Paul Ryan accused the Democrats of making the US appear weak. But his performance in the face of a tough talking, aggressive grownup was weak, passive, minor league, a frail teacup totally outmanned by a grizzled battle cruiser.
Biden laughed and grinned and smiled a lot-- a real lot. There's no doubt in my mind that this was part of his plan to marginalize Ryan, to show without making angry faces, complete contempt for Ryan and his words. Ryan tried it at times too, but Biden backed up his smiling contempt with strong words. Ryan's smiles were empty or backed with wonkery, at best.
The right wing punditocracy predictably accused Biden of being rude, inappropriate, etc. Huffingtonpost writer Amanda Terkel titled an article, Fox News Goes Off On Biden: 'Rude,' 'Unhinged,' 'Cranky Old Man', citing these examples:
STEPHEN HAYES: "When he thanked Joe Biden, Biden was smirking. And I just think that came across as very disrespectful."
BRIT HUME: "It looked like a cranky old man, to some extent, debating a polite young man."
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: "The smiles, the sneers ... it made Vice President Joe Biden -- someone who I typically like -- I thought he was very unlikable."
CHRIS WALLACE: "I don't believe I have ever seen a debate in which one participant was as openly disrespectful of the other."
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: "It was so disrespectful."
SEAN HANNITY: "At times, it was so uncontrollable, I was beginning to worry about him [Biden]."
This approach to strength and toughness is not unlike the way conservatives treat strong women. There's no way to act tough if you are a Democrat, woman and certainly not if you're a black, as far as the right wing media and their echo chamber are concerned.
The truth is, we need tough talking Democrats, liberals and progressives, and we need to support them when they get tough and stand up, because that's when they will be attacked by the right.
The right wants Democrats and lefties to be passive, docile, nice, and very polite. They also want to characterize Democrats and the left as weak, passive and ineffective.
The truth is, Joe Biden worked within the constraints of the debate rules, pushing edges, as a strong leader and executive should do. He dwarfed Ryan in terms of style and personality. Do Americans want flaccid, weak personalities? I don' think so. Matter of fact, I think that's what cost Obama the first debate. His problem was and still is that being a tough, aggressive black puts him at even greater risk of being attacked by the right, which already has a big history of pushing racist buttons.
Obama really can't risk doing what Biden did. But Biden pushed the envelope. The next two debates, Obama won't get as aggressive as Biden but he'll ratchet up the energy, get a bit more aggressive and talk tougher to Romney.
We can expect, based on his history, that Romney will fine to the moderator and get self righteous with Obama. There was that debate between Romney and his opponent in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race, where Romney attacked her with great consternation for saying he was not really pro-choice. He said she was rude for accusing him of being pro-life, something he claimed to have repudiated. I'll be amazed if Romney doesn't pull a similar move on Obama-- about his 47% statement or his flip flop on abortion.
Bottom line, Republicans like to claim the toughness card and part of the way they do it is to attack Democrats when THEY act tough. Bottom line, we need strong leaders who stand up to malarkey. Bottom line, who would you want standing up to Putin or Netanyahu?
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