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POLITICS

How Smokin’ Joe Biden Got Plucky In Kentucky

My only question is this: If Barack Obama were to come down with a bad case of laryngitis just before his next debate with Mitt Romney, could he send his understudy instead?

After the President’s metaphorical speechlessness in the first debate, actual speechlessness might be Obama’s best tactic next time round.

Let Smokin’ Joe do it.

Seriously, Joe Biden’s performance in the one and only Vice Presidential debate before the US election showed exactly how it should be done.

He was factual, he was feisty, he was folksy, funny, faithful and fervent in turn, as necessary. He was everything Obama was not in his woeful showing the week before.

And for his part, Republican Paul Ryan was also very impressive. In fact, he too was arguably better than his running mate. But that’s a closer call to make, for Ryan had to lift his performance to stay in the contest, whereas Romney did not.

Let’s face it, the pressure was all on Biden. He was representing the team playing catch-up; he was the man defending the record of an administration cursed with the luck of having to govern in the toughest of times. He was the man with the reputation for straying off-script.

And he performed flawlessly.

I’m not going to say he won, because this debate was nowhere near as easy to judge as the Obama/Romney one.

I cannot, as a citizen of a relatively liberal, still-prosperous, less martial and God-fearing country, pretend to see politics as American voters do. I can’t see it like middle America, where median family net worth crashed by 40 per cent between 2007 and 2010, where incomes are falling and employment is barely rising.

Or underclass America, where 50 million people live below the poverty line of USD 23,000 a year, for a family of four, and where life expectancy is now declining.

I can’t see it like white America, who know they will be a minority in the country within a generation, or like black or Hispanic America, for whom the prospect of upward social mobility recedes with every year.

And nor can other non-Americans guess how the competing agendas of the candidates will be perceived, and their performances assessed, among their voting public.

So I’m not going to declare Biden the winner.

What I can say, though, is that he did everything the US critics of Obama’s performance said he had to do.

He was spirited. It was less than 10 minutes into the 90-minute debate when he first arced up, when Ryan claimed the administration’s “devastating” cuts in defence spending projected weakness to the world, and had contributed to emboldened jihadists killing the US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.

Biden called it “malarkey” and pointed out that Ryan’s own budget proposal would have cut $300 million from embassy security.

With a little help from the moderator, ABC News's Martha Raddatz, he pushed Ryan in blathering about how to contain Iran’s nuclear program. Ryan ultimately said another Middle East war would be preferable to a nuclear Iran.

The moment we were all waiting for – the reference to Romney’s foot-in-mouth declaration at a fundraiser that 47 per cent of the country saw themselves as “victims” and were “dependent” on government for services — came when the debate turned to the economy.

Ryan rattled off statistics about Obama’s unmet promises on jobs and growth.

Biden replied with a reminder of the rescue of car industry.

“Romney said no, let Detroit go bankrupt. We moved in and helped people refinance their homes. Governor Romney said no, let foreclosures hit the bottom.

“But it shouldn’t be surprising for a guy who says 47 per cent of the American people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives.”

He segued seamlessly into another quote, from Ryan himself, about 30 per cent of the population being “takers”, and from that into Romney’s tax minimization.

In a few short sentences, he managed to get in all the jabs we’d been expecting Obama to deliver.

Of course, we all knew Joe could deliver a line or an anecdote. The surprise was that delivered numbers as well. The suggestion, going in, was that Ryan would out-wonk him when it came to the arcana of Medicare funding and Social Security, et cetera.

In fact Biden was at least a match for Ryan in the stats department throughout, and managed repeatedly (again with some help from the moderator), to pin him on the lack of detail in the Republican ticket’s expenditure cuts.

We could go on, but really, you should just watch the whole debate, if you didn’t already. It was quite compelling watching the two men fence.

The polls will tell us soon enough who Americans thought the victor.

But I bet that in the Democratic Party back rooms, so recently depressed by Obama, they would have been cheering themselves hoarse just because this time their guy put up a fight.

And wouldn’t it be great if Obama, too, had cheered himself hoarse?

6 comments on this story
by Peter Cooper

I watched this debate from NZ & marvelled at the expertise of JB, who has not had much coverage here. Agreed, he was impressive, particularly in the memorised stats department. PR was also impressive as a young congressman with little (national) debating experience. However,
one was left with the feeling that, if the Republicans win the election, a major war in the middle east is very likely. Up the Dems!!

October 13, 2012 @ 8:15am
by gabrianga

Also "with a little help from the moderator" Biden interrupted about 60 times,
One of yours ...isn't she?

If that is the Dems best shot then I think Michelle should tee up the furniture removalists.

Hope that is not considered a mysoginist remark?

October 13, 2012 @ 8:22am
by A. Cowie

Very nice to read you again, Mike Seccombe. I missed you when you left the Herald.

October 13, 2012 @ 11:01am
Show previous 3 comments
by Sydney Simon

I would say that Biden won, he clearly had a better grasp on the economics of Medicare and also the negative effect on American families of Romney's Tax plan. What I think we see with Joe Biden, is a man who when things are going well is a senior player in the team, but when times get tough brings to focus the vast experience he has in life , as an older man should and runs to the front. He showed zest, vitality and was able to expound in length why the Democrats should be elected for another term, and why the Republicans could not lift the U.S.A out of the malaise it has suffered.This is a long term plan, and as the Chinese and Asian countries have PROVEN, only long term plans work when it comes to matters of National prosperity.

The U.S.A must lift their poor out of the trench they are in, as we see Asia's middle class grow, America's declines .This re affirmation of America's Entrepreneurial middle class is the answer, they must grow GDP . It can ONLY come from allowing Americas Business class, the Middle Class, to grow wealth through Business Enterprise. The Ultra Wealthy can not do this as they are the ones shipping American jobs overseas.It is all about JOBS.

Go Barack , Go Joe. For Australia's sake as well as Americas.

October 13, 2012 @ 12:26pm
by Sydney Simon

As an addendum, if this was a boxing match it would go Biden's way for throwing more punches. I think Ryan deflected very well, landed a few good ones and managed to get his elbows in and stop some of Joe Biden's blows fully contacting,However, he was back peddling whilst Joe Biden was moving forward,throwing the big blows and dominating the centre of the ring. Joe would be judged to have thrown more punches and landed more blows, I would say out of 10 it would be scored Joe 9 , Paul 7. (or if you are tough Joe 8 , Paul 6) The score of 9 for Joe displays how close he got to a perfect score, and the 7 for Paul displays that he held some ground but could not dominate at any point. With Joe it was a bit like the old stager using his guile,experience and skill to great advantage to underline his strength of argument and memory for statistics. He asserted those figures very well at just the right time and the younger guy was also just a little shocked at the ferocity of the debate. I think if Ryan was 10 years older , with the experience that comes with it, he may have done better, but clearly, the overall attack from Biden was withering and came from many angles. It is not that Ryan was not fast enough, he just did not display the flexibility Biden did, I think now we have seen why Barack chose Joe Biden, who I believe displayed such as poise and power he certainly commands the position of U.S Vice President like no other in living memory. This is very important as whilst Barack controls with his intellect and poise, he needs someone like Joe Biden. they compliment each other perfectly and I would say they are probably great friends.Joe Biden understands what Obama is trying to achieve in the deeply complex economic and political matters that face the U.S.A and Barack would know he has a tough & deep thinker backing him up with vast experience when discussions turn to arguments. The pressure is always on the President , 24/7. However, on those occasions the VP needs to cover, he must do it with a high level of confidence. Joe Biden has done that in this debate as probably no other VP is US History. He has probably saved the election and will go down as a hero of the Democratic party.

October 13, 2012 @ 1:05pm
by Ari

I do wonder whether having Biden as a vice president for Obama's second term was a mistake. Clearly, he's not a contender for 2016 and so the golden opportunity to pick someone who could present themselves as a natural successor has been lost. Bush Snr did it successfully in 1988 after serving as Reagan's vice president, and Gore won the majority of the popular vote in 2000 after serving as Clinton's VP.

October 14, 2012 @ 2:09am
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