Biden-Ryan: More Important Than Baseball But Less Inspirational


One fellow journalist friend of mine sounded as if he were experiencing a kind of emotional whiplash.

Biden-Ryan or Nationals-Cardinals? Or deeper into the night Orioles-Yankees? Who won? Shoulda stuck with the baseball games—for more than one reason. For the record: Nationals, 2-1, heroes, Detwiler and Werth; Orioles 2-1, heroes Hardy and Machado.

The Nationals and Orioles have to do it all over again in the do-or-die, decider of their best-of-five playoff series without the added distraction of a debate to keep your eye on.

And who won the Biden-Ryan debate? Well, that depends. On whom you talk to, who you are, how much you care, and whether you think Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., is a genial, genius-level budget wonk, whether you think Vice President Joe Biden was crazy-laughing or crazy-like-a-fox laughing, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, whether you’re on kissing terms with seventy or think that’s really old.

But wait—there’s more. Of course, there is. For the record, I am a Nationals and Orioles fan until the World Series—the one that pits the Nats against the O’s—comes around. I am a Yankee hater because they pay Alex Rodriguez so much money without making him earn it.

What probably comes as no surprise—although it’s surprising how many writers are unacknowledged independents, free spirits, have no bias or stake in the outcome—I like to think of myself as a fair and reasonable liberal who abhors knee-jerk political correctness. However, I wouldn’t vote for Mitt Romney if he were running for dog-catcher because he’d get rid of the mutts and give the poodles and labadoodles to his grandchildren and count it as a charitable contribution.

O.K., who did win the Biden-Ryan debate? Well, duh. Biden in a decision for the old(er) guys. And I say this knowing full well—as Biden’s friend Ryan didn’t to remind us but couldn’t resist—that sometimes funny things come out of Biden’s mouth. Hit with that zinger, Biden widened the laughing face and said, “But I always mean what I say” to which Ryan wasn’t quick enough to add, “Yes, but you don’t always say what you mean.”

For the record, Biden did a credible imitation of exactly what Mitt Romney did in his debate against mild competition from President Barack Obama. He bounded on stage like he was shot out of a candidate cannon and never let up. He was not, as the president described himself, polite. He interrupted, he smirked, he laughed, he gasped, he used the word malarkey—an Irish word of sorts for “stuff”—or just possibly gaelic for b-s. He tore into Ryan’s budget plan—a and b—as not adding up and challenged him on just about every assertion except that of being Irish.

To be fair, Ryan did more than hold his own—on foreign affairs especially, he quieted things down when giving a detailed, knowledgeable power point speech on Afghanistan with correctly pronounced place names that seemed to imply that he did his homework. But, as always with both Ryan and Romney, the R&R twins, the devil is always in the details, which is to say they can’t come up with any.

The real hero in this affair was moderator Martha Raddatz, ABC News’s foreign affairs correspondent, who repeatedly pushed both candidates to provide details and cut them off when their time was up, unlike the solemn and dazed Jim Lehrer of the previous affair.

The tough but semi-respectful sparring of the two men produced two things that are troublesome for both their top of the tickets—the Obama-Biden team are going to run into potential serious problems with the Libya-Bengazi crisis over security issues and when it comes to Iran, the Republicans don’t actually have a plan except: “We have credibility; they don’t.” Pressed on what a Romney administration might do in the Middle East, with a potentially nuclear Iran or with Syria, Ryan insisted they had more credibility. Period. Details to come.

Both men, it should be said, defined what’s wrong with this campaign. Asked in a pointed question (in response to a searing complaint from a veteran about the lack of vision and inspiration in the campaign by both sides) what they feel about the campaign, both Biden and Ryan ended with tried and true political themes of accusations and attacks which have made the campaign such a depressing affair for anyone seeking hope, succor or inspiration for the future.

Still, Biden on points, the ones that he made and how he made them.

Next round: coming very soon—but not so soon as the fate of the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles.

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