by Nsenga K. Burton
If ever there was an occasion when there was a clear distinction between a boy and a man, it was the 2012 Vice-Presidential debate between U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and GOP Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. One may want to refer to it as “the showdown that wasn’t,” because vice-president Biden took control of the debate from the very beginning challenging Ryan’s incredulous statements on foreign relations. What statements? Ryan’s claim that President Obama‘s foreign policy is unraveling and that Iran is more dangerous now than it was four years ago. Vice-President Biden scolded Ryan, dismissing his misstatements and correcting them with “facts,” the importance of which the vice-president drove home throughout the debate.
The debate was considered a showdown based on the outcome of the first presidential debate in which GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was declared the winner by many in the media. This conclusion was clearly based on delivery and likability, not necessarily for giving factual information. President Obama showed that he is human, giving a less than stellar performance and letting Romney off the hook when telling half-truths. I guess it’s hard to check someone when you’re also inaccurate.
The onus was on vice-president Biden to right the ship and restore faith in the ability of the Democratic ticket to win this election with a factual record, while Ryan was tasked with capitalizing on the momentum of Romney’s performance and slight bounce in poll numbers while reintroducing himself to the American public as one half of a GOP ticket that can actually win. Biden came out swinging, calling out Ryan on his implausible statements about foreign policies stating, “With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey.” Ryan on the other hand seemed out of his league, unable to keep up with vice-president Biden or challenge him on anything as Biden was confident, prepared and knowledgeable of the parts of his arguments. Ryan, who still could not explain how his tax plan actually works, attempted to liken his not being prepared to answer the question to tactics used by former Presidents Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy. Biden took him to task for this, reminding Ryan and viewers with his body language and facial expression that he actually knew both men and stating that Reagan could actually explain his economic plan.
The showdown never happened because only one candidate showed up for the gunfight. The beatdown was so intense that ABC’s Martha Raddatz started throwing softballs toward the end, asking the two men to offer personal accounts of how their religion (both are Catholic) impacts their views on abortion. Really? Raddatz may as well have held up a sign that read, “Let’s move away from facts and towards emotion to give Ryan a shot at one decent answer.”
Vice-president Joe Biden demonstrated what age, experience, confidence and preparation can do when opposing a neo to national politics like Ryan. Biden dismantled Ryan in the same way that he dismantled then vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2008 — one informed response at a time. Biden came out swinging and never let up, giving a performance that channeled Smokin’ Joe Frazier, in his definitive knock-out of Ryan, who should be seeing stars after that beatdown.
Visit Politico to read a transcript of the 2012 vice-presidential debate.