(Article changed on October 15, 2012 at 10:39)
BIDEN LAUGHS OFF RYAN
Smile when you say that -- Laughter turned out to be a big part of Biden's debate strategy
Another example of an overblown sh*t-storm from the Right -- caused, in this case, by its pigging out on post-debate sour grapes -- is the crap it's been slinging about Joe Biden getting all smiley-faced during his debate against temporary Mitt Romney wingman Paul Ryan. But for me a fascinating sidebar to the seething spotlight placed on Biden's animated smiles could have been about how little was made of something else. That "something else" of course, would be the thoroughly smug, sh*t-eating grin that Ryan's mug expanded into during each sharp rebuttal by Biden to a Ryan assertion that provoked the vice-president's facial gesticulations in the first place.
The pattern was set early: Ryan issues a bug-eyed claim -- about the supposed fiscal wrongheadedness of the stimulus for example -- which sparks an "OMG" response of some kind from Biden; an astonished smile, low chuckle or a cheeky eye-roll. Biden then unfurls a sharply-informed take down that incorporates the two written requests made by Ryan for a grab at some of that tainted stimulus money for his state. As the take down occurs, Ryan's face morphs into that tight-lipped sh*t-eating grin. This smiley-face versus sh*t-face duel goes on until, by the time Ryan's pitching his half-baked claim of "six studies" that validate the convoluted psycho-math of the Romney/Ryan budget, Biden -- likely aware that three of Ryan's "studies" are blog posts while another is an op-ed -- is in full knee-slapping mode as he commences with yet another evidence-based take down that further swallowed Ryan into that God-awful grin of his.
Now could a case be made that the hilarious spin Biden attached to Ryan's assertions was intemperate, undignified and beneath the stature of a vice-president? In general, probably yes. And based on their reactions, that was clearly the debate's takeaway for many Romney supporters and others on the Right.
"I've never seen a debate in which one participant was as openly disrespectful of the other as Biden was to Paul Ryan tonight." sniffed Fox News' Chris Wallace.
He was "disrespectful and full of bluster," snooted the Wall Street Journal's resident op-ed page haughty, Peggy Noonan .
"It was so disrespectful," wailed Fox News analyst Charles Krauthammer. ""it was sort of almost unprecedented and hugely condescending."
"You don't win a nationally televised debate by being rude and obnoxious," whined the Weekly Standard's utterly insipid Fred Barnes . "You don't win with facial expressions, especially smirks or fake laughs."
Now this should be one of those appreciatively rare instances when I feel the pain of those die-hard wing-nuts. But as usual, after hearing their arguments I found myself once again led to a place where rationality steps in to shut down any possibility for empathy.
Say, "Cheee-sy" -- Ryan endures another Biden take down. Getty Images
As I see it, rather than being viewed as an expression of pure contempt that's utterly inappropriate for what was transpiring, Biden's smiling, and whatever else peed off his critics., more likely deserves consideration as a show of respect for his opponent's greatest achievement to date: reaching the point of actually sitting across the table to engage in what Ryan has repeatedly called for -- "a serious debate"-- with of all people, the vice-president of the United States. Why shouldn't Biden's antics be seen as Joe's way of projecting that he believes Ryan is smart enough to fully appreciate that a debate approach characterized by flinging out assertions that have no basis in fact couldn't possibly be Ryan's idea of a "serious" debate?
In reality, it was Biden who took into consideration the history rooted in the dead-serious significance of the process Americans undergo in choosing who will lead this country. Indeed the appropriate display of contempt for the gall by a mainstream vice-presidential candidate like Ryan to utilize that process in such a farcical manner might well be to simply walk off the stage with a vow not to return until young Mr. Ryan begins to take this matter more seriously.
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.