Make no mistake, Thursday night’s debate between the Democratic and Republican Vice Presidential candidates is not a debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, it’s a debate between the Obama/Biden ticket and the Romney/Ryan ticket. Mitt Romney will be Biden’s empty chair.
When I was in college, my roommate invited me to attend a parade in his hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota over Spring Break. It was a fairly long and enjoyable spectacle with a large crowd of onlookers. At the very end of the parade was a double-line of 8 horses, ridden by local equine enthusiasts. As the last horse passed, not more than 6 feet behind was a team of volunteers cleaning up the inevitable horse “pies” if you will.
That will be Biden’s primary job Thursday night; cleaning up the Romney horse pies from the first debate. There’s still an separate pundit debate brewing about whether the Romney drubbing of Obama in the first Presidential debate was a drubbing at all, and even if it was, did it really matter. Some reference polls that show that it made no difference. That could be true, but I happen to think if left in isolation, the initial debate would have made a world of difference. When a guy can make up 90 minutes of his own facts and nearly 70 million largely uninformed TV viewers are the trusting recipients of those facts, that’s really not good for the other guy. The day after, on his MSNBC show, Chris Matthews was so angry at Obama’s lack of remonstration, I thought he was going to go into cardiac arrest.
So I guess if the first debate didn’t matter, there’s no sense in holding Thursday’s debate or the two subsequent Presidential debates. The irony is, prior to the debates, I was in total agreement that the debates wouldn’t really matter. After watching a Romney performance of lies and distortions, goaded on by the non-participation of the moderator, the game has changed, as has my mind.
Thursday’s moderator is the least known of the 4 news celebrities chosen for the task. In addition to Jim Lehrer, who botched the job, Candy Crowley and the redoubtable Bob Schieffer are the other two presidential debate moderators. They’ll be fine.
Far less familiar to most viewers is Martha Raddatz, who will preside over the Biden/Ryan set-to. She is no lightweight. While she’ll be objective in her questioning, Democrats can take comfort that she’s not a radical anything. Her background includes a 6-year stint at PBS as a Pentagon Correspondent. She moved on to ABC in 1999 and covered the last four years of George Bush. She then became an ABC foreign correspondent. She sounds pretty fearless, having gone to the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan numerous times. At 59, she’s not 78, if you get my drift.
That leaves it up to Biden. Both sides of the aisle concede that few in congress are more expert in foreign affairs than Biden. And if you listen to his speeches, he’s got his domestic ducks in a row as well. No question, he needs to rip Ryan’s Plan into tiny little pieces and unlike his boss, he appears to have full command of the facts sans notes. By the way, Romney had notes as well, as Politics Nation’s Al Sharpton clearly demonstrated in a shot taken from behind Romney’s podium where not only were there already 8 ½ X 11 notes stacked up when Mitt took his place behind the podium, but Romney palmed a quantity of 3 X 5 cards from his suit pocket when that pocket could no longer be seen from the front.
Biden must take the immediate offensive as did Romney in the first debate and he must keep it. His questions must be issue and Romney questions. What IS Romney’s plan? Isn’t it just a warmed over version of your plan? What’s the difference? Have you asked Mitt to release any more tax returns? What has he told you about his proposed cuts and changes in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid? What is the Romney/Ryan jobs plan?
And while Biden’s at it, he should bang on Ryan’s radical stands on women’s reproductive rights. Ryan initiatives would set those rights back to the Stone Age.
Biden should also go through a litany of bills that the Republicans blocked in the House starting with The American Jobs Act (S1529). He should then move on to some of the more egregious lies of both Ryan and Romney. In Ryan’s (and Romney’s) case, one of his real whoopers was that Obamacare taxes hit middle-income families. That’s pure bullshit. In fact, on the tax front, I’d like to see Joe point out that $500 billion of Bush tax cuts, that Romney/Ryan so revere, go to just 120,000 families. Biden’s big problem will be editing. There’s so much BS to debunk. Maybe alphabetical order?
I’d like to see a few minutes spent on Janna Ryan. She was a lobbyist of great renown in her day and while not currently officially lobbying, she certainly knows the players and how to find their soft spots. Let Biden make the fact of Janna’s lobbying history known to the audience.
The other part of the debate will be on foreign policy, right in Raddatz’ wheelhouse. Expect tough questions for both participants. Ryan may not be a total pushover. Remember, this fed hater has been sucking off the federal teat since 1999, though most of his estimated $5 million comes from his wife’s side of the family, inheritance and the Ryan family business. Not as many people leave Joe money. He’s worth about a half-million.
But I digress. When the foreign policy questions roll around, I’d be relentless in my Rambo Romney references. Joe should ask separately and specifically what the pecking order is in Romney’s intentions to effectively slash and burn every Muslim who dares move in about a half-dozen countries. Where do we go first? Syria, Yemen, Libya, Egypt and, last, but certainly not least, Iran? Do we relight the war fires in Iraq? Double-down in Afghanistan? Do we base it on the gay population in each country?
It should be pointed out that Biden’s son, Beau served in Iraq with his Delaware Army National Guard unit. Joe might casually ask how many of Romney’s sons have served in the military. Foreign policy is fertile ground for Biden.
It’ll be Opie Ryan vs. Biden’s Frank Costanza!