Students debate the results of vice presidential debate
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
“Before we begin: a reminder that your performance tonight is extremely unlikely to affect the outcome of the election, so just have fun with it!”
The real Martha Raddatz didn’t actually say that. It’s a line from last week’s Saturday Night Live sketch mocking this debate, but I think the candidates took that advice to heart nonetheless.
The news cycle echo chamber would have you believe that this debate was effectively a tie. Joe Biden came out swinging after President Barack Obama’s soporific performance two weeks ago, but he was overly aggressive and just plain rude. Meanwhile, Paul Ryan was wonkish and avoided specifics when outlining his tax plan.
Our discussions about who came out on top after these debates invariably center on which candidate “looked” better: who sounded more in control, who made the other candidate look bad and who looked more attractive. Historical narratives for decades have suggested that the reason why John F. Kennedy “won” in his first debate against Richard Nixon in 1960 was because he looked much more photogenic.
What about the actual content of these candidates’ remarks? Have we collectively decided that we prefer sophistry to substance? Let’s just consider a few of the misleading arguments from this debate that Politico picked up on. Vice President Biden suggested, “We are leaving [Afghanistan] by 2014, period.” That’s true of most of our forces in Afghanistan, but the president’s plan also calls for a smaller force staying beyond 2014 for an indefinite amount of time. Paul Ryan claimed that the Affordable Care Act’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (tasked with identifying Medicare cuts if the program grows too quickly) would consist of 15 members, “not one [of whom] even has to have medical training.” The IPAB is controversial, and it’s worth having a debate about the role it will play in lowering costs for healthcare, but Ryan’s claim here was wholly inaccurate. The act states that the board “shall include...physicians and other health professionals” in addition to other stakeholders. While not everyone on the board will be a health professional, there will at least be some.
Let me make one thing clear: I am not at all surprised about these two politicians making factually misleading statements. Obviously politicians lie because it tends to work. I don’t have a problem with our elected officials trying to win over votes by saying what people want to hear; I do have a problem with the electorate letting them get away with it. Websites like Politico, Politifact, and Fact Check devote huge resources to verifying controversial claims made by candidates. Even as recently as 20 years ago voters could likely never imagine having this at their fingertips. And yet — it’s almost like none of us even care.
Maybe we’ve just grown so used to politicians lying that we’re desensitized. Or maybe, as Julian Zelizer of CNN suspected in a recent op-ed piece, it’s just too difficult to trust information when so many of the sources we use have an agenda. I would agree with such a claim. “Objective” news sources are becoming fewer and farther between. It’s much more convenient to trust news sources that confirm our deeply ingrained beliefs.
But I have news for you: facts do exist, and they do matter. MSNBC and Fox have agendas; Politico and Politifact do not. There’s no excuse anymore for letting candidates tell lies.
So who do I think won the debate last week? Easy: Martha Raddatz. She pressed the candidates, she called them on their bluffs and she didn’t let them pass off misleading talking points as answers. I only hope the rest of the American electorate acts as incisively come November.
Bub is a junior majoring in English, history and political science.
The entire nation waited with bated breath for the debate between the vice presidential hopefuls last week.
Would Paul Ryan carry on the momentum Mitt Romney had gained during his debate with President Barack Obama? Would Jow Biden put his foot in his mouth? Would hilarity ensue?
All seemed to be likely possibilities, but in the end it was a debate of little excitement with the main issues covered being on the issues of national security, health care and the economy.
As Big Bird was the star of the first presidential debate, Biden’s teeth and hair plugs were the focal point of this debate.
While points of substance were made by both candidates, it is a safe bet that were you to ask someone what they thought of the debate, Biden’s antics would have been the first thing they brought up.
Vice President Biden laughed, smiled maniacally and interrupted Ryan in the middle of his allotted time to speak no less than eighty-five times.
While some of those on the left praised Biden for his ‘relaxed demeanor that showed he was comfortable in the debate,’ most saw his erratic behavior as distracting and detracting from the issues at hand.
Though I do have to give Biden credit. Going into this debate he had two outcomes: win and make President Obama look incompetent for his own debate debacle or lose and show a further sign of weakness in the Obama campaign.
I in all honesty can’t say that he did either. By cultivating this erratic and over the top stage personality, he managed to throw off everyone, including Ryan, and in the end it was generally agreed upon that it was a draw.
Besides being interrupted just over seven dozen times, Ryan did quite well for his first debate of this scale. Despite struggling to get a word in edgewise, his closing remarks went uninterrupted and were by all accounts more sincere and engaging to the viewer than was Biden’s read from the script final statement.
While the debate was supposed to be between the two candidates, ABC correspondent and the night’s moderator Martha Raddatz was arguably the third debater.