The week before last, Obama phoned in his first debate performance against Romney, and rightbloggers were ecstatic that the challenger had “schooled” and “humiliated” the President. “If last night’s debate was a boxing match,” one of the brethren gloated, “a referee would have had to stop the fight.”
At last week’s Vice Presidential debate, Joe Biden chased Paul Ryan around the ring, and suddenly rightbloggers became ardent devotees of the Marquess of Queensberry.
While nearly everyone thought Obama did poorly in his first debate, post-VP-debate polls showed much more mixed results for Biden-Ryan. So spin became more important to those folks whose job, as they seem to imagine it, is to make sure the world got the right idea about who won the thing.
Some didn’t seem as if their hearts were in it. At Human Events John Hayward did what he could with the ambiguous returns — “Interestingly,” he announced, “there were reports of an Associated Press poll that showed Ryan winning by 51-43, but John Nolte at Breitbart News says he has been told the AP poll was not real.” Whoops. Hayward then looked for comfort in random TV impressions: “One woman in the CNN focus group said that Biden came off like a ‘buffoon’… Chris Wallace at Fox News was appalled by Biden’s behavior.” Well, that’s a tie-breaker, huh? (Here’s another: At National Review Michael Graham told us that “my largely apolitical wife, who watched the debate for 20 minutes and left the room. ‘I can’t take Biden any more!'”)
At Outside the Beltway, Doug Mataconis disdained “Biden’s constant interruptions, eye-rolling, smirks, and laughs,” while declaring Ryan “came across as earnest and knowledgeable” if “somehow out of his element, especially at the start of the debate when the two men spent the better part of a half hour talking about foreign policy.” Yes, but so polite! In the end Mataconis reminded us that the Vice-Presidency is nothing much and called the debate “a waste of time.”
“Joe Biden goes off his meds, but Paul Ryan persevered,” claimed Andrew Malcolm at Investors’ Business Daily. Biden not only actually laughed at Ryan, Malcolm marveled — but he “laughed often and loudly”; not only did Biden show exasperation, Malcolm further marveled, it was “exaggerated exasperation.” Imagine showing so little respect for a member of Congress!
Eventually Malcolm was reduced to marveling at “Biden’s laughable laughter.” Then he said he wanted to get rid of Vice Presidential debates altogether (“No one, except the media female given the regular runner-up moderator role, would miss it”). Well, who can blame him.
But there were true believers aplenty. At The Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes rushed to tell the world that “Biden bombed… You don’t win by interrupting your opponent time after time after time or by being a blowhard. You don’t win with facial expressions, especially smirks or fake laughs, or by pretending to be utterly exasperated with what your opponent is saying.”
You don’t? There were plenty of folks who apparently liked Biden’s approach. But there was also time to get it around to inattentive voters that Biden had performed catastrophically, so Barnes laid it on thick: Biden, per Barnes, was “out of control,” “over the top and weird,” “acting like a man on uppers,” “acting like a jerk,” and, the keyword for rightbloggers in the post-mortem, “bullying.”
That’s right — it actually became a Thing among rightbloggers to say Biden had blown it by bullying America’s Sweetheart, Paul Ryan.
“It’s hard to like a guy who spends 90 minutes behaving like a rude bully,” groused Nolan Finley at the California Political Review. “Joe Biden is a bully… sent out to ridicule, mock, and destroy Paul Ryan,” cried Thegeeman’s Blog. Biden “showed once and for all just how big a bullying buffoon he really is,” blubbered Donald Douglas at American Power. “[Biden’s] boorish, bullying, rude behavior turned off a whole lot of Independents and swing voters,” mind-read Speranza of The Blogmocracy. “BIDEN GRUNTS, GUFFAWS, SMIRKS AND BULLIES HIS WAY THROUGH VP DEBATE,” hollered Breitbart’s Big Government. Etc.
“The Bully vs. the Wonk,” headlined the Wall Street Journal. “Mr. Ryan let the bully get away with too much for our tastes… as anyone who’s been in a tavern past midnight understands, it’s hard to win a fight with a guy who is shouting from the corner bar stool.” (Did they mean Biden won? Though we don’t doubt the Journal editors’ familiarity with the behavior and the milieu they described, we wonder if they thought that one through.)
“Somehow I have a problem seeing Old Joe’s bullying behavior as being appealing to very many young folks whose youthful status too often renders them victims to similar condescension from arrogant professors, demanding bosses and even older family members who still view them as callow children,” said This Ain’t Hell. Biden’s losing the sullen teenager vote! (Or at least the vote of sullen teenagers who relate to Paul Ryan. And who wouldn’t?)
Not only was Biden’s behavior bullying — worse, it was disrespectful of Republicans. “The Democrats cheering on Biden’s bullying… did so because at bottom they really do not feel Republicans or conservatives are worthy of respect or decency,” said Jonathan S. Tobin at Commentary. At National Review Charles C.W. Cooke affected astonishment that Biden acted as if “he doesn’t consider Paul Ryan — the Republican nominee for vice president and Chairman of the House Budget Committee, no less — to be worthy of his time,” and found Republicans “undeserving of serious consideration or response.” And after they’d been so nice to him!
James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal dug into an evolutionary biology book and read that “when a man uncontrollably smiles at a potential or actual adversary, it is a show of weakness.” While Taranto admitted “that isn’t necessarily to say that Paul Ryan dominated Biden,” the book does have lots of big words, and “there is no question Ryan demonstrated self-control where Biden utterly lacked it…” Taranto also told us that while “the left’s Angry Birds found Biden’s performance gratifying,” it had certainly turned off “independents like blogress Ann Althouse,” which we assume is some kind of inside joke.
Taranto further pursued this scholarly approach in a tweet: “The left’s enthusiasm for Biden’s performance arises out of sexual confusion. He conformed to THEIR knuckleheaded stereotype of manliness.” And they say liberals are the ones who believe in science!
National Review‘s Jay Nordlinger, meanwhile, compared Biden to Mussolini. “He was rude. He was an ass,” tizzied Nordlinger. “…if I were a liberal Democrat, I’d be mortified…I would have thought, ‘Oh, crap — their guy’s some kind of knight, and our guy’s a boor.'” Ah, what might have been.
Others affected to believe that Biden’s lack of respect for Ryan was actually lack of respect for the problems of the day, and America.
“Yeah with the spending record of this administration it’s no doubt that Joe Biden would think fiscal discipline is a joke,” said The Right Scoop. “I’m glad the vice president finds Medicare insolvency so funny,” said National Review‘s Mark Steyn. “It’s not so funny if you’re the average American man…”
“Everything I learned about presidential communications in the Reagan White House,” said Clark Judge at Ricochet, “tells me that the American people will interpret Biden’s clownish contemptuousness toward Paul Ryan as contemptuous toward them and toward the electoral process.”
Noted civility expert Jonah Goldberg, after lamenting the “countless times when [Ryan] could have sunk his blade into Biden and instead let it drop to the floor” (that’s what a nice young fella he is, or maybe just clumsy), told us what would have been rilly awesome: “if [Ryan] had simply turned to Biden and said something like, ‘Mr. Vice President these are serious issues and serious disagreements about the future of our country. I don’t find them funny and, frankly, I find your behavior here tonight beneath the dignity of your office.’ It would have gelded Biden, elicited spontaneous applause in the audience, and endured as the most memorable soundbite of the whole debate.” And if Ryan could have then danced to the front of the stage Gangnam style, then flown through the roof like Iron Man, that would have been rad, too. Too bad there’s only one VP debate. Maybe in 2016!
Oh yeah, the faces. Byron York of the Washington Examiner claimed “Republicans could barely believe that a debate they thought would be about big issues ended with everyone discussing Biden’s facial expressions…” Charles C.W. Cooke went York one better and enlisted an assistant professor of consumer science from Purdue University who “studies facial expressions,” and guess what he saw in the debate? Biden showed “strong disgust” and “pure frustration,” while Ryan had a smile that’s “very likeable.” Cooke will never miss a meal.
Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan criticized Biden’s “attempts to bully… Did Mr. Biden look good?” Noonan asked the dolls on her sofa, and answered in a higher voice, “No, he looked mean and second-rate… and so the Romney-Ryan ticket emerged ahead.”
Okay, so maybe these assertions were hard to prove, and Paul Ryan wasn’t being hailed in the streets the following morning as a national hero, at least not so you’d notice. But what did you expect? The Liberal Media had put the fix in.
Moderator Martha Raddatz, Daniel Halper bombshelled at The Weekly Standard, “visited Vice President Joe Biden at his official residence on March 26, 2012.” Gasp! Are there nude pix? “Raddatz visited the VPR (or, the vice president’s residence) for a ‘Women’s History Month Reception,'” Halper went on. So, that’s a euphemism? No, apparently it’s just some boring feminist thing — But! Raddatz also visited the White House (which Biden is known to requent) in 2009, and “Barack Obama had attended her wedding in 1991… Raddatz has been criticized for ‘interrupting [Paul Ryan] 31 times’ and even CNN called the moderator ‘the third debater.'”
So see, you can’t tell anything from these corrupt spectacles, unless the Republican looks good, in which case it’s game, set, and match. Now if you’ll excuse them, rightbloggers, to paraphrase Ryan, have got to get their centrifuges spinning as fast as possible in preparation for Tuesday’s second Presidential debate. Whatever they extract from that, it’s sure to be highly enriched
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 14, 2012