The Vice President delivered an electrifying performance. Viewers on Twitter commented that it appeared Joe Biden “had his Red Bull” before stepping on stage. Clearly, this experienced orator was in his element. He feels confident and comfortable embroiled in debate. Initially, it was hard to get past all the smiling and chuckling happening on stage. The VP couldn’t contain himself whenever Ryan opened his mouth. Romney-Ryan supporters view this as a condescending “Old Guard” attitude that is rude and far from presidential. On the other hand, Obama-Biden supporters are breathing a sigh of relief that the Vice President brought a lively spirit to the debate and effectively painted Ryan as a relatively inexperienced “Young Gun” who still had a thing or two to learn. At any rate, it was wildly entertaining to watch and, in every sense of the world, Joe hit the mark of “just being himself” — which was one of his core objectives. No one thought he needed to “turn the tide” after Obama’s luke-warm debate performance, but Democrats made it clear they wanted to see more piss and vinegar. They were expecting Joe “Attack Dog” Biden — and they got him. Regardless of what you thought about his demeanor, Biden had a number of key moments…
- Immediately in the debate, VP Biden sought to discredit his opponent in foreign policy matters. He came across as tough, confident and knowledgeable. Biden has the clear advantage of having more “insider” intelligence regarding Iran’s nuclear capability. He also leveled an attack on Ryan’s cutting of funding for embassy security – to which Ryan had no response. And you’ve got to love those classic Joe Bidenisms like “With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey.”
“With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey. Because not a single thing he said is accurate… I will be very specific. Number one, the – this lecture on embassy security – the congressman here cut embassy security by $300 million.”
- Biden shared a personal story about tragedy and character to make the point that it’s not about character or generosity — but about decision-making. He hammered home the point that bailing out the auto industry to save middle class jobs was the right thing to do and defended their record.
“When I was a little younger than the congressman, my wife was in an accident, killed my daughter and my wife, and my two sons survived. I have sat in the homes of many people who’ve gone through what I get through, because the one thing you can give people solace is to know if they know you’ve been through it, that they can make it. So I don’t doubt his personal commitment to individuals. But you know what? I know he had no commitment to the automobile industry. He just – he said, let it go bankrupt, period. Let it drop out. All this talk – we saved a million jobs. Two hundred thousand people are working today.”
- Biden attacked Romney’s 47% gaffe, the Grover Norquist pledge and all the hot button controversies that have come up recently to add to the stereotype that his opponents care only for the wealthy. He comes across as impassioned and genuinely concerned about the middle class.
“Governor Romney said, ‘No, let foreclosures hit the bottom.’ 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…”
- Joe reminded Americans about the massive trouble they inherited — two wars “put on a credit card” and 2 trillion in cuts for the wealthiest Americans that were not financed. When attacked for “pork stimulus spending,” he fired back at Ryan, reminding him that there are memos where Ryan himself asked for pork barrel spending for the state of Wisconsin, where Ryan said they needed it to “create jobs.” Ryan conceded that he did lobby on behalf of his constituents.
“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…. 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 exposed Ryan for scare tactics and had a good zinger when he commented, “I heard that death panel stuff from Sarah Palin.” The last person Ryan wants to be compared to is Sarah Palin. Here, Biden reminded viewers that he’s a seasoned debater. “Their ideas are old and their ideas are bad,” he says.
- Biden attacks Ryan for claims that they were working on bipartisan support on Medicare with a prominent Democratic Senator from Oregon. “There is not one Democrat who endorses it,” Biden said. “He said he does no longer support — who disavows it.” (And he was right! Senator Ron Wyden told BusinessWeek Ryan is “talking nonsense” about their so-called partnership.)
- Joe came off very heartfelt and convincing in his Medicare argument when he said, “Whatever you call it, the bottom line is people are going to have to pay more money out of their pocket and the families I know and the families I come from, they don’t have the money to pay more out…”
- Just when it looked like Ryan was gaining real ground in the tax debate, Biden channeled the public sentiment that Romney is being evasive about which deductions he’d cut in order to pay for his proposed 20 percent tax cut across the board — and how that might affect the middle class. Even moderator Martha Raddatz became hyper-focused on “the specifics” of the plan. Ryan floundered here — but through no fault of his own. Holes in the plan were exposed here and the best Ryan could do was talk about the need for Bipartisanship to hammer out the precise specifics.
“Just let the taxes expire like they’re supposed to on those millionaires. We don’t – we can’t afford $800 billion going to people making a minimum of $1 million. They do not need it, Martha. Those 120,000 families make $8 million a year. Middle-class people need the help. Why does my friend cut out the tuition tax credit for them? Why does he go after the childcare…. Can you guarantee that no one making less than $100,000 will have a mortgage – their mortgage deduction impacted? Guarantee?”
- Biden came close to channeling former VP contender Lloyd Bentsen — who leveled one of the best debate zingers at Dan Quayle, saying, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” He used a bit of humor to show off his experience and reminded that he worked with Reagan.
“Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy? … This is amazing…. When we did it Reagan, we said, here – here are the
things we’re going to cut. That’s what we said. Fill in the detail.”
- Republicans have tried attacking the administration for drawing down troop levels during prime fighting season. However, Joe Biden was right on point with an irrefutable argument. He emphasized that troops will leave Afghanistan in 2014 to make the full transition to trained Afghan soldiers protecting themselves. His position was definitive: “We are leaving in 2014, period.” Ryan’s position came off a little wishy-washy, when he couldn’t deflect the accusation that the Republicans have preconditions for the withdrawal from the area that depend upon “American security.”
“You’d rather Americans be going in doing the job instead of the trainees? That’s right. We’re sending in more Afghans to do the job, Afghans to do the job.”
“We turned it over to the Afghan troops we trained. No one got pulled out that didn’t get filled in by trained Afghan personnel. And he’s – he’s conflating two issues. The fighting season that Petraeus was talking about and former – and Admiral Mullen was the fighting season this spring. That’s what he was talking about. We did not – we did not pull them out.”
- Biden was especially strong pressing for more details on what Romney/Ryan would specifically do different about intervening in Syria’s civil war. He very effectively clarifies why a military intervention in Syria is different than a military intervention in Libya, by explaining that Syria is “5x larger, with a smaller population and no risk of regional war spreading beyond its borders.”
“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 in another ground war in the Middle East, requiring tens of thousands, if not well over 100,000 American forces. That – they are the facts. They are the facts.
He – he goes up with a whole lot of verbiage, but when he gets pressed he says, no, he would not do anything different than we are doing now. Are they proposing putting American troops on the ground? Putting American aircraft in the airspace? Is that what they’re proposing? If they do, they should speak up and say so, but that’s not what they’re saying.”