I went into watching last night's Vice Presidential debate in Danville, KY not caring who would "win." There wasn't one voter watching that debate who is/was going to change his mind on whom to vote for based on the words or ideas (or lack thereof), or exhanges between the two VP candidates. Not one. The debate had one primary purpose: to make sure that those already in the presidential candidates' respective corners continue to feel good about being in those corners. On that basis, both Joe Biden and Paul Ryan did fine.
Where the scales tipped was in the substance and the energy of the debate. Joe Biden has a lifetime career in politics. His experience as a Washington mover and shaker, his background in foreign policy, and his "I was there" cred were in ample supply. Ryan was completely out of his league on foreign policy. I was embarrassed for him when he talked about the different places in Afghanistan he'd visited. When he would spout off the names of those places, as well as was authoritative about "fighting season," he came across as little more than a well-coached high school debater. (It also didn't help that he looked frighteningly like Eddie Munster with that dark hair, widow's peak, and big ears.) On domestic policy, Biden dominated as well because, well, he has actual reality on his side. When Ryan talked about unemployment going up, I simply could not avoid shouting at the TV, "That's a lie!" But Joe was there with the facts.
And Joe's congeniality simply outshone Ryan's frankly scary tone. Yeah, Joe smirked, he giggled, he rolled his eyes, he threw up his hands, he interrupted Ryan, and he raised his voice. It was all a little much. But that's classic Joe Biden. He was never disrespectful of Ryan, calling him "my friend" numerous times (because that's what senators and representatives do even when they're arguing). Ryan, on the other hand, got rattled near the end of the debate, and even though he tried to admonish him once, saying, "Mr. Vice President." later he twice called him "Joe." I'm sure Joe didn't really care about that; he's Joe!
The real winner in this debate, by far, however, was Martha Raddatz of ABC News. Finally, a real reporter, with actual real journalism experience under her belt, moderating a debate where real pointed questions were asked. I didn't like her final question about the tone of the campaign, but I'll give her a pass on that one since the rest were so fine. Not only that, she engaged in strong follow-up questions, pressed each candidate for clarity, and did a far better job at holding to the time limits than sleepy ol' Jim Lehrer did with the first presidential debate last week. Ryan seemed utterly flustered when Raddatz pressed him for specifics on both the Romney tax plan, and foreign intervention choices. And Biden, good ol' Joe, grinned sheepishly when he got caught going on too long.
In the end, I come away with this: Facts matter. Truth matters. Reality matters. Four years ago, Obama and Biden were elected at a time when the entire world was reeling economically because of the crazy shit Bush, Cheney, and Paulson actively and tacitly encouraged in the financial sector. That's a fact. That's the truth. That's reality. Unemployment now is at the level it was when Obama took office, but it must be acknowledged that what happened to jobs in Obama's first year was fallout from what had happened in 2008, when Obama was a candidate. That too, is reality. I don't think they believe they did everything right every step of the way. But I do believe they did what they thought was the right thing to do at the time. And the results -- declining unemployment rates, steady (though sluggish) job growth for nearly three years, steady (though sluggish) GDP growth, a stabilizing housing market, more manufacturing jobs, a thriving auto industry, a vibrant stock market, record corporate profits, higher worker productivity -- bear that out. These, too, are facts. Obama has also had to deal with one undeniable fact: the Republican Party has been the single greatest obstacle to greater American prosperity since 2009. They have, since January 21, 2009, had one vision: deny Obama a second term. Everything they have done to obstruct the Obama legislative agenda has cost this country. The right can spin this all they want, but it is a FACT that they have put their hunger for power before the success of the country. And they must not be allowed to succeed.