Joe Biden decried the "bluster" and "loose talk" of his opponent at Thursday's debate, repeating the phrase several times. Coming from Biden, one of the most blustery pols in American history, the charge was particularly rich. Paul Ryan's unflashy sobriety in contrast to Biden's smirking theatrics made the vice president's complaint even less credible.
Biden spent much of the evening flashing his toothy grin in faux-amusement at supposed whoppers from Ryan. And when the vice president wasn't smirking, he was faking up anger. A pol who vacillates between amusement and anger within a few seconds shouldn't be taken very seriously.
Biden was clearly instructed by Axelrod and company to come out swinging, and he complied dutifully. But he mostly hit air. This debate probably won't make the slightest bit of difference in the race. Desperate for a morale boost after Obama's anemic performance, liberals no doubt found Biden's aggressive approach welcome. But they can hardly claim victory. A debater who has to sigh and smirk that much can't be winning.
Biden was the supposed elder statesman in the room, but the undignified theatrics undercut that image. They bordered on buffoonery. The foolish hothead in the debate was not the young congressman but the aged vice president, too restless and rude to let his opponent finish an answer. The fool who persists in his folly becomes wise, said the poet William Blake. Not in Joe Biden's case. He remains the old fool. Ryan at one point even had to calm Biden down. Ryan told him to stop interrupting and took a dig at the post-Obama debate "duress" that explained his rude and hyperactive behavior.
After the congressman made a reference to tax cuts leading to higher tax revenues under John F. Kennedy, Biden saw a chance to play Lloyd Bentsen to Ryan's Dan Quayle: "Oh, now you are Jack Kennedy?" But the moment fell flat. Biden is no Lloyd Bentsen and Ryan is no Dan Quayle.
Ryan wasn't spectacular but he performed adequately. He had a few good lines at the ready to deflate Biden's claims, such as "Watch out middle class: the tax bill is coming to you."
Ryan seemed to get better as the debate wore on and certainly delivered a better closing statement than Biden. Ryan addressed viewers directly while Biden seemed to forget that that was an option.
Biden presented himself as the earnest populist but Ryan fits that bill far better. Biden came across as the ham pol and braggart who "says what he means" while lying through his teeth. In one of his more brazen deceptions, he said that the White House had no idea American officials in Libya wanted more security. Never mind that two witnesses appeared before Congress a day before the debate to establish that Hillary's State Department knew of and rejected that request. Was Biden too busy preparing for the debate to catch that four-hour hearing?
Biden's self-proclaimed honesty and sterling character also took a hit after he lied about the contraceptive mandate. You have nothing to fear from it, he told Catholics. If that is the case, Ryan replied, then "why are they suing you?"
Asked about his own Catholic faith, Biden said that he values it greatly and that it informs his "social doctrine." At the same time, he can't "impose" the Church's opposition to the killing of unborn children on anyone (somehow that doesn't "inform" his view of social justice).
Trying to show off and display his Catholic bona fides, he falsely declared that the Church's teaching on abortion is "de fide," as if opposition to abortion is a peculiarly Catholic and sectarian view. It is obviously not. No revelation is needed to know that killing a defenseless child is unjust, as Ryan suggested when he staked his pro-life stance on "reason and science." Biden's posturing as the Scranton-born champion of the little guy still doesn't apply to the littlest ones in the womb.