I almost never write straight political pieces; there are people here who do it way better than me, and with greater depth of knowledge. I also admit that I did not watch the first Presidential debate; as I commented elsewhere, the debates will not affect my vote and are now just designed to trap candidates in gaffes that can be exploited in campaign ads. I suspect that the Romney bump following the first debate is less from viewers who watched the debate than it is from non-viewers affected by the press coverage that depicted Obama’s performance as bumbling.
But I watched last night’s Vice Presidential debate because, like my friend Jaime, I love me some Joe Biden. And there were several times last night when I wanted to kiss him on the mouth.
Yeah, I know Biden’s rep as fodder for late-night comedians. Hell, I’ve exploited it myself. In my book, I included a piece about getting drunk with Biden at a K Street bar. Three sheets to the wind and frustrated by D.C. gridlock, my Biden let loose with unsanitized thoughts about the candidates and the issues: my vision of Biden unplugged. I was satirizing Biden’s image as a gaffe-prone loose cannon and as a politician perhaps too much in love with his working class background, but it was also written from affection, because Biden seems like one of the few guys in D.C. who is not stay-on-messaged and talking-pointed to within an inch of his life. When I posted the piece on another website, the editor insisted that I include a disclaimer that the piece was fiction, in case anyone actually believed that Joe and I had knocked back several brews together. However, if I could knock back brews with one politico, Biden wouldn’t just be my first choice, he’d be my only choice.
If, as Michael Kinsley said, a gaffe is when a politician accidentally tells the truth, and if Biden is our most gaffe-prone politician, does that mean that he is the most truthful politician? (OK, that may be a very low bar.)
I’m sure many Romneyites were annoyed by Biden’s frequent laughter and head-shaking whenever Ryan spoke last night, so I acknowledge that my love of it was partisan. However, I recognized that look on Biden’s face. It was the same one I had fifteen years ago when my young daughter told me that the Spice Girls were the greatest group in musical history.
If you need the details of the debate, my beloved Charles Pierce cooks up a delicious lunch of Filet of Ryan. Slate’s Fred Kaplan does a pretty good analysis of Ryan’s woeful lack of depth on foreign affairs.
I also recognized Paul Ryan’s look last night. It was the same one I saw in school on the suck-up twerps who raised their hands at end of class and said, “Teacher, you forgot to assign us homework.” I realized why Ryan became such a workout fiend – he was tired of getting wedgies and having his lunch money stolen every day. I also recognized a little of me – the part that, when I didn’t know an answer to a question, just kept talking and throwing in some long words in the hope that I’d convince people that I knew what I was talking about.
In a Facebook comment this morning, I complained that sometimes moderator Martha Raddatz let Ryan talk too long and didn’t give Biden enough time to respond. Then I realized that it was because Raddatz couldn’t believe some of the shit that was coming out of Ryan’s mouth. You could almost see her rolling her eyes when Ryan couldn’t, or wouldn’t, give specifics about the Romney tax cut plan. When Ryan was talking about his willingness to go to war in Iran, Raddatz’s eyes were saying, “Listen, pal, I’ve spent a lot of my adult life in places where American men and women are spilling their blood on the battlefield. It’s easy to act tough when your ass is never the one in the danger zone. You need to think, not just twice or thrice, but a quadrillionice before you decide to send troops into combat.”
Not to get greedy, because Biden delivered a top-notch smackdown, but two additional things I wish he’d said:
1) When Ryan said about Social Security, “That’s why we’re saying more for lower income people and less for higher income people,” Biden should have said, “Oh, so now you’re FOR income redistribution!”
2) When Ryan complained about the Administration’s lack of bipartisanship, Biden should have said, “On every major issue – health care, deficit reduction – the President reached across the aisle in an attempt to find common ground. In each case, his hand was slapped away. So, Congressman, if you want to assign blame for lack of bipartisanship in Washington, I suggest you go home and look in the mirror. And judging by all the published photos of your washboard abs, I imagine you look at yourself in the mirror all the time.”
Though it would have been rude to do so, I wish Biden could have responded to Ryan’s attempt to claim shared working class roots with the Vice President, “Knock it off, Paul. Just because you’re from a town with a hardscrabble image doesn’t mean you lived a hardscrabble life. I mean, there are wealthy people in Newark and East St. Louis and there are poor people in Scarsdale. Your family was one of the most well-to-do in Janesville, while my father was out of work for a while and we had to live with my grandparents. Get real.”
I wonder if it’s possible to extract some of Biden’s blood and transfuse it into President Obama before the next debate. Paging Lance Armstrong.