The most pressing question that Joe Biden faced, heading into Thursday night’s debate, was a tricky one: How do you handle an opponent who’s going to be lying his well-defined buttocks off for 90 minutes? The lack of a strategy for dealing with serial dishonesty had left President Obama dumbfounded in his first debate with Mitt Romney. He shouldn't have been taken aback: The Republican ticket-mates know perfectly well that being honest about their policies and platform would make it impossible for them to win a general election. You can’t advocate deficit-reduction and a $5 billion tax cut and a few extra billion in defense spending and be up front about what all that would actually mean—or whether it’s even mathematically possible. You can’t say that you’ll do everything possible to see that Roe v. Wadeis overturned. You can’t say what replacing Medicare with “premium support” really means. Which means Romney and Ryan can’t not lie—unless they want to spend election night wondering if they’ll scratch out a few more votes than Barry Goldwater.
Biden’s plan for dealing with Lyin’ Ryan was perfect: Laugh and scoff every time the congressman said something absurd. Treat a joke, in other words, as a joke. As Matt Taibbi commented: “He was absolutely right to be doing it. We all should be doing it. That includes all of us in the media, and not just paid obnoxious-opinion-merchants like me, but so-called ‘objective’ news reporters as well. We should all be rolling our eyes, and scoffing and saying, ‘Come back when you're serious.’"
The only hitch in the plan, of course, was that the stream of absurdities issuing forth from Ryan came so fast, so furiously, so relentlessly, that it left Biden grinning and smirking and “Oh, Godding” most of the night. And then, as soon as it was over, those paragons of quiet, rational discourse at Fox News, Drudge Report, Daily Caller, and the rest were fanning themselves with dismay like delicate Southern belles over the imposition of such unprecedented rudeness into the nation’s genteel political discourse. Lordy, Lordy, I do declare: How could he behave in such a beastly manner?
But Biden's job wasn't to be lovable and polite. It was to do what Obama didn't: Call bullshit on the malarkey. Mission accomplished. Now it’s up to the president to follow suit on Tuesday.
So They Say
"When Mr. Ryan said last night that Governor Romney was a car guy, I thought, well, if having an elevator to stack them counts, I guess he was."
Daily Meme: Fifty Shades of Joe
- Michelle Malkin: “Vice President Jerk: The return of Smirky Malarkey McSmirk.”
- Jon Chait: "Biden delivered a revelatory performance that proved me utterly wrong, and probably gave depressed Democrats an emotional jolt in the process."
- The Weekly Standard: "You don’t win a nationally televised debate by being rude and obnoxious.”
- John Cassidy: "In what may have been the most amped-up stage performance I ever seen from somebody who was sitting down—and who didn’t have the assistance of amphetamines or any other mood enhancers—the Vice-President bullied, cajoled, smiled, smirked, interrupted, fact-checked, and argued his way to what, by halfway through the debate, the majority of liberal politicos, commentators, and writers whom I follow on Twitter were calling a rout."
- Hot Air: “I expected ‘table-pounding atmospherics’ from Biden but I didn’t expect him to act like a total jackhole for fully 90 minutes.”
- Curt Brass, Iowa voter: “I thought that Biden was a bit theatrical with his scowling and his smirking and his laughter. … If the election were held today, I’d write in Curt Brass.”
- John Dickerson: "He didn’t mint a line that will live on, but Democrats didn’t need that. They know all the lines. They just wanted to hear someone from their team say them."
- Peggy Noonan: "For the second time in two weeks, the Democrat came out and defeated himself. In both cases the Republican was strong and the Democratsomewhat disturbing."
- The Onion Joe Biden: “Go ahead and laugh at Uncle Joe, or call him a fool if you like—I’m not going to stop ya. But know that I have a soul, and that my soul bleeds. Hell, I may not always know which way I’m going, or why, but god damn it if I’m not trying the best I can. The everloving best I can.”
What We're Reading
- Amy Davidson offers “A Quantum Theory of Romney’s Abortion Position.”
- Alliteration of the day: Romney says Biden was “doubling down on denial” over the embassy attack in Libya.
- Was Biden pointing a finger at Hillary Clinton and the State Department when he said “we” didn’t know about requests for more security in Libya?
- Jay Carney makes it pretty clear that he was.
- Conor Friedersdorf argues that Ryan’s shallowness on foreign policy makes him unqualified to be president.
- Rick Santorum is still on the warpath against same-sex marriage. Why? “This issue will destroy and undermine the church in America more than any other movement.”
- Meet the Press should be a tad less boring on Sunday: Stephen Colbert is a guest.
Poll of the Day
The numbers look grim for Obama in the nation’s largest battleground state. Mason-Dixon gives Romney a seven-point lead in Florida, after finding a toss-up last month. Last week’s debate moved 5 percent of previously undecided Floridians into the Romney camp, along with 2 percent of previous Obama supporters. But that wasn’t the most starting number: 46 percent of Hispanics in the state said they were voting for Romney, against 44 for Obama. But lest we inspire another descent into despair for the Obamians out there, Florida does remain an outlier among swing states. The president continues to poll betterin those states, overall, than he does elsewhere.
For more polling information, go to the Prospect’s 2012 election map.