Last night’s debate was something of a Rorschach test. If you were a Democrat, you saw a definite shellacking of Paul Ryan. If you were a Republican, you continue in your delusion that Paul Ryan is a Boy Genius.
What I saw was a resurrection of the Democratic spirit, so down after President Obama’s rope-a-dope performance. Joe Biden took Boy Genius to the woodshed several times, even if the folks on Fox want to focus on his histrionics, which were appropriate to the occasion, the occasion being a whippersnapper serving up whoppers to the electorate.
I offer the following lengthy summary of the debate for those of you who didn’t get to see it or were distracted by the great baseball going on or otherwise didn’t quite follow the fast-paced discussion:
Martha Raddatz, who conservatives (as they always do) expected would skew the debate in Biden’s favor, certainly did not. In fact, the opening question on Benghazi played right into the Romney-Ryan playbook. Of all the things she could have started with, say, the controversy over Romney’s discredited tax plan, shes chose a topic that has featured almost non-stop criticism of President Obama from Mittens, from Mittenites on Fox, and the entire right-wing talkosphere. So, I guess criticizing the moderator beforehand can sometimes pay dividends.
In any case, Joe Biden brought passion to the debate; he brought a command of the facts; and he brought a Bidenish expression of outrage at the nonsense he was hearing.
On the Benghazi issue, he pointed out that Congressman Ryan “cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million.” I’m betting a lot of Americans didn’t know that, despite Hillary Clinton’s warning last year that the proposed cuts would be “detrimental to America’s national security.” Biden also noted Romney’s completely disgraceful (Joe should have used those words) politicization of the embassy and consulate attacks “before he even knew that our ambassador was killed.” He finished with an accurate summary of the Romney-Ryan political strategy:
These guys bet against America all the time.
Maybe not all the time, Joe; just when Barack Obama is president.
We did find out during the debate that “No Apologies” Romney has a running mate who would, indeed, apologize for “urinating on Taliban corpses.” “Oh, gosh, yes,” said Boy Genius.
When the topic turned toward Iran, another issue which Republicans have exploited for political gain, Biden asked Ryan the question that Americans needed to hear asked:
You’re going to go to war? Is that what you want to do?
Ryan wanted to “look at this from the view of the ayatollahs. What do they see?” he asked. Well, Joe told them what they see:
The ayatollah sees his economy being crippled. The ayatollah sees that there are 50 percent fewer exports of oil. He sees the currency going into the tank. He sees the economy going into free-fall And he sees the world for the first time totally united in opposition to him getting a nuclear weapon.
Take that, Boy Genius. And this:
BIDEN: Let’s all calm down a little bit here. Iran is more isolated today than when we took office. It was on the ascendancy when we took office. It is totally isolated.
RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan?
BIDEN: I don’t know what world this guy’s living in.
RYAN: Thank heavens we had these sanctions in place. It’s in spite of their opposition.
BIDEN: Oh, God.
Oh, God, indeed.
When Raddatz got around to the economy, Biden got to do what President Obama failed to do. He mentioned Romney’s “let Detroit go bankrupt” and “let foreclosures hit the bottom” stances, then:
But it shouldn’t be surprising for a guy who says 47 percent of the American people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives. My friend recently in a speech in Washington said “30 percent of the American people are takers.”
These people are my mom and dad — the people I grew up with, my neighbors. They pay more effective tax than Governor Romney pays in his federal income tax. They are elderly people who in fact are living off of Social Security. They are veterans and people fighting in Afghanistan right now who are, quote, “not paying any tax.”
I’ve had it up to here with this notion that 47 percent — it’s about time they take some responsibility here. And instead of signing pledges to Grover Norquist not to ask the wealthiest among us to contribute to bring back the middle class, they should be signing a pledge saying to the middle class we’re going to level the playing field; we’re going to give you a fair shot again…
About the financial crisis and the debt problem, Joe hammered:
And, by the way, they talk about this Great Recession [as] if it fell out of the sky, like, “Oh, my goodness, where did it come from?” It came from this man voting to put two wars on a credit card, to at the same time put a prescription drug benefit on the credit card, a trillion-dollar tax cut for the very wealthy. I was there. I voted against them. I said, no, we can’t afford that.
And now, all of a sudden, these guys are so seized with the concern about the debt that they created.
Biden also exposed Ryan’s personal hypocrisy on the stimulus that conservatives hate so much:
BIDEN: And I love my friend here. I — I’m not allowed to show letters but go on our website, he sent me two letters saying, “By the way, can you send me some stimulus money for companies here in the state of Wisconsin?” We sent millions of dollars. You know…(CROSSTALK)
RADDATZ: You did ask for stimulus money, correct?
BIDEN: Sure he did. By the way…
RYAN: On two occasions we — we — we advocated for constituents who were applying for grants. That’s what we do. We do that for all constituents who are…(CROSSTALK)
BIDEN: I love that. I love that. This was such a bad program and he writes me a letter saying — writes the Department of Energy a letter saying, “The reason we need this stimulus, it will create growth and jobs.” His words. And now he’s sitting here looking at me.
Biden’s strongest appeal was when he was discussing Social Security and Medicare. He looked into the camera and asked folks,
Who you believe?…A guy who’s fought his whole life for this? Or somebody who had actually put in motion a plan that knowingly cut — added $6,400 a year more to the cost of Medicare?
Now they got a new plan. Trust me, it’s not going to cost you any more. Folks, follow your instincts on this one.
And with regard to Social Security, we will not — we will not privatize it. If we had listened to Romney, to Governor Romney and the congressman during the Bush years, imagine where all those seniors would be now if their money had been in the market. Their ideas are old, and their ideas are bad, and they eliminate the guarantee of Medicare.
Later he did it again. Looking into the camera Joe said:
Look, these guys haven’t been big on Medicare from the beginning. Their party’s not been big on Medicare from the beginning. And they’ve always been about Social Security as little as you can do. Look, folks, use your common sense. Who do you trust on this? A man who introduced a bill that would raise it $6,400 a year, knowing it and passing it, and Romney saying he’d sign it? Or me and the president?
Perhaps the biggest joke of the night was Paul Ryan’s defense of Romney’s 20% tax cut plan and its secret components:
RADDATZ: You have refused yet again to offer specifics on how you pay for that 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. Do you actually have the specifics, or are you still working on it, and that’s why you won’t tell voters?
RYAN: Different than this administration, we actually want to have big bipartisan agreements…
Are you bleeping kidding me? Ryan, one of the leaders of the obstructionist, completely partisan House Republicans, can’t tell us—you know, we the voters—what the details are because he is so fond of bipartisanship? Huh?
Ms. Raddatz persisted with Ryan:
Do you have the specifics? Do you have the math? Do you know exactly what you’re doing?
BIDEN: That’ll be — that’d be a first for the Republican Congress.
At one point, defending the voodoo mathematics of Romney’s tax plan, Ryan said:
RYAN: You can cut tax rates by 20 percent and still preserve these important preferences for middle-class taxpayers —
BIDEN: Not mathematically possible.
RYAN: It is mathematically possible. It’s been done before. It’s precisely what we’re proposing.
BIDEN: (Chuckles.) It has never been done before.
RYAN: It’s been done a couple of times, actually.
BIDEN: It has never been done before.
RYAN: Jack Kennedy lowered tax rates, increased growth. Ronald Reagan —
BIDEN: Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy.
RYAN: Ronald Reagan — (laughter) — (chuckles) — Republicans and Democrats —
BIDEN: This is amazing.
Amazing is exactly what it is.
Even though it was lost somewhat in the crosstalk, I thought one of the best questions of the night came while Ryan was bragging about Mittens’ Massachusett’s legacy. Biden asked:
If he did such a great job in Massachusetts —why isn’t he even contesting Massachusetts?
Yeah, why isn’t he? Maybe that’s because the people who know Romney’s governing prowess best are favoring Obama by 20 points. Yep, 20 points.
When it came to Afghanistan, the Boy Genius was all boy and no genius. You see, he and Romney “agree with the administration on their 2014 transition,” but:
MS. RADDATZ: Let me go back to this. He says we’re absolutely leaving in 2014. You’re saying that’s not an absolute, but you won’t talk about what conditions would justify —
RYAN: Do you know why we say that? Do you know why we say that?
BIDEN: I’d like to know why.
RYAN: Because we don’t want to broadcast to our enemies, put a date on your calendar, wait us out and then come back. We want to make sure —
RADDATZ: But you agree with the timeline?
RYAN: We do — we do agree with the timeline in the transition, but what we — what any administration will do in 2013 is assess the situation to see how best to complete this timeline. What we do not want to do —
BIDEN: We will leave in 2014.
RYAN: What we do not want to do is give our allies reason to trust us less and our enemies more — we don’t want to embolden our enemies to hold and wait out for us and then take over the —
BIDEN: Martha, that’s a bizarre statement.
RYAN: That’s why we want to make sure — no, that’s why we want to make sure that this — that —
BIDEN: That’s a bizarre statement, since 49 of our allies — hear me, 49 of our allies signed onto this position, 49.
Biden also nailed Ryan on who should be doing the fighting in the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan—in a war that now has claimed 2,000 American lives after 11 years:
RYAN: (Chuckles.) Spring, summer, fall — (chuckles) — it’s warm or it’s not. They’re still fighting us, they’re still coming over the passes, they’ll — they’re still coming in to Zabul or to Kunar, to all of these areas, but we are sending fewer people to the front to fight them. And that is not safe.
BIDEN: That’s right, because that’s the Afghan responsibility. We’ve trained them.
RYAN: Not in the East.
RADDATZ: Let’s move — let’s move to another war.
BIDEN: Not in the East? (Inaudible) —
RYAN: (Inaudible) — East, RC-East —[Regional Command East]
BIDEN: RC-East, most dangerous place in the world.
RYAN: That’s why — that’s why we don’t want to send fewer people to do the job.
BIDEN: That’s — that’s why we should send Americans in to do the job instead of the — you’d rather Americans be going in and doing the job instead of — (inaudible) —
RYAN: No. We are already sending Americans to do the job —
BIDEN: No —
RYAN: — but fewer of them. That’s the whole point.
BIDEN: That — that’s right. We’re sending in more Afghans to do the job, Afghans to do the job.
On Syria, Biden, once again, asked the right question:
And all this loose talk of my friend, Governor Romney, and the congressman about how we’re going to do, we could do so much more in there, what more would they do other than put American boots on the ground? The last thing America needs is to get into another ground war in the Middle East requiring tens of thousands if not well over a hundred thousand American forces.
What would my friend do differently? If you notice, he never answers the question.
Finally, up came abortion and up came the contradiction in Paul Ryan’s newly-adopted position:
RYAN: I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do…Now, I believe that life begins at conception…But the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortion with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.
Before he was a Mittenite, Ryan didn’t believe in exceptions. True to his Catholic belief about abortion, which he said is also based on “reason and science,” he once opposed abortion in all cases. Now, though, he is giving his blessing to the killing of “babies” who happen to be the product of rape or incest. Apparently sacrificing those little ones in service to his national political ambitions is okay with the Lord.
Joe has his own problems negotiating with his Catholic faith, but he handled them this way:
My religion defines who I am. And I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who — who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.
With regard to — with regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a — what we call de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.
But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and — I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman.
Raddatz asked this final question on abortion:
If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?
RYAN: We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people, through their elected representatives and reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process, should make this determination.
TRANSLATION: Yes! They should be very worried.
As Joe the Revivalist said, “the next president will get one or two Supreme Court nominees.”
And perhaps that is the most important issue in this election, even if it almost never comes up. A President Romney, through reactionary court appointments and other moves, will usher the country into the 1920s. But more about that later…