Economy & Budget

Joe Biden: Mr. Malarkey

Joe Biden: Mr. Malarkey

On Thursday night, Paul Ryan showed up to debate Joe. Smiley Joe. Laughing Joe. Subdued Joe. Heartfelt Joe … and many others.

For the most part, though, a smug Vice President Joe Biden, using a contemptuous tone and a smirk, attempted to deflect Ryan’s attacks on the administration’s economic record as “malarkey.”  Ryan, conceding that Barack Obama had inherited a deep recession, argued that the administration had given us the weakest economic bounce-back in American history.

“This is not what a real recovery looks like,” Ryan said.

Since Ryan’s strength is fiscal policy, however, a debate concentrated on foreign policy put him at somewhat of a disadvantage. And moderator Martha Raddatz, ABC’s chief international correspondent, did little to blunt Biden’s most effective debate weapon: incessantly interrupting Ryan.

Stylistically speaking, the vice president – between dismissive laughter and head shaking – made broad emotional and sometimes personal appeals to the middle class. A senator since 1973, Biden played the man of the people, attempted to portray Mitt Romney as an uncaring plutocrat, out of touch with the average American.

The vice president was less effective on facts, however. He continually swatted away claims that small business would be hit by President Obama’s tax hikes, even though an Internal Revenue Service recently found that Bush-era tax rates would mean around 1 million companies would be hit with new taxes.

“There aren’t enough rich people and small businesses to tax to pay for all their spending,” Mr. Ryan said, attacking the central promise of a second term – tax hikes. “Watch out middle class, the tax bill is coming to you.”

Biden also claimed falsely asserted that the Obama Administration had not raised taxes on the middle class, when in fact there are over a dozen middle class hike in Obamacare alone.

Relying on a single left-wing study, Biden continued to make the Obama campaign’s case that Romney’s tax reform plan was mathematically impossible, despite the fact that other studies find that it’s feasible. And Ryan laid out the job numbers in proper perspective – as stagnant.

The Wisconsin Republican was most effective when stringing together the impressively long list of the administration’s broken promises on the economy – the failure to cut the deficit in half and the failure to bring unemployment to under 6 percent were the most notable.  Ryan pointed out that 15 percent of Americans live in poverty and 23 million Americans struggling for jobs. Biden argued that the Obama Administration would continue focus on leveling the playing field.

It seems unlikely that a vice presidential debate will move the needle in either direction, but it’s a good preview of what’s in store down the stretch — emotion vs. reason.

Bonus video: Smirky Joe:

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