Biden Versus Ryan: Defense is the Best Offense (October 9, 2012)

Following a somewhat unusual Presidential candidate debate last week, featuring possibly the most futile moderation in history from PBS’ Jim Lehrer (I’m still puzzled by Lehrer’s good-natured laugh in response to Romney’s vow to cut funding from the public broadcasting network as a method of balancing the Federal budget), liberal voters are left to anticipate this week’s Vice-Presidential throw down between current office holder Joe Biden and GOP hopeful Paul Ryan. The event is being positioned by both parties as a clash between the old and new guards of American politics.

Team Biden is promoting the debate as the definitive choice between experience and wisdom versus youthful, brash ignorance. On last Sunday’s edition of Meet the Press, NBC’s Political Director Chuck Todd cautioned those who might expect a fumble from the foot-in-mouth-prone VP, “Everybody talks about the gaffes on the trail, but he won most of the Democratic primary debates in 2008.”

Joe Biden, a man with a lifelong penchant towards shooting from the hip, is not the bumbling caricature of Gerald Ford comically delivered by Chevy Chase in the Saturday Night Live parodies of yesteryear. It would serve naysayers well to remember that Biden was a Senate veteran with 26 years of experience before he was promoted to the White House. The 15th longest serving Senator in history built a career out of bipartisan cooperation, and is widely considered one of the most likeable lawmakers in the nation. It may also serve the opposition to recall that when Biden was added to the 2008 ticket, it was in part an effort to strengthen then-candidate Obama’s foreign policy credentials. Joe Biden is no lightweight.

On the other side of the spectrum, Paul Ryan supporters are positioning the week’s rhetorical skirmish as a battle between fresh, wonky ideas versus the old and tired status quo. In the same Meet the Press broadcast, panelist and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich characterized the 42 year-old elected official as “one of the brightest people in Congress. I think he knows an immense amount of facts.” It is tempting to point out that personality traits that might render one well-prepared for an evening of bar trivia are hardly a recommendation for America’s second-highest office.

Debate watchers may also be curious as to what set of “facts” Ryan will be armed with on the evening in question. Will he bespeak the much-maligned, if personably delivered, “truth” about the Romney budget plan that Mittens tried to sell to registered voters last week, a plan infused with magical fairy dust that permits the elimination of the deficit without destroying the social safety net or cutting taxes further for the wealthy? Or will Ryan adopt the Dr. Phil-esque “get real” approach so yearned for by the likes of New York Times columnist David Brooks? Does Ryan have the courage to talk to likely voters like adults, detailing the real impact of a Romney administration?

Scheduled several weeks after the strangest, most deceptive Republican National Convention in recent memory, gamblers may want to place their bets on the fairy dust edition of Paul Ryan.

With the benefit of a higher “Q” rating and an established presence as a genial and intelligent public servant, a report this week from Yahoo! News distills Joe Biden’s mission for the evening to one simple goal: “Biden needs to enter the ring with his boxing gloves on. Ever since Romney picked Ryan as his running mate, the Obama campaign has been attacking the Ryan plan left and right, and Biden has to be ready to throw punches against Ryan’s economic philosophy.”

That’s right. Vice-President must accomplish what President Obama failed to do in his opening battle with Romney: put Ryan on defense and keep him there. It’s a winning strategy because Ryan’s budget plan is heartless, bad for America and when properly scrutinized, indefensible. Just keep smiling Joe and watch the young kid strangle himself.


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