According to most media outlets, especially the spectacle of cable news, the best way to judge a political debate seems to be tantamount to judging a beauty pageant or American Idol contest without the musical talent evaluations. It’s all about presentation, facial expressions, what one is doing while the other is speaking, “looking presidential.” Numerous pundits have advised viewers to best take in the debate with their volume off.
I, on the other hand, have zero interest or respect for this, excuse me for being frank, complete and utter bullshit. It’s fact and argumentation that matter—not the amount of time Paul Ryan drank from his glass of water or that Joe Biden laughed.
Now that enough time has passed, and the media dust has settled somewhat on the tapes, I’m taking this opportunity to review all statements unencumbered by media hype. So as goes the 2012 Vice Presidential debate, how did the candidates fair, based solely on fact and argumentation? Well, I would award Biden the clear edge in this contest, although he was not without his faults—the main point of “malarkey,” as he would say, coming from his presentation of the administration’s position on the embassy attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Early on in the debate, Biden claimed that “we did not know they wanted more security again” in Benghazi. According to recent Congressional testimony by two state department officials, however, these requests were known and denied by the higher ups at the department. Now this whole issue becomes murkier, of course, with implications that the compound may not only have been diplomatic in nature but also have possessed a CIA presence. However, regardless, an area like Benghazi, where the government has just been overthrown and militias run rampant, should have been given special security attention.
This seems to be Biden’s only real foreign policy trip-up, as the former senator, well-known for his grasp of foreign policy, appeared to dominate Ryan, known for his little forays into foreign policy, on an array of global issues.
On Afghanistan, Ryan wanted to have it both ways—seemingly endorsing the administration’s withdrawal plans yet at the same time being critical of the use of a timeline and attempting to criticize the inevitability of fewer American troops on patrol. How in Ryan’s oxymoron mind does he justify both supporting a drawdown and being against fewer troops on patrol is beyond me. Then again, as we see from his and Romney’s domestic plans, math is not their strong suit.
Biden accurately pointed out in response that although fewer American soldiers are out in patrol during the drawdown, this does not necessarily mean that their patrol unit is smaller, as Afghan soldiers are being subbed in for their American counterparts.
And on Iran, Biden came out on top again, with Ryan’s idiotic psychoanalysis of Iran’s ayatollahs being empowered by the Obama administration’s allegedly “weak” foreign policies. Ryan called on the electorate to “look at this from the view of the ayatollahs,” without ever presenting any actual evidence of the Iranian leadership’s current thinking or Iranian domestic events (say how about the recent currency riots?) or global and regional opinion and relations with the regime.
Biden’s retort pretty much summed up the reality of the situation:
“The ayatollah sees his economy being crippled. The ayatollah sees that there are 50 percent fewer exports of oil. He sees the currency going into the tank. He sees the economy going into free fall, and he sees the world for the first time totally united in opposition to him getting a nuclear weapon.”
Ryan also seemed to display little knowledge on how nuclear power is weaponized and was pretty easily trounced by Biden’s concise explanation on the difference between the resources necessary at achieving nuclear power versus properly weaponizing it.
On Iran’s ally Syria, Ryan tried to have it both ways again, vowing against U.S. troops on the ground and military action yet trying to criticize the Obama administration’s position as weak for attempting to work through the UN or with allies.
Now despite Ryan’s Ayn-Rand-loving worldview where everyone can and should do whatever they want without limitations or consequences, in the real world and in international relations, one often has to work with allies to achieve goals. It’s an often sad yet undeniable reality. As inhumane as the regimes of Russia and China can be, it remains unavoidable that the United States needs to work with them for their assistance with resources, regional influence and power.
Much of Ryan’s foreign policy positions during the debate seemed based on this fatuous Randian worldview that assumes the United States and powerful individuals can do whatever they want, whenever they want, regardless of others’ interests. Sad to say, we tried that in Iraq and it didn’t turn out too well.
For this, it’s pretty clear that in the arena of foreign policy, it was game, set, match to Biden.