The American Vice Presidential debate aired Thursday night, one and a half weeks after the first, wildly underwhelming Presidential debate. It was never possible for the battle of the VPs this time around to compare to 2008, because nothing else could ever result in an eight-month-pregnant Amy Poehler rapping in front of Eskimos.
That said, if you are willing to reluctantly trade in the red power suits and vaguely Minnesotan accent of Sarah Palin for the hypnotizing blue eyes and helmet hair of Paul Ryan, you will be rewarded with a much more engaging discussion between candidates (even though Ryan’s opponent is still Joe “Intermittent Tourette’s” Biden). Here is an mitZine recap of the good, the bad and the ridiculous from last night’s debate.
The moderator. Screw the other two: Martha Raddatz for Vice President! She handled herself well, asked incisive questions and challenged the candidates when they were being evasive (prompting them to become even more evasive). She was smart, she was focused, and you could whittle a flute on her cheekbones (complementing the fine touches on Ryan’s widows peak).
The topics: There is only one VP debate, so the issues chosen are key. The questions were well phrased and covered the important issues (including the area of reproductive rights, notably absent from the presidential debate).
Paul Ryan’s dulcet voice. He, more than Biden or Raddatz, set the tone for the debate. If you were a non-English speaker, Paul Ryan would have won hands down. His voice sounds firmly compelling: he has the strong, encouraging cadence of a cleaning supplies infomercial or the audiobook narrator of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It is only when you listen to the actual words his mouth is forming that he loses his advantage. Nevertheless, he is markedly more articulate and informed than his predecessor, Sarah Palin….as would have been a porpoise with a Speak and Spell.
Biden staying the course. Ryan veered off a few times into Crazytown, either purposely choosing inflammatory language (“Iran is four years closer to a nuclear bomb!”…yes, and those four years have occurred since 2008) or just not stating the facts properly. Biden apparently found this funnier than a million GIFs of cats falling off pianos, or whatever people his age find funny (daguerreotypes of cats falling off pianos). More often than not he was able to calmly rebut Ryan’s claims, but he could have been even more aggressive in redirecting the dialogue. Overall, he did well in staying committed to his point without totally dismissing Ryan. His clear and emphatic manner and articulate arguments made him the much more convincing of the two.
I don’t like your question, I’m answering my own: The questions were phrased to elicit specific responses, but instead both candidates just talked about what they wanted to on that particular topic and ignored everything else. Paul Ryan was particularly brutal on the issues of unemployment and the Afghanistan withdrawal date, despite being pressed by an increasingly sassy Martha.
The Middle East. SO MANY THINGS WRONG. 1) Paul Ryan chastising the Democrats for not being more supportive of the Arab Spring…because he loves the Muslim Brotherhood?; 2) Joe Biden continually trying to make a point and then backing off because it would “compromise confidentiality and security.” We get it, you hang out with Bibi. Stop calling him that; 3) Biden trying pass off that the next step to deal with Syria would HAVE to involve American troops, duh…as opposed to the air strikes used in Libya or the drones in Pakistan; 4) Paul Ryan claiming that the reason he can’t commit to a 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan is because that would be “advertising” to the Taliban when to resurge. Because it would be sooo sneaky otherwise? You’re trying to prevent a ‘save the date’ catastrophe? “Hassad, check the calendar!! I KNEW IT! I can’t believe I forgot the Americans were going to leave last Tuesday. Ugh, it’s just been so busy….what with cleaning the cave and sending those threatening videos to Al-Jazeera….stupid, stupid. Well, those schools for girls won’t close themselves. Roll out, everyone!”
Joe Biden’s beef with Martha. While saving his LOLs and grandpa grins for Paul Ryan, he was inexplicably terse and aggressive with the moderator, increasingly so as the debate went on. He directed his rebuttals at her like it was Martha that had personally caused the economic crash and was pen pals with Bashar Al-Assad. If he had directed even half of that ire at Paul Ryan, it would have been a much more gritty and interesting debate.
Economy talk. It still is the economy, stupid. Given that Ryan is touted as the G.O.P golden boy for economic planning, he performed poorly on what should have been his home run question. His answer for turning the economy around sounded like a wish list to Santa: “Lower unemployment…less debt….growth in the industrial sector….and a lifetime supply of hair gel and ties.” The Democrats continue to lean heavily on the dismal situation they inherited, which is beginning to grow tired: Biden needed to do more to explain what they are going to do instead of repeating the words “middle class” like some sort of meditative chant.
Ryan’s face: His expression was so hilarious that it was often distracting from what Joe Biden was saying. It looked loving and indulgent with a sprinkle of condescension, like he was on a date with the love of his life and she had ordered a really expensive steak but was too full to finish it. It said, “You’re silly but even your shortcoming are adorable.” One can assume it was intended to convey the idea that Ryan was friendly and engaged in the debate, but not that Ryan had stuffed all of his bedroom pillows with press clippings of Biden.
Joe Biden’s face. If Mitt Romney is elected and frees the world of the scourge that is Sesame Street, children’s programming could still remain fresh and educational if The Joe Biden Show was aired instead. The range of expressions and contortions he provides would keep any child engaged for hours. It would be easy to just throw some sock puppets on his wildly gesticulating hands and give them cute names.
Malarkey and such. Let it be known that Joe Biden loves malarkey. He said it like…four times. Last night candidates were guilty of malarkey, a.k.a. incredibly inaccessible and scattered gibberish. The vernacular around taxes can be hard to follow and neither candidate seemed willing to distill the issues. Paul Ryan seemed to have two settings: 1) telling soft personal anecdotes; 2) crazily chanting numbers and acronyms. It often went something like: “My own mother is a nurse, and knits cookies and sometimes just snuggles kittens because she can….my MOTHER, who I LOVE, and who also knits, uses Medicare. So WHY we would just remove 6.7 billion dollars over 2024 when the taxes are at 5.9 percent? With our plan, we ADD 69843 flergens to Medicare, while removing the hooblies at 782 units-”
The lack of retrospection. Any past administrations or party conflicts—even over thecourse of Obama’s term—were hardly mentioned. This was most evident in the case of Iran…that’s funny, ten years ago you thought that there were nuclear weapons in a country riiiiggghhtt around that area, wasn’t it? Wait…what happened that time? The one throwback Ryan decided to play was to…John F. Kennedy, which almost cause Joe Biden to wet himself.
Paul Ryan’s face. This cannot be overstated.
The next Presidential debate occurs on October 16th, by which time I hope that someone removes Obama’s Demerol drip. Until then, stay out of malarkey everyone!
Editor’s note: If you missed the debate but Jas’ editorial has sparked your curiosity, you can see the whole riveting event here.
Jas Irwin is a fourth-year MPI student who should really consider ditching Paul Ryan on Thursday night for someone else with two first names (like Jim Bob).