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 “Facts Matter”
The VP Debate

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
October 12, 2012

I knew this debate was substantively over when Joe Biden wheeled on Paul Ryan once again and thundered, “Facts matter!”

I hope Obama was watching. Biden was showing everyone how it's done. He was quick on his feet, animated, quick to spar, and threw blockbuster punches.

This should have been a closer debate than the first one. Obama barely came out of his corner, but Romney couldn't throw a hard punch. Romney didn't win that debate: Obama simply failed to fight.

Ryan and Biden can both debate, and I was expecting a lot of hard punches. I thought it

would be close. But Biden began by calling Ryan on the formatted lies that have been at the heart of his campaign, calling it “malarky.” “Not a single thing he said was accurate.” A little later, he referred to Ryan's statements as “a bunch of stuff.” “Stuff?” inquired Martha Raddatz, the moderator. “It's Irish,” snapped Biden.

A word about Raddatz. She did a superb job as moderator, asking tough questions, keeping control of the debate, and asking the types of follow-up questions seen far too rarely in American journalism. She was great.

Biden's first powerful response came on the first question, which was about Libya. He said, "Even before we knew what had happened to the ambassador, the governor was holding a press conference. A press conference. That's not presidential."

A few minutes later Raddatz showed the mettle that underlay her strong performance. Ryan was playing the “apology tour” meme that the GOP has sounded so often, insisting that the administration apologized for the attacks. Raddatz asked if it was appropriate for the administration to apologize for the Koran burning incident, or the footage of American soldiers urinating on Afghani corpses. “Oh, gosh, yes!” Ryan ejaculated, completely undoing his talking point.

Ryan did a lot of lying, and neither Raddatz or Biden were going to let him get away with that. Are you listening, Obama? There is a lesson here. If they lie, CALL THEM ON IT! Don't let them get away with it!

Ryan tried claiming that because unemployment was higher now in Wisconsin than it was in January 2009, the same held true for the rest of the country. That was a lie. Biden called him on it.

Ryan attacked the stimulus, and Biden noted that Ryan himself had sent a letter to Biden asking for millions for people in Wisconsin.

A little later, Ryan tried claiming that a ranking Democrat in the Senate (presumably Oregon's Ron Wyden) supported Ryan's plan to gut Medicare, and Biden was quick to point out that Wyden had disowned the plan long ago, and that NO Democrat in Congress now supported it. That left Ryan looking like a man trying to ride a unicycle in mid-air.

Both Biden and Raddatz tried pinning Ryan down on the specifics of his plan. After trying, and failing to get Ryan to offer any specifics, Biden told the nation exactly what it would take for Ryan's plan to work. Biden said they would have to eliminate homeowner's mortgage deductions, the deduction for minor dependents, and put Social Security and Medicare on a means-tested basis.

Raddatz was fair. Ryan had all the time he needed to explain his plan. He couldn't.

For Biden, the highlight of the night probably came when Ryan started talking point #42, “This administration has been inept and not kept its promises of hope and change.” Biden rounded on Ryan and thundered, ““These people are my mom and dad, my neighbors. They pay more effective tax than Gov. Romney pays. They are elderly people who in fact are living off of Social Security, they are veterans who are — quote — not paying taxes. I’ve never met two guys more down on America across the board. We’re told everything is going badly. 5.2 million new jobs, private sector jobs. We need more. But 5.2 million. If they would get out of the way and let us pass the tax cut for the middle class and make it permanent. If they would get out of the way and pass the jobs bill. If they would get out of the way and let us 14 million people who are struggling to stay in their homes because their mortgages are upside down but they never missed a mortgage payment. Just get out of the way. Stop talking about how you care about people. Show me something. Show me a policy. Show me a policy where you take responsibility.”

For Ryan, the highlight … well, there were no highlights. This was a Bambi-vs-Godzilla moment.

It was a fiery debate, strong on substance, with superb moderation. Ryan is not a stupid man, and if he wasn't self-hog-tied by his own ideology into being unable to make coherent responses, it probably would have been a much closer fight. But he was tied down by the amazing, nearly psychotic bullshit that passes for a platform in the GOP these days, and Biden wasn't interested in taking prisoners.

It was Biden's moment to shine, and he shone.

Posted: October 14, 2012

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