I watched the VP debate for the second time tonight since my wife hadn’t seen it during the day and I came away even more than before with the strong impression that Paul Ryan heavily took it out. He came across as someone with cool and judgement, someone with the gravitas and seriousness to be the president if he had to. He had thought about the issues and if he were called upon to decide on some matter, looks perfectly able to sort through the options he might be given with a genuine capability to properly weigh matters up.
Biden was the reverse. He struck me as crude and shallow, lacking in a genuine ability to see an issue through to the end. Nor did he give me that comfortable feeling that he would be able to take a difficult decision in which there might be a host of considerations to weigh up. And his laugh track was so irritating that you really do wonder whether he is psychologically unbalanced. It was obviously the strategy for him to smile and smile and be a villain yet, but if that was supposed to be a winning pose it worked for me not at all.
Before the debate I had written that:
Biden is wily and been around the traps for quite a while. He is practised in the art of politics which makes him a formidable opponent and not someone to let one’s guard down against for a moment. Though he lied and misrepresented from one end of the debate to the other, in my remembrance of the time he was more than a match for Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan is new at the game. Ryan has a number of potential problems in front of him – he may be too wonkish, he may sound too much like he intends to slash and burn and he is coming in against an expectation that will work against him if at the end of the night Biden has been able to hold his own. For all that, Ryan understands the issues within an inch of his life and Biden does not.
In the end, that’s still how it looked to me. Biden said whatever he thought might sound best on the night and truth be damned. He therefore came away with a superficial plausibility but struck me as someone of no substance. Ryan in contrast played it straight, obviously fortified by his deep knowledge of the issues and his commitment to the positions he took.
The test for me is this. If I were considering which of the two I would want to sit down with Vladimir Putin in some negotiation where some vital interest was at stake, there is no doubt that I would prefer it was Ryan at the table. On this, if there’s doubt for you, there’s none for me at all.