Substantively close — but not overly close — Vice Presidential debate tonight, with Rep. Paul Ryan winning more points on substance and Vice President Joe Biden’s consistently condescending broad smiling putting off all but true-blue Democrats.
On the issues, Ryan prevailed on the irresponsible Libyan response of the Administration, denying the source of the massacre: terrorism abetted by its ignoring of warnings to beef up security. Biden blamed on the intelligence community the Administration’s devastatingly erroneous interpretation of the massacre’s being caused by an anti-Muslim video .
Ryan prevailed on the significance of the danger of Iran while the Obama Administration reassures everyone that the sanctions are tighter and tighter. At each point the old put-down occurred to me: “How’s that working out for you, Mr. Vice President?” In fact almost all of the Administration’s questionable economic and foreign policies should raise this question in debate.
Ryan won on the issue of Obama-Biden’s ignoring of tax strangulation of small business, usually taxed at individual rates. Not to worry, Biden said: only 3% earn over $250,000 (that’s about 1 million businesses, Ryan pointed out).
Biden prevailed on the issue of the incongruity of Rep. Ryan asking for stimulus help repeatedly while decrying stimulus help. He should have at least answered the charge.
Good exchanges on the sagacity of publicly stating withdrawal dates, which Biden said was done because we had no choice but to do so, and Ryan said endangered Americans are still in Afghanistan and are at greater risk due to our announcement.
At the close, Ryan depicted the representative issue as government deficit spending, which would be paid for by our children, and Biden closed by saying essentially that everyone should have a chance at success.
In the end, Vice President Biden seemed to forget his debate game plan to be vice presidential and avoid patronizing his opponent (in this case, Rep. Ryan).
General sum-up of substantive differences: Biden argues the Romney-Ryan team doesn’t care about you, and Ryan argues that the Obama-Biden team has failed you.
Victory: Ryan, but Biden sounded better and less error-prone than he has in memory, and no one could doubt that Ryan could serve credibly as president.
On to the presidential debate #2.
Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2012)