At least President Obama has an excuse. Obama has to run the country and run for reelection. What explanation does Vice President Biden have for his inadequate debate prep?
A week after President Obama seemed arrogant at the first presidential debate, there was Biden on live television at the vice presidential debate repeating the mistake, smirking dismissively at Paul Ryan. As the debate went on, the smirking turned to audible laughing. The vice president was probably trying to express displeasure at the notion that Ryan, the scolding keeper of GOP budget mythology, was even allowed to say what he was saying. It worked, and not in a good way. Biden even unpleasantly contradicted the moderator — “I gave you a simple answer,” he at one point exclaimed to Martha Raddatz.
Ironically, Biden’s attitude might have allowed Ryan to get away with more than he should have. If Biden had approached Ryan — indeed, the proceeding — with a little more grace, he would have been more effective at pointing out why Ryan deserved some of the skepticism Biden’s face so disagreeably expressed.
First Ryan claimed that unemployment was trending up across the country, when just last Friday the utterly apolitical Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the opposite is true. Then he doubled down on the GOP ticket’s incredible claims on taxes.
Pressed for details about how he and Romney would pay for the large tax cut they have promised, Ryan said that the GOP ticket wants to “have big, bipartisan agreements.” This echoes the lamest excuse Romney has yet given for dodging questions about his tax plan — that real leadership is, in fact, not offering “a complete document,” because that would be akin to saying, “Here, take this or leave it.” Conveniently, that sort of “leadership” also allows Romney and Ryan to promise a 20 percent tax cut before election day without specifying parallel cuts in popular tax expenditures required to offset the lost tax revenue. Unsurprisingly, non-partisan experts have found that the Romney-Ryan plan has a big mathematical challenge. Instead of taking those fair criticisms seriously, Ryan proceeded merely to “guarantee” that the math would add up, without giving the public any more reason to believe him.
The best rebuttal to Ryan came not from Biden, but from Raddatz. “So,” she said directly but calmly, “no specifics.” And for that, I declare the able Martha Raddatz the winner of the vice presidential debate.
UPDATE, 1:00 a.m.: Minor edits made above for clarity.