Yeah, I watched it. I wish I hadn’t. That’s 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back.
Biden came off as a jerk right from the start, with his constant mocking grin and barely restrained laughter during Ryan’s responses, and his almost as constant but more consistent interrupting and forcibly talking over Ryan. He spent a good part of the debate “shouting” down his opponent rather than debating. At least the grins and laughter faded away a bit towards the end.
Ryan came off as calm, prepared, and willing to have a civilized debate on the issues, but this same civilized behaviour allowed Biden to overpower him and appear stronger. He did call out Biden on the near-constant interruptions at one point. He later obviously started to lose his temper over it while they were discussing troop drawdowns in Afghanistan, but recovered pretty quickly. I do get the feeling they were edging towards classified (or at least sensitive) information about troop deployments, and Ryan wanted to say more but was unwilling to cross that line, leaving Biden to claim a rhetorical victory there. Of course, Biden had to interrupt and talk over Ryan to get the last word in in that exchange, but that last word was enough.
Ryan made a tactical blunder early on in bringing up the gentleman who lost his family in a car accident, considering that Biden lost his wife and daughter the same way in 1972. He also didn’t seem to do a good job of articulating why he couldn’t get more specific about his ticket’s economic plan when asked (which I think boiled down to “we have a general framework, but can’t really be specific until we start negotiating it with Congress”), and didn’t do a good job responding to Biden’s question about how they disagreed with the administration’s timeline for troop withdrawals after saying they agree with the administration’s timeline for troop withdrawals (he said it – that the administration shouldn’t be making such a timeline either public or absolute, but that the Romney campaign agreed with the proposed timing – but Biden managed to drown that out so that it probably didn’t register with most viewers).
He also managed to miss a golden opportunity to emphasize a point Romney apparently made during the previous debate about how many small business owners’ incomes are taxed before they pay expenses, so that the theoretical small business owner “making” $250,000 only takes home about $50,000, but gets taxed on – and reported as earning – the full million (someone did a really good post on this after the last debate, and I’d really like to link to it, but I can’t find the darned thing).
The moderator was pretty useless, except when she was debating Ryan directly, which is absolutely inappropriate behaviour for a moderator. A five year old could do better with 5 minutes instruction. Her refusal to rein in Biden’s interruptions, and her direct engagement against Ryan on at least one occasion, are what has earned this post the “Media Bias” tag.
All in all, I’d have been better off spending that two hours playing Star Wars: The Old Republic.
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