Thursday, October 11, 2012

Keeping score

Tonight was one of those nights when I was wishing I weren't so obsessed with the ups and downs of politics. (After this election, I'm planning to reduce my obsession level significantly.) It's just too stressful to have to worry about whether Vice President Biden's performance is going to pull the Obama campaign out of its downward slide. And it's too frustrating to listen to all the pundits and pollsters instantly try to score the debate. I was imagining how care-free I could be if I were obsessed with, say, the baseball playoffs instead of the presidential election. I might still stress over the performance of whatever team I was cheering for, but at least there would be no question about which team won the game and which team lost. (My home team didn't even make the playoffs, however, so it is a moot point.)

Politics is just an endless, unwinnable argument. That's why, unlike baseball, it's somewhat pointless to try to decide who "won" a debate. All we can do is argue about that. But that's not going to stop me from offering my own attempt to score the Biden/Ryan vice-presidential debate. My conclusion: Overall, Congressman Ryan made a credible showing, but Biden clearly won the debate on points, which can be demonstrated by comparing answers to specific questions.

On foreign policy, if you thought, going in, that the Obama administration is weakening our nation abroad and apologizing for our values, then Ryan clearly won. But if you thought the Obama administration has done a good job repairing our alliances and withdrawing from foreign adventures, Biden clearly won the foreign policy round.

On taxes and the budget, if you think we can cut income tax rates across the board, close some loopholes, increase the defense budget, and reduce the deficit at the same time, then Ryan clearly won. But if you think those numbers don't add up, then Biden clearly won.

So in trying to score answers to a lot of questions, the winner is a matter of opinion. But the abortion question was a tie-breaker. Even there, however, if you advocate a strong anti-abortion position, and you think it is acceptable to impose your moral views on everyone else, you could still argue that Ryan won. Compare Ryan's with Biden's answer, however:

[W]ith regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion . . . . Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and -- I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman. I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that women, they -- they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor, in my view. And the Supreme Court -- I’m not going to interfere with that.
That just has to resonate with a lot more people than Ryan's doctrinaire approach.

Some other highlights, demonstrating that Biden got the better of Ryan on most questions  (full transcript here):

 On Romney's lack of concrete plans for the economy:
BIDEN: Stop talking about how you care about people. Show me something. Show me a policy. Show me a policy where you take responsibility. And by the way, they talk about this Great Recession if it fell out of the sky, like, oh my goodness, where did it come from? It came from this man voting to put two wars in a credit card, to at the same time put a prescription drug benefit on the credit card, a trillion- dollar tax cut for a -- very wealthy. I was there. I voted against him. I said, no, we can’t afford that. And now all of a sudden these guys are so seized with a concern about the debt that they created -- 
On the stimulus:
 BIDEN: He sent me two letters saying, by the way, can you send me some stimulus money for companies here in the state of Wisconsin? We sent millions of dollars. You know why he said he needed --
MS. RADDATZ: You did ask for stimulus money, correct?
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Sure he did. By the way -- (inaudible) --
REP. RYAN: On two occasions, we -- we -- we advocated for constituents who were applying for grants.
REP. RYAN: That’s what we do. We do that for all constituents who are -- (inaudible) -- for grants.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: I love that. I love that. This is such a bad program, and he writes me a letter saying -- writes the Department of Energy a letter saying, the reason we need this stimulus -- it will create growth and jobs. He -- his words. And now he’s sitting here looking at me -- and by the way, that program -- again, investigated -- what the Congress said was, it was a model: less than four-tenths of 1 percent waste or fraud in the program. And all this talk about cronyism -- they investigated, investigated; did not find one single piece of evidence. I wish he would just tell -- be a little more candid.

On Medicare: 
BIDEN: You are jeopardizing the program. You’re changing the program from a guaranteed benefit to a premium support. Whatever you call it, the bottom line is people are going to have to pay more money out of their pocket.
 On Afghanistan:
REP. RYAN: We do -- we do agree with the timeline in the transition, but what we -- what any administration will do in 2013 is assess the situation to see how best to complete this timeline. What we do not want to do --
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: We will leave in 2014.
REP. RYAN: What we do not want to do is give our allies reason to trust us less and our enemies more -- we don’t want to embolden our enemies to hold and wait out for us and then take over the --
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Martha, that’s a bizarre statement.
REP. RYAN: That’s why we want to make sure -- no, that’s why we want to make sure that this -- that --
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: That’s a bizarre statement, since 49 of our allies -- hear me, 49 of our allies signed onto this position, 49.

Come to think of it, the Afghanistan question could be another tie-breaker. And the transcript does not even convey the firmness and power with which the vice president made the simple, clear statement that we will leave in 2014. Note also the repetition--three times--of the number 49.

You want our combat troops to remain in Afghanistan indefinitely, vote Romney/Ryan. You want out, vote Obama/Biden. Last time I checked, the majority wants out of Afghanistan.

1 comment:

  1. Great first paragraph, Joe! It resonated with me. Perhaps the Dodgers can land Hamilton from Texas.