Vice president Joe Biden showed last night that he is not qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. There was no dignity, circumspection, courtesy, civility, or presidentiality in his performance in the debate with GOP contender Congressman Paul Ryan.
Biden came over as a windbag and a demagogue. His constant interruptions, his phony and appropriate laughter and his grimace of a smile framed his bombast and looked like a schoolboy making faces at a rival. He had the manners and affect of a longshoreman at a union hall or a brawler in a bar.
How can voters — especially women — look at that performance and not cringe in embarrassment?
In his caricature of a politician, Biden made clear how much the Obama Administration survives by a combination of negative attacks and the rawest kind of demagogic appeal. He reduced his arguments for taxing the rich to thuggary and was so obviously pandering to populism as to be disgusting to all but the most committed Occupiers.
In a Manichean world of good and evil, he was the ugly.
Paul Ryan was disappointing. He seemed over-awed and often overrun by Biden’s antics. He should have been more forceful in denouncing the Administration’s actions in Libya. He ought to have challenged the vice president’s assertion that the Administration was “following the best intelligence we had,” by noting that the State Department said it never believed that the attack was anything other than 9-11 anniversary terrorism. He would have been accurate to have labeled the Obama and Hillary claims that the attack was related to the video as a cover-up to try to head off terrorism becoming an issue against the president in November.
Nor did he do well in attacking Obama-Biden on Iran. He kept repeating two talking points:
1) That they had failed to change the Ayatollah’s mind on developing nuclear weapons; and
2) That the sanctions were passed over Obama’s objections. OK. But how about hitting them on not supporting the pro democracy demonstrators in Teheran? What about Gen. Dempsey’s comments criticizing Israel for contemplating an attack on Iran? Why didn’t Ryan just say that he would support Israel if it attacked Iran and Obama won’t?
Ryan did better on economic policy and was excellent on Medicare and Social Security.
But this debate will not be judged on the issues or the points and counterpoints. It will be seen as the final surrender of our governing process and its debates to the MSNBC cross-talking talk shows. It was Crossfire come to the presidency.
Biden needs to grow up before he grows older. You cannot look good if you are acting like a little boy smirking in school.
Will this debate hurt Obama? Help Romney? We don’t know. But we do know one thing: It destroyed Biden.
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