Did you watch the debate last night? I wasn’t planning to. The first of the 2012 Presidential debates did me in; and I didn’t think I could inflict another one on myself. But then, by about 8:00 p.m. I thought, “Who are you kidding? Of course you’re going to watch.”
It wasn’t essential that I watch. I’m a political junkie, but I’m not an American. I don’t have a vote. I’m not one of the ‘undecideds’, still trying to find a candidate I can believe in, and relate to. But living in Canada, as I do, does make us close neighbours. Whoever gets elected will make decisions that impact us. Plus, if the U.S. continues to ‘hurt’, so will the rest of the world, Canada included, despite the fact that so far, we’ve weathered the storm better than most. Whither thou goest, in other words.
So, yes, I did watch. I’m not going to dissect every word that was spoken, though. First, I’m not qualified. Second, every pundit on the planet will be doing it, ad nauseum. But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have something to say. So here goes:
In my opinion, the clear winner last night was Martha Raddatz. In case you didn’t watch, she was the moderator. Her day job is being ABC’s Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent. She’s also written for The New Republic and she’s a frequent guest on PBS’s Washington Week. In all the debates I can remember watching in recent history, she is the best moderator I’ve ever seen.
When she was first introduced she said she was taking her ‘job’ as moderator very seriously. And that she did. She took ownership of the debate. She ran the show. She asked tough questions. Provocative questions. Incendiary questions. And when she didn’t think they were being answered, she was like a dog with a bone, going back time and again, repeating the questions, until she was satisfied.
She was part of the debate, not just some stiff, sitting in a chair. You could easily see just how knowledgeable she is, and what a difference that made to the evening. I’m sorry she isn’t moderating any of the Presidential debates, to be honest. I loved, loved, loved the way she framed her question on abortion, tying it to religion. And I thought Joe Biden’s answer was equally brilliant. And refreshingly honest. While Paul Ryan’s felt ‘scripted’.
Which brings me to my overall impression of last night’s debate. I felt that Joe Biden was speaking from his heart, and from the vantage point of someone who is the working Vice President, and part of the current Administration. He spoke from on-the-job experience and a lifetime in politics. It didn’t seem as though a team of writers told him what to say. I don’t feel that way about Paul Ryan’s performance.
For the record, I’m not referring to what they said. I’m referring to how they expressed themselves, to their demeanour, to their conviction, to their body language, to their comfort; and discomfort. To the ease with which they were able to explain and defend their positions; and the positions of the men, and parties, they serve.
And in that, Joe Biden, was the winner, hands down. At least I think so. Having said that, I do think he over did it with the interruptions. I loved his passion and enthusiasm, but it was rude. And unnecessary, because he had so much else going for him. I’m not making excuses for him, but he was in a tough spot. His boss made a shambles of his first debate, the Libyan debacle is not helping his cause, he’s not doing well in the polls and election day is upon us. So he didn’t just have to hold his own last night, like Paul Ryan did. He had to rehabilitate his boss’s performance, both as far as his debate is concerned, and in the White House. So he overcompensated.
But to make that the focal point of the debate, and who won, is ridiculous. But I think it is happening, at least to some degree. I watched CNN last night and the post-debate discussion among the pundits began with Joe Biden’s interruptions. Are you kidding me? Less than a month to go in this campaign and you’re going to talk about manners?
Joe Biden made his case. He was articulate. He backed his statements up with many facts, not the least of which is the indisputable fact that he is there, in the job. He’s not conjecturing. He knows. He hammered that home time and time and time again. And to me, that was significant. And Paul Ryan waffled. And wriggled. And tried to skirt a lot of the issues. And happily, Martha Raddatz was there to make sure he didn’t get away with it.
I didn’t think it was a draw. What do you think? I hope you take the time to comment. Let’s have a debate of our own.