscal state of GM, and the losing stake American taxpayers have in that company. He should have explained bankruptcy and not let the easy generalization that it is Draconian slip by. He should have pointed out the company has requested the government sell its stake so it can improve its position.

8. Ryan effectively presented the R&R proposals vis Social Security and Medicare and effectively answered the vouchers bugaboo.

9. Ryan on Afghanistan was also effective, when talking about the necessity of dealing with the tactical and strategic difficulties involved with dealing with the Afghan fighting seasons.

10. Biden did not make the case that the Afghan security forces to whom we are handing things off are competent, or free of Taliban infiltration or sympathy. He knew he could not make such claims.

11. He is committed to getting out of Afghanistan during 2014 no matter what.

12. Ryan came across as ambiguous on this matter, saying he too wants out during 2014, but will also listen to military assessments of conditions on the ground, and craft policy accordingly.

13. No one addressed our erstwhile friend Pakistan, except Ryan in passing mention, as a conduit for fighters when fighting seasons commence.
14. I saw no major differences on Syria. Covert and overt funding and/or arming of rebel forces that are in line with Western values (if any such forces exist), who are likely to become allies. Would have liked to see a comparison and contrast of this approach with the de-facto approach to Egypt, and the MB.

15. Biden tried valiantly to dispel the impression that relations between Bennie Net and Israel have chilled, with the reference to 30 years of friendship between Biden and Bennie. Nice try, but no cigar.
16 Ryan won the exchange on Catholic institutions and the HHS mandate of birth control/ abortion coverage. The “then why are they suing you?” question, although stomped on by both Biden and Radditz, made the point succinctly.

Overall impression? Both pugilists landed solid blows.  Audio conveyed a blustering Biden, Ryan at times did not drill down to details, but at other times scored well in that regard.  But, since I’m sticking with football analogies, I’ll give it a tie plus or minus a field goal either way. 

In terms of intended effect, if the purpose of the debate was to woo or reassure undecided voters, both managed that. Biden did the latter primarily by providing arguments his boss failed to provide, Ryan managed the former by calmly making the Romney Ryan case, and pointing out the state of the economy over the last four years.
However, if that wooing or reassuring involves, as an essential component, an exhibition of class, Biden didn’t do that this time around, as he had in 2008. Ryan looked the more mature of the two men, in terms of demeanor.

OK. So, it’s the next day, and I’m watching the video.

1. The visuals increase the impression of condescension on Biden’s part.
2. Both men looked each other in the eye. The ‘sitting at a table’ convention, now the norm since Lieberman Cheney (the best single VP debate I’ve ever seen), works in this regard.  I like it. The commission should consider it for the Presidential debates

3. Raddatz interrupted the exchange too much. She cut Ryan off in mid-stream more than she did Biden.  She did have some tough questioning for Biden though, particularly on his Iran claims questioning that more or less made up for her treatment of Ryan.

4. Biden loves him some Crest Strips. Those are the pearliest white pearly whites I’ve ever seen.
5. The Ryan line about gaffes was funny.

Final score: On the ground that the impression of condescension and bullying was much more pronounced on the video, I’ll tilt that one field goal edge Ryan’s way. I suspect that’s my partisan lens in action. Someone leaning the other way would probably flip that score Biden’s way. Truly objective assessments? We’ll see in the ensuing days.

Either way: A close game.

Complete Video here: