Some — not as many as should, but, still, some — have been asking for my take on last night’s vice-presidential debate. So here it is:
First, though, an advisory. I am, even if few of you have noticed it, very strongly opposed to the reelection of Obama-Biden and a committed supporter of Romney-Ryan.
That said, I was disappointed in Congressman Ryan’s performance last night. He didn’t make any major gaffes. He was fine. But he came across as quite young, and he never really got into his groove. I don’t think he made his points particularly well, and I think he failed altogether to make several important points that he should have made. He didn’t lose, but he didn’t win, either.
To a considerable degree, of course, his less-than-ideal performance was a result of his being walked all over by Joe Biden, and, to a lesser but still obnoxious degree, by the moderator, who seemed to interrupt him almost constantly.
And that brings up the demeanor of Vice President Biden.
Mr. Biden seemed, to me, almost unhinged. One of my favorite comments about his behavior last night suggested that his debate preparation must have consisted of (a) inhaling a lot of nitrous oxide and (b) sticking a fork into an electric socket.
But I don’t think Mr. Biden’s crazy. I think his incessant smirking, ostentatious fake laughter, irritating incivility, repeated talking over his opponent, and constant interruptions were a conscious effort not only to put Mr. Ryan off his game but to exhibit disdain for the congressman (and, to an extent, for Mr. Romney). And it worked. But perhaps it worked too well.
I know I’m not the only one out here in television land who judged the Vice President’s contemptuous behavior to be that of a consummately arrogant jerk.
I don’t know, however, whether it offended undecided voters (and particularly undecided women) as much as it put me off. If it did, Mr. Biden lost last night, and lost big. If it didn’t, he probably did reasonably well, and the debate was pretty much a wash or even, perhaps, a Biden victory by a nose.
I’m inclined to think it a wash, not a Biden victory, and to guess that neither side really won or changed many minds. Unless Mr. Biden’s unpleasant buffoonery did the Democratic side as much damage as, in my view, it should.
On the substance, I judge that several of Mr. Biden’s claims were flatly untrue — e.g., his claim that the Obama administration was simply echoing, on the Benghazi debacle, the best information available to American intelligence and that they never knew that more security was needed for our representatives on the ground there. However, few people in the audience, I’m guessing, are real political junkies with particular interests in the Middle East, so I can’t say, off hand, whether or not they noticed that specific falsehood.