Last night, the Tea Partier who tried to turn Medicare into a voucher program was served up an enormous helping of just desserts by Vice President Joe Biden. Biden came out swinging and never let up until it seemed a disoriented Ryan had simply given up, resorting, half-heartedly, to chugging water and spewing memorized lines.
From the get-go, Biden dealt with Ryan with total candor, directly answering questions and providing evidence and assertions even as he held Ryan accountable for his own mangling of the facts. When Ryan rolled out the false claims that Obama had dropped the ball in Benghazi, Biden pinned Ryan to the mat by showing how republicans had cut diplomatic security funding just before the attacks. When Ryan tried to run away from his record of attempting to voucherize Medicare and force seniors to pay another 6400 dollars per year in medical expenses, Biden practically tattooed the word ‘voucher’ onto Ryan’s head. And when Ryan tried to claim that his 5 trillion, 20% across the board, tax cut would be paid for without increasing the debt or hurting the middle class, Biden kept backing Ryan into a corner in which Ryan couldn’t explain his claims for lack of facts or evidence.
Finally, a beleaguered Ryan found himself lost in the valleys of Afghanistan, falsely claiming we had 28,000 troops there when the actual number is over 60,000.
The best touch in Biden’s entirely masterful debate last night, however, was how Biden dealt with Ryan every time he made a false claim. Ryan — ‘this is the unraveling of Obama foreign policy.’ Biden — smile. Ryan — ‘we don’t voucherize Medicare.’ Biden — smile. Ryan — ‘we don’t cut taxes by 5 trillion dollars.’ Biden — smile.
And it was through this smile that Biden projected his thoughts. ‘This kid if full of baloney,’ his smile seemed to say. We knew that Biden was showing us, through the grace of his American eagle-like countenance, that the kid was clearly making stuff up.
Not that Biden didn’t call Ryan out. Quite to the contrary, he aggressively went after what he termed as ‘malarkey’ coming from Ryan at every opportunity. Biden’s action to defend truth made his smile all the more effective. Because the words he used to back it up set in clear relief the debate field even as it lit bright sparks in the minds of the American people.
And it is this entirely right and good fighting to expose the truth that has elicited so many howls from republicans who probably expected, instead, that Biden would roll over and allow the wealthy to feast on the middle class once again without putting up a fight. That Biden would just, stand aside, as the ideological right rolled back into the White House and reasserted its war on science. That Biden would lay down before a Mitt Romney who promises to bring back George Bush’s torture policy, republican deregulation of Wall Street, and a George Bush 2.0 tax cut to boot.
Not that guy from Scranton. Hell no. That guy hit Ryan like a fireball from the heavens above. And, this time, it was Ryan trying to pretend his hair wasn’t on fire.
And, I have to tell you, for me it was refreshing. Refreshing to hear someone stand up and fight for the middle class. To hear someone take on what are nothing more than a series of blatant untruths put out by republicans year after year, month after month, day after day. An endless mangling of the truth that is so harmful both to the United States, to our country’s economic integrity, to our future, and to the electoral process itself.
And most regular Americans seemed to agree. One blogger described the shouts and howls of joy he could hear across his neighborhood as Biden delivered powerful counter after powerful counter to Ryan’s false assertions.
And this response seemed to bear out in many post-debate polls which showed Biden as a strong winner. A CBS poll of undecideds showed Biden with a 19 point lead. ABC 6 showed Biden creaming Ryan in a 60-38 domination of a poll of the broader electorate. CNBC, a haven of many who are misinformed daily by the likes of Tea Partier Rick Santelli, showed Biden edging out Ryan 48 to 47. Perhaps the only poll of the night which showed Ryan ahead was a dubious CNN poll which, according to poll data, was heavily weighted with republicans and independents. But even this skewed poll showed Biden trailing by a hair — within the poll’s margin of error.
And from a survey of the internet following the debate it is clear that republicans are in full damage control mode. No clearer an indication that they have lost can be expressed than their attempts to label Joe Biden ‘rude.’ That he smiled too much during the debate. And this, as Romney said in an interview this morning, was ‘disrespectful.’
I couldn’t disagree more.
The rudeness and disrespect came from Ryan who thought he could get away with lying to the American people. Lying about Benghazi, lying about his Bush 2.0 tax cut, lying about alternative energy and Solyndra, and lying about his record on Medicare. Lying about his and Romney’s blatant, rude, and entirely disrespectful 30% and 47% remarks. And providing completely anti-factual information on Afghanistan. Biden was right to interrupt and to call Ryan out. When an opponent misrepresents themselves and their policies, this is entirely called for.
Obama would do well to learn from Biden’s example. Because Romney is extraordinarily loosey goosey with the facts. To leave such misrepresentations unchallenged risks that people, who don’t have access to the same level of information as a sitting President, might begin to believe these false claims. And we can already see how much damage this has done to republicans ability to understand facts and deal with reality. If the entire electorate becomes as misinformed we are lost, adrift on a sea of media impulse, shackled to the whim of the wealthy.
Something can be said for Ryan. He did tell the truth on abortion. And, appropriately, Biden didn’t challenge his truthfulness. He simply passionately described his own position in defense of women. Making his own assertion that he would fight to protect women’s rights and that he believed the assault on women’s liberties was unconscionable. And this gives us an example of how an honest debate should work. It should involve a direct and transparent comparison of candidates positions on issues. It leaves the power of choice in the hands of the American people. But when one candidate holds no respect for the truth, that candidate must be called out. Called out for attempting to deny people the right to choose candidates based on a clear understanding of positions. In fact it is a responsibility to the American public that misinformation and false claims be pointed out for what they are. A lie unchallenged is a lie free to harm the American people. And a false claim brought to light is one that can no longer live and continue to do its terrible damage.
Joe Biden did the right thing last night. He called out Ryan’s lies. It was a public service. It was not rude. It was respectful to the American people. And this is something republicans would do well to learn — a little respect for, not just a flag lapel pen, but for what that flag actually represents.
And this is why Joe Biden won, because liars never win in the light. And Joe proved that with a glorious, glowing smile.