On the heels of a decisive GOP victory at the first presidential debate, VP candidate Paul Ryan generally met high expectations by going on the offensive early and often during Thursday night’s match-up against Joe Biden.
To be fair, Biden bested his boss’ dismal performance by staying true to his identity as a bombastic, old-school politician. Infinitely more animated than Obama, he frequently interrupted his Republican rival and grinned widely while Ryan spoke.
Though he steered clear of any glaringly obtuse gaffes, responses filled with long pauses and continual usage of “uh” and “um” stood in stark contrast to the obvious depth of knowledge Ryan brought to the event. While regularly referring to Ryan as “my friend,” Biden treated him dismissively while the challenger conducted himself with the character to effectively fill the nation’s second-highest executive position.
Given moderator Martha Raddatz’s history with Obama, she fostered a fairly balanced environment for the exchange of verbal jabs. Of course, I am comparing her to Jim Lehrer’s method — however ineffective — of holding Obama’s hand and prompting him to give a somewhat coherent response.
Raddatz began the debate, a more relaxed setup as both she and the candidates sat around a large desk, with the terrorist attacks in Libya exactly one month ago. An experienced foreign correspondent, Raddatz’s first asked Biden if the entire ordeal was a “massive intelligence failure.”
Ryan weighed in on the issue, mentioning the six references Obama made to the United Nations council concerning the YouTube video originally blamed for the violence. He immediately struck back with the absurdity of placing armed guards outside of the U.S. Embassy in Paris but not providing the same in Libya.
“What we are watching on our TV screens is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy,” he said, saying the president’s position “promotes weakness abroad.”
Biden blamed Romney for prematurely blaming the current administration’s foreign policy failures for the atmosphere of violence, to which Ryan retorted, “It’s never too early to speak up for our values.”
Continuing in the foreign policy vein, Raddatz asked the candidates about Iran’s nuclear program.
Ryan expertly dissected the last four years of Obama failure, stating the Iranian program can feasibly produce five times more nuclear weapons than it could prior to his election.
“This administration has no credibility on this issue,” he said.
Biden tried to defend the Democrats’ opposition to imposing strong sanctions on Iran, saying they would not have been supported by the rest of the world. The eternal leftist, he wants to see America liked rather than respected. Ryan, on the other hand, seems to think we can have both.
When Biden suggested Iran is not a threat because they do not currently possess a weapon with which to use its nuclear material, Raddatz shot back with her own zinger, saying, “You’re acting a little bit like they don’t want one!”
Obama’s failed promise to return unemployment to below 6 percent was the topic Raddatz used to bring the debate back to U.S. soil, asking each candidate what they would do to reach that goal.
While Biden rested on his party’s supposed laurels, touting how Obama “saved” General Motors, he also found a way to make the first mention of Romney’s off-the-cuff “47 percent” comment.
“I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way,” Ryan said without missing a beat.
In response to the question, Ryan touched on each of his ticket’s five-point plan to add 12 million jobs and achieve 4 percent economic growth. Biden scored some points in return when, after Ryan disparaged Obama’s stimulus plan, he brought up the fact that Ryan sought stimulus funds twice for his constituents.
The candidates explained differences of opinion concerning Medicare, which prompted Ryan to bring up the massive fund transfer from Medicare to ObamaCare the Democrats recently approved.
“They got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, turning Medicare into a piggybank for ObamaCare,” he said, attempting to speak over Biden’s attempts to interrupt him. “I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think people would be better served if we stop interrupting each other.”
Ryan performed well throughout the debate; but when the subject of taxes was broached, he was really able to shine. Attacking the Democrat plan to raise top tax rates to nearly 45 percent, he explained, “There aren’t enough rich people and small businesses to tax to pay for all their spending.”
Spewing facts faster than Biden could process them, Ryan brought up the 8 out of 10 small business filing taxes as individuals, the two-thirds of all jobs that are created by those small businesses, and the fallacy of taxing them completely out of business.
Raddatz asked what role the two candidates’ religion — Catholicism — plays in their views on abortion. Ryan’s principled view, reinforced when he saw the heartbeat of his firstborn child during a sonogram, is that life begins at conception and should be protected at all costs. While Biden claims to share the same view, he apparently has no qualms about allowing Americans to readily destroy that life. In technical terms, I believe that is called homicide.
Both candidates reportedly took debate preparation seriously; but Ryan, less experienced in such high-profile debates, seemed much more in control of his responses. His exceptional discipline, both personally and politically, was on display as he made easy work of Biden’s bombastic attacks with his own barrage of facts.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (Creative Commons)
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