12 October 2012


Last week after the first of three presidential debates between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, moderated by Jim Lehrer, I took issue with exaggerations and outright lies told by both sides, and chastised Lehrer for allowing Romney to treat the time format as his private toy.  I documented false information with a link to FactCheck.org.

Last night was the sole debate between vice-presidential candidates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.  The contrast with the first presidential debate was night and day.  Moderator Martha Raddatz was very effective, asking specific, relevant questions, and holding both sides to their time limits.  Once again, both sides at times issued false or misleading statements ~ it seems to be the lingua franca of politics to selectively choose facts or opinions which bolster your side.  Nevertheless, Paul Ryan wasn't as successful as Mitt Romney had been in putting up a smoke screen of untruths.  Like Romney, Ryan was long on claims and short on specifics when asked how their ticket would solve specific problems, foreign or domestic.  "I have a plan" just doesn't cut it.  Moderator Raddatz, herself a veteran journalist with emphasis on foreign affairs and much experience in war zones, did not allow either opponent to steal the show, or to avoid answering tough questions.

Biden was Biden ~ relaxed, in command of his facts, and quite successful at calling out Ryan on his more egregious claims.  Biden was the Happy Warrior, in contrast to Ryan's nervous policy wonk (does anyone besides those crossing the Sahara Desert drink that much water?)  Biden set the gold standard for assertiveness, and I suspect that in the remaining two presidential debates, Obama will unleash his own inner warrior.

Here is Fact Check's analysis of the debate, correcting misinformation spoken by both Biden and Ryan.  It is important reading.  The contenders in this election could hardly be more divergent in their proposed paths for the country.  But it's only the VP, you say?  Yes the VP, the person who is literally a heartbeat away from the presidency.  The election winners will wield heavy influence on economic policy, employment, healthcare, foreign policy, tax reform, military spending, and (importantly) the likely selection of at least two replacements for retiring Supreme Court justices.

And here is one liberal partisan's take on Biden's winning debate tactics when confronted with an opponent making specious or baldly false claims.  Though each side claims the debate win, clearly Biden was more effective at stating his own case and debunking Ryan's.  His strategy could be employed with equal effect by either side, which is what makes this relevant reading.

My own philosophy aligns more closely with liberal than conservative values, though labels are confining.  I believe that government is the core of civilized democratic society.  We citizens expect from our elected leaders a range of services and protections, and we pay taxes to finance those services.  Those who suggest that we allow any economic system (capitalism, socialism, communism, barter, whatever) to rule decision-making are misguided at best.  Each economic system has its strengths and weaknesses.  Capitalism in particular appeals to individual greed, and thus must be regulated for the good of society, as provided for in the U.S. Constitution.

Two debates down, two to go.

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