October 12, 2012

Thursday Evening's Vice Presidential Debate was an exercise in pain. First the first sixty minutes of the 90 minute exchange had but one main feature, a singular plot around which all discussion centered: Joe Biden's condescending, disrespectful, arrogant outbursts, commonly displayed as uncontrollable laughter.

It was as if the Vice President stopped off at Archie Bunker's Bar in Queens to have several shots and take debate pointers with the proprietor himself.

Reaction continues to pour in. Starting with the Republican National Committee montage of outbursts (click here to see the video), to Peggy Noonan's spot-on analysis in which she says "...the old man tried to patronize the kid and the kid stood his ground. The old man pushed, and the kid pushed back. Last week Mr. Obama was weirdly passive. Last night Mr. Biden was weirdly aggressive, if that is the right word for someone who grimaces, laughs derisively, interrupts, hectors, rolls his eyes, browbeats and attempts to bully. He meant to dominate, to seem strong and no-nonsense."

Even CNN's Gloria Borger and NBC's David Gregory both said Biden was condescending.  Frank Luntz's focus group on Fox called the Vice President "arrogant."

Let's face it: Democrats have been stunned by the staying power of last week's debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

The other day Obama did a taped interview for the Tom Joyner radio show. In it he said he had been "too polite" toward Romney in their debate but we were not likely to see that next time.

That's where we find ourselves for the only debate between the Vice Presidential candidates: Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan.

The moderator, ABC News' Martha Raddatz, is a long-time foreign affairs correspondent and the hearing in the U.S. House yesterday over the astonishing mishandling of the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the death of our Ambassador, can't help but come up in the course of the discussion.

Unlike Obama and Romney, Biden and Ryan have at least a passing acquaintance with one another but Biden should have guarded against showing that particular superior attitude Senators reserve for Members of the House. Senators believe their most junior staffer outranks everyone but the Speaker of the House. The staffers think so, too; except for that Speaker of the House thing.

I think the bar is somewhat lower for Ryan than for Biden. He had to demonstrate a command of the subject matter when it comes to the budget and economic issues; but it is Biden who is the foreign affairs expert so Ryan's test in that area would be somewhat easier to pass.

Looking back at the debate, Biden was better than Obama. But he absolutely failed the "disdain" test that I wrote about above. The two-shots showed Biden laughing with incredulity at just about everything Ryan said.

I'm not an impartial observer, so I don't know how it played in the filing center in Danville, Kentucky, but it reeked of Al Gore sighing and rolling his eyes in his debate against George W Bush.

Biden was obviously schooled to rebut every sentence that came out of Ryan's mouth even if it meant mumbling counter arguments while Ryan was speaking and challenging every fact that Ryan put forth.

The two men redefined "in the weeds" for most of us. I have no idea how either team plans to save Medicare from bankruptcy even though I listened closely to them talk about that for the better part of ten minutes.

The first question of the night from Martha Radditz was: Wasn't the attack on Benghazi a "massive intelligence failure?"

Biden never answered that question other than to say - that when the White House described the attack as a result of the video they were going on what the intelligence community had told them.

I was yelling at the TV for Ryan to say, "when Bush believed the CIA over WMDs in Iraq, Obama called Bush a liar, does that make Obama a liar now?"

I thought Biden was repellent, in this debate. Disgusting. Nasty. Disgraceful. All that smirking and sighing and eye-rolling and laughing (derisive laughing - the very meaning of instant messaging 'LOL') and interrupting. He wasn’t aggressive. He was rude. He was an ass. I’m a libertarian- paleoconservative, so what do I care? But if I were a liberal Democrat, I’d be mortified. “This is the guy representing us?”

But you never know what Americans will like. I think of the music they listen to. The movies and TV shows they think are great. This does not necessarily inspire confidence.

This debate now sets the stage for the next Obama-Romney faceoff next Tuesday on Long Island. Don't look for Obama to be all wall-eyed and unprepared. In fact, I think the VEEP debate will be the modus operandi for the President as to how he is going to act toward Romney. I believe he will be argumentative, dismissive, and rude, if that's what he thinks he needs to show he's the President and Romney isn't. Romney will have to counter with being more precise and sharper in his answers giving Obama less of a target to aim at.

In the final analysis I think the net result is: The VP debate did nothing to change the arc of the campaign.

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