by Andy Weddington
Friday, 12 October 2012
"Statesmanship is harder than politics. Politics is the art of getting along with people, whereas statesmanship is the art of getting along with politicians." Fletcher Knebel
Tickle me, Elmo. I'll get back to that.
As good as last week's first presidential debate between Republican candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama was for the audience, and Mr. Romney, last night's vice presidential debate between the principals running mates, Paul Ryan and Joe Biden, was a disappointment.
The opponents didn't answer the questions, some answers were not complete thoughts with important points left dangling, and interruptions, mostly by Mr. Biden, made for an evening of chaos more than coherent, substantive information for undecided voters. The moderator did not keep the evening on point but surely did the best she could, and I'll leave it at that.
I wonder how many millions, after 15 or 20 minutes, switched to baseball or some silly 'reality' show?
Mr. Biden has a lot of time in public office. It didn't show last night. Nearly 30 years Mr. Ryan's senior and with at least that many years in Congress, Mr. Biden was not the polished statesman, and sitting vice president, one expects and America deserves.
Mr. Biden, ever smiling as if mocking, smirking, laughing, and interrupting, while Mr. Ryan was speaking, came across as a rude, arrogant, and condescending loudmouth. As such, what he had to say suffered credibility, and sometimes he was flat out wrong.
For example, Mr. Biden was wrong about the ever-emerging facts surrounding the murders of our four countrymen in Benghazi, Libya, a month ago (9/11 anniversary). And he was wrong about the number of 'green on blue' attacks in Afghanistan - he cited two dozen (at last count the number is 54 Americans killed by "friendly" Afghans). As to both important matters, what exactly is the vice president's engagement and depth of situational awareness? It made me wonder. And those are just two examples.
Mr. Ryan was a gentleman - he came across more the statesman. He was calm, polite, and respectful. And he was kinder than he needed to be. He was holding all the cards and didn't exploit them. Why? Perhaps his first appearance in such a forum was a little unnerving. Most certainly, after the lights dimmed and adrenalin ebbed all the things he wanted to say came flooding back. On that, I'd be willing to wager.
For example, Mr. Ryan mentioned he and Mr. Biden had a common link (hometown, I believe) to Scranton, Pennsylvania. He then asked Mr. Biden if he new what the town's current unemployment was - to which Mr. Biden said, "I sure do." But Mr. Ryan did not let him answer. He should have. Instead Mr. Ryan preempted by saying 10% and it was 8.5% when Mr. Obama took office. At first Mr. Biden appeared confused and then realized he'd been had. Mr. Ryan's point was America is moving in the wrong direction. Good personal illustration and point but his point would have been stronger, and more memorable, had he waited for Mr. Biden to answer. Most likely Mr. Biden did not know the answer. Sometimes silence is your friend. Mr. Ryan will learn. Mr. Biden has made a career of polluting silence with stupidity. He has yet to learn, as America saw again last night.
As to the mess and continuing collapse of current domestic and foreign affairs, Mr. Ryan did not press. That seemed odd. There was comment about Mr. Obama 'leading from behind.' The door was opened for Mr. Ryan. He should have walked in and smiled. He should have said, "That's an unfair characterization. Mr. Obama is not leading from behind. Mr. Obama is disengaged. His strategy has been to hope for change. He never had a plan. He still does not have a plan. Another four years will be a disaster. Mr. Romney, and I, can turn this mess around. Absolutely we can through Mr. Romney's 5-Point plan."
Though to this credit, Mr. Ryan did deliver two of the more memorable lines of the evening...
In response to Mr. Biden mentioning the "47%" figure haunting Mr. Romney, "The vice president knows sometimes the words don't come out of your mouth the right way." To which Mr. Biden said nothing. And a chuckle came from the audience.
And later in the evening when talking about taxes, "Next time you hear them say, 'Don't worry about it,' watch out middle class, the tax bill is coming to you."
Otherwise, the evening was rather dull.
In closing, their closings...
Mr. Biden went first - he wanted to say it was Bush's fault so bad it was surprising, considering his propensity for gaffes, he didn't blurt it out. Instead he used the code for Bush - "we inherited a mess." His comments were intangible, emotional.
Mr. Ryan - he was factual. And he stressed Americans had a clear choice in this election. That, too, is a fact.
During the past week or so Mr. Obama, his campaign, and the Obama media spent an inordinate amount of time talking about Sesame Street's Big Bird - who happens to be in Mr. Romney's cut-off-funding gun sights. And rightfully so.
Now we wait to see if Mr. Romney and team talks about Big Bird's friend, Tickle Me Elmo. Because the cute little red Muppet, a fad in the late 90s, out of camera view but frisking Mr. Biden is about the only thing that can explain his mostly inappropriate giggling behavior.
Or maybe Mr. Biden is just disturbed.
But you have to give the Obama/Biden ticket due credit for consistency. Last week Mr. Obama embarrassed himself. And last night Mr. Biden embarrassed himself. As to being politicians less statesmen, they are batting a 1,000.
Polls suggest Mr. Ryan won the evening. Maybe. But the important point for the Romney/Ryan ticket is he didn't lose.
Mr. Biden knew better than to utter his 'Osama bin Laden is Dead & General Motors is Alive,' quip from the campaign trail and convention.
But last night's takeaway bumper sticker is surely:
Joe Biden is Dead & Barack Obama is Barely Alive!
Presidential debate #2 - Tuesday, October 16th 5:55pm (PST). Tune in to watch Mr. Romney carry on with dismantling Mr. Obama.