The fact is that it was actually Ryan who attempted to make a mockery of the process by, like Romney before him, taking an approach to the choice facing Americans like it was a game of Three-Card Monty. Perhaps Ryan saw the debate as an opportunity to bullshit America, but Biden wasn't going to allow himself to be bullshitted by following polite protocol that in the end would have essentially reduced the vice-president to the role of foil for Ryan.
But as it turned out, Right-Wing bellyaching aside, each Biden smile was a prelude to a barrage of substance. Each wide toothed grin, a signal that a qualitatively factual rebuttal was on its way. Each barely suppressed howl of laughter was an unsuppressed hoot of dismissive sarcasm and the staging point for the reassertion of fact over fraudulence. And why not? Romney won the debate in Denver by inflicting on Obama, a dizzying sensory overload of falsehoods that left the President in a befuddled heap.
Obviously, Biden was having none of that. Rather than be thrown off by Ryan's effort to mimic Romney's success, Biden simply laughed it off. To do otherwise would only dignify what has amounted to a foolish effort at gaming the electorate by the Romney campaign.
In the first presidential debate Obama was completely unprepared for the scope of Romney's dissembling and boy did it show. In the follow-up vice-presidential debate, it was Ryan who came unprepared for Biden's strategy of being prepared for another round of philosophical subterfuge, of trying to win the presidency on the sly. But unlike Al Gore in 2000, Biden, in the face of such straight up "malarkey" -- as he put it -- didn't rely solely on indignation; the responses Biden chose were smiles, laughter, and derision. And while certainly in debates of this magnitude, substance must hold sway over style, in this case, substance became intertwined with a style that while clearly unorthodox, was fully appropriate in light of the strategy employed by the other side.
Indeed substance was projected just as much through the delivery of basic facts as it was through that endless cascade of Joe Biden's smiles. And what a smile it was.
Hat's off to his dentist.
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