Well, the Vice-Presidential debate is over, and so the media is filled with spin on the subject. I’m not quite media, but I do feel like sharing a few impressions before I go to bed (as with my next post, this post was written Thursday evening, scheduled to be posted Friday at lunch):
- Demeanor. If I had to describe Biden’s performance in one word, it would be “passionate”. You got the impression he truly cared — emotionally cared with deep heartfelt emotions — that what his team was doing was right, that the “middle class” needed protection, that the “upper class” do not. This is why he got so exasperated at times, this is why he strove so hard to make corrections. Ryan’s performance, on the other hand, was more “wonky”. Cool, collected, attempting to be reasonable. Both can be presidential. Biden’s emotions make me think of Lyndon Johnson. Ryan was more of a George Bush Senior.
- Listening to What Was Said. There were a number of times listening to Ryan where I wondered if he heard what he said. For example, he berated Biden for the administration not submitting specific approaches to Congress to address debt problems and such… but when asked what loopholes he would eliminate, he indicated he would defer to Congress to come up with the answer. Another example: Ryan kept dragging out the line from 2008 where Obama said that if an administration can’t run on their record, they just attack the other side. He immediately followed this line with long attacks on the other side, not with their records and legislative accomplishments.
- Small Businesses. One of the big points in the debate was the importance of small business. Ryan (and to a much lesser extent Biden) touted small business as a creator of jobs. There’s just one little problem. It’s not. LA Observed has a good summary of a Bloomberg article that notes“First, small businesses destroy almost as many jobs as they create. Second, only about 3 percent of small-business owners fall into the upper-income tax brackets that would increase if, as Obama has proposed, the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire. And third, many businesses counted as small aren’t engaged in traditional small-business activity. Instead, they are partners in hedge funds, law firms and private-equity shops, or they are highly paid actors, athletes, speakers and authors.” How do they destroy jobs? Most of the small businesses that create jobs are startups…. and many startups fail. The whole article is worth reading, and points out many of the misconceptions being pointed out this political year.
- Defense Arguments. At one point, Ryan trotted out the line about the Navy being the smallest it has been since before WWI. What he didn’t mention, of course, was the disparity in effectiveness. The pre-WWI Navy was mostly small boats and ineffective cutters. Today’s Navy have fewer, but more specialized and more lethal ships. The issue isn’t the number of tanks and boats, it is effectiveness. By the way, I am continually disappointed in how neither candidate is addressing cybersecurity, and securing and protecting this country’s cyber-infrastructure, which is critical to both national defense and the commerce of the nation. I know some of what the Obama administration is doing (and much, but not all, of it is reasonable). Romney/Ryan? I haven’t heard anything.
- Effects of Obamacare. One thing the debate did not go heavily into is Obamacare. There was one interesting article related to Obamacare in the news this week. Darden Restaurants, the folks behind Red Lobster and Olive Garden, are going to test hiring more part time workers in order that they don’t have to provide the healthcare benefits that are required for full-time workers. Although I understand the business decision, I think it is morally wrong to do something just to not do right by your employees. I’d say I’d boycott them, but I don’t eat at Olive Garden or Red Lobster anyway. In any case, it goes to show that much of the reason for the opposition to “Obamacare” is not because health care is a bad idea, but that companies do not want the cost of health care to erode their profits. Forget Jesus Christ. The almighty god in the US sometimes seems to be “Profits”. Are we still in the “greed is good” generation?
Overall, will the VP debate change the course of the election? Probably not. It won’t move the undecideds, but there was enough meat in the 90 minutes to provide more energy to each of the respective party bases. After all, we’ve had quite a few VPs that were duds — Quayle and Agnew come to mind. We’ve had VPs that were clearly Presidential material (ah, Hubert Humphrey, whatever became of you :-)), and we’ve had some that were clearly deranged and power hungry (Cheney). I don’t think Biden or Ryan are in these categories, and are more good men trying to support their candidates.