Skip to main content

Not long ago I saw a bumper sticker that said "If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck." That catchy bit of wit came back to me last night as I watched the cage match that was the Vice Presidential debate.  If you were expecting an illuminating, thoughtful discourse on policy and issues... you should have known better.  This was almost guaranteed to be a brawl as soon as last week's Presidential debate concluded.  And on that level, it didn't disappoint.  Part blood sport, part theater of the absurd, part reality show, the debate directed a 10 billion candlepower spotlight on the den of dysfunction that is Washington DC today.  It was beautiful.  So indulge me a moment while I sink into a tired sports metaphor.

Both candidates answered the opening bell with a flurry of punches, some of which actually landed.  They kept punching after the bell too, forcing referee -- er, moderator -- Martha Raddatz to break them up on a regular basis. Ryan gave a game effort; better than I expected he would. But he was punching above his weight class, and Biden -- no doubt relishing being let off the leash he was kept on four years ago -- knew it.  Ryan's only real hope was to outlast his older opponent, to stick and move and slip the worst of the punches looking for an opening to land the haymaker.  It never materialized. And while Ryan was able to connect with a few stinging jabs, Biden cut him off from his corner and kept him in the middle of the ring, exposed.

He also didn't back away from his opponent's weaknesses. He didn't try to "rise above" using the 47% comment, and he didn't give the Romney-Ryan ticket a pass on the Etch-a-Sketch Campaign. When responding to Ryan's comments on Iran and how he perceived President Obama ignoring (Israeli Prime Minister) Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden delivered a left-right combination to the body, saying "War should always be the absolute last resort. That's why these crippling sanctions, which Bibi Netanyahu says we should continue, which -- if I'm not mistaken -- Governor Romney says we -- we should continue. I may be mistaken. He changes his mind so often, I could be wrong."  In one breath he highlighted the administration's support of and  co-operation with Israel and (at no extra charge) the Sybilesque nature of the top guy on the GOP ticket.

But Biden's counterpunching wasn't perfect.  He missed an opportunity to pummel Ryan over his "$90 billion in green pork" comment, though Ryan slipped that one in at the bell.  He didn't press Ryan on his plan to circumvent the UN on Syria, or explore the chilling possibilities of unilateral action by the US in that conflict.  When Ryan parroted the party line about Romney's "record of working with a Democratic majority" as governor of Massachusetts, he left Biden an opening to point out that then-governor Romney's idea of "bipartisan co-operation" was to  veto 844 bills in his term, while the legislature negated over 700 of those vetoes -- many unanimously.  Sounds more like a blood feud than bipartisanship to me.

On the last point, though, he rebounded.  Late in the debate Ryan invoked the name of the Latter Day Republican Deity, Ronald Reagan, pontificating on his ability to work across party lines to get things done.  It wasn't a bad tactical move, but he forgot two important points that Biden reminded him of in his response. "First of all, I was there when Ronald Reagan tax breaks -- he gave specifics of what he was going to cut, number one, in terms of tax expenditures."  Another potent combination. First he pointed out that one of those members of Congress Ryan was using as an example was sitting across the table from him. Second, he reprised the Obama campaign's central point that the Romney-Ryan plan is a deep dark secret primarily comprised of broad talking points with no visible means of support.

But possibly the most effective thing the Vice President did in those 90 minutes was channel the frustration all of us feel into a highly visible, sometimes volatile display. As I watched him, I could see myself. He projected my disbelief, my frustration, my -- yes -- my anger on that debate stage. He connected. Some critics have said he went too far, that he was "disrespectful". (Peggy Noonan, for one, seems to be finding her inner Ann Romney this morning.)  But respect was by and large heaved cheerfully over the side of our political process years ago. What passes for respect in Washington today is nothing more than a thin veneer of civility no more genuine than the fake wood trim on a 1975 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser.

The consensus seems to be Biden by a split decision. Did he need to win by a knockout?  History hasn't made up its mind yet.  But I for one can't wait to see what happens next.

Originally posted to mojo11 on Fri Oct 12, 2012 at 12:18 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site