Last Thursday’s Vice Presidential debate once again failed to provide Americans with anything more than fluff and factual inaccuracies. Vice President Joe Biden’s brash lack of decorum paired with Congressman Paul Ryan’s continual equivocations made for great entertainment, but failed to give the American people what they needed most: a clear picture of what a Mitt Romney or Barack Obama administration would look like over the next four years.
For a variety of reasons, the debate left Americans with no definite picture on who would make the most progress or innovation over the next four years and many people feel sour about voting for either of the two candidates.
The first of many problems with the debate was Biden’s continual and needless interruptions. Biden appeared to be using a trick out of Romney’s playbook by being aggressive, but the vice president’s crack at taking the reins of the debate failed miserably.
Throughout the first half of the debate especially, Biden appeared domineering and cold. His laughter and continual interruptions didn’t make Ryan look less credible. On the contrary, they just reflected poorly on the gaffe-master himself. The reports by some media outlets that Ryan had won the debate reflected a common notion among people: nobody likes a bully.
This is not to say that Ryan won on the basis of the information he provided.
Ryan barely elaborated on Romney’s five-point plan for restoring the economy, something that needs to be supplemented with great detail. The problem in the 2008 debates (as is the case now), is that trigger words like “hope,” and “change” were thrown out as if they really meant something in particular. As much as the Romney campaign tries to act as though they’re being clear, they’re really not.
Americans know the five-point plan is based on energy independence and less taxation for small businesses, and they understand that it means getting people to work again. But without specifics, the five-point plan is about as good as “hope” or “change.” They can’t sell themselves as being the opposite of Obama when they’re doing the same thing.
Then there was the issue that Ryan couldn’t answer Biden’s questions on Syria or provide math for the Romney tax plan. There might have very well been a mathematical logic to the $5 trillion in loopholes the Romney administration wants to cut and, if that’s the case, Ryan needed to rise up to Biden’s challenge by showing the American people the numbers. It’s not enough to simply say that it’s been done before.
But perhaps with how much each side was trying to make the other look bad, that became impossible. After all, a good chunk of the debate was spent between Biden’s unnecessary mocking and Ryan’s continual commentary on how bad things are under Obama.
All throughout the debate, back and forth finger-pointing was a regular occurrence. It was the ultimate cop-out: The other side is really bad, so that excuses me from not talking about myself.
Americans are looking for cold hard facts in this election, and that’s not unreasonable seeing that almost everything up until this point has been drivel. The past few years have been unpleasant for Americans. The economy continues to stagnate, and we’re massively in debt. Medicare and Social Security are huge issues as well. A lot of citizens are worried not only for themselves, but for the future of their children in these unsure economic times.
That’s why it’s not going to work for politicians to dress up the usual equivocations and evasions in passionate speech and theatricality.
Ultimately, whether Obama or Romney wins will depend upon which of the two men can give Americans a clear picture of what they’re going to do. Finger-pointing and evading questions will not work with the American people this time around. And as we saw from Biden during this debate, being badly-behaved isn’t going to work either.