The VP candidate’s debate on October 11 was interesting and entertaining, but it will probably have virtually no impact on the election. Each side was pleased with their candidate’s performance, and as usually happens, assigned their spin doctors to tell anyone within earshot how their man won. According to a CNN/ORC International Poll taken after the debate Ryan won narrowly 48% – 44%. But, the poll had a 5% margin for error, so it was really a virtual deadheat.
1. Martha Radatz, the moderator, did a better job of controlling this debate than Mr. Lehrer did the last one. I felt that she focused a bit more on foreign policy at the expense of domestic policy, but, perhaps, that was because it is her main area of expertise.
2. Mr. Biden achieved his main objective of coming out strong and attacking the GOP’s positions, including Mr. Romney’s 47% comment, which Obama had failed to do. (Mr. Ryan had a snappy retort ready that Mr. Biden knows that “sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.”) He was definitely “scrappy Scranton Joe,” not “Gentlemen Joe.”
3. On the other hand, I found Mr. Biden’s excessive interrupting and use of dismissive hand and facial gestures rude and distracting. I felt it detracted from his performance. Indeed, Charles Krauthammer’s analysis was that someone who listened to the debate on the radio would have likely concluded that Mr. Biden had won, whereas someone who had watched on tv would likely have concluded that Mr. Ryan had won.
4. Mr. Ryan, who made his reputation on economic issues, demonstated a strong knowledge of foreign policy, holding his own with Mr. Biden, whose expertise is in foreign affairs.
5. Both men were prone to exaggerations and bending of the facts, but that is normally the case in debates and in political speeches, in general. We have come to expect and even accept that to some extent. That is why many of us are so negative about politicians and politics, in general. Some notable ones centered around medicare, their respective tax plans and abortion positions. At this point in the campaign, each side has twisted the “facts” to such an extent that I don’t see how the voters can ever discern the real truth. Therefore, I have concluded that each voter has to make a choice based on the best information available knowing it is not the whole truth; decide which candidate you believe will do better for you based on the information available.
6. Mr. Biden committed one serious exaggeration if not an outright lie, or maybe he was covering up a serious lack of knowledge. That was concerning Libya. He insisted that the administration had no knowledge of Ambassador Stevens’ cable requests for additional security as well as a recent assassination attempt on the British ambassador. This information is coming to light now pursuant to an ongoing Congressional investigation headed up by Jason Chavitz (R) Utah. Mr. Biden would have us believe that a midlevel State Department official made the security decision without consultation from superiors and without the White House’s knowledge. Furthermore, he claimed it was influenced by budget cuts forced on the State Department by Republicans. Those assertations do not seem credible. According to Mr. Chavitz the State Department’s budget has actually increased 118% over the last 5 years. Also, common sense would tell one to be extra wary given the climate in the Middle East, especially around 9/11. I expect this issue will fester through the election. I also expect Mr. Romney to follow-up on it at the next debate.
All that said, as I said in previous blogs history shows us that vice presidential debates have virtually no impact on the election. Even following Lloyd Bentsen’s destruction of Dan Quayle, the Bush-Quayle ticket won handily. After next week’s Presidential debate everyone will be talking about that and the VP debate will have become a footnote to history.