Paul Ryan's Time in the Hyena's Den

Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan jumped headlong into the hyena's den to champion his vision for America, and emerged with little more than a few scratches.

Ryan must have known where he was headed.  Before the clock began ticking for the Vice Presidential Debate, moderator Martha Raddatz was revealed to be a questionable referee for the event.  President Obama had been a personal guest at her wedding, creating a clear conflict of interest that compromised her role as an impartial moderator in a balanced debate.  And clearly, her faculties lent a boon to Ryan's counterpart, Vice President Joe Biden, whose maniacal guffaws and incessant interruption went unchecked.

The spectacle of Biden's animated and constant derision appeared calculated and coached, and undoubtedly meant to energize the left's base that feeds more on emotion and expression than facts or reason. But in spite of Biden's best efforts to launch effective attacks and to limit or conceal his trademark falsehoods and gaffes, those falsehoods and gaffes came thick, fast, and noticeably nonetheless.

From the outset, Biden had the Sisyphean task of justifying this administration's unconscionable reaction to the attack against the American consulate in Benghazi last month that left four Americans murdered. Biden flubbed it horrendously.  He repeated the outrageous criticisms from Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Stephanie Cutter.  He suggested that Romney's statement about the attack is the real issue Americans should be concerned about, as if Romney's initial statement somehow negates Obama's reiterated falsehoods about a YouTube video being the catalyst for what was clearly a terrorist attack by the Al Qaeda. 

He then asserted that the administration was aware of no requests for added security in Benghazi prior to the attack, despite evidence that many such requests were made. Even if, as Biden claims, the administration didn't receive the requests, it is damning in the sense that it signals a colossal and costly communication breakdown between the White House and the State Department.  The White House is implicated in the actions of the State Department by the very nature of the bureaucracy. 

Biden haughtily let fly with this nonsense in his very first response to Paul Ryan's legitimate criticism of the administration.  And it set the tone for the entire debate that followed.

Regarding Iran, Biden was given the equally impossible task of defending the administration's impotent measures to deter the rogue theocracy's nuclear ambitions.  Amidst snide chuckles and impish smiles apparently appropriate for an issue portending war and a Jewish genocide, Biden dismissed bipartisan efforts in Congress to set economic sanctions against Iran. The administration's prefers to open up "space" between the United States and Israel. 

Biden openly mocked Ryan's warning against a nuclear Iran. Claiming that we and the Israelis are in the "same exact place" as to how far Iranians are from having a nuclear weapon, and that "they are a good way away." This is a slightly different assessment than that of Benjamin Netanyahu, who is quite privy to Israeli intelligence, and yet he shared no such optimism when delivering a speech before the UN last month. In fact, Raddatz offered the reminder that Netanyahu suggested that the "red line" for a nuclear Iran could be in the upcoming spring.  But this reminder wasn't for Joe Biden, who had just offered ludicrous reasoning for why a nuclear Iran is years away -- it was for Paul Ryan, as she demanded to know how Republicans would stop it from happening by the spring.

By this point, it was only too clear that Paul Ryan was targeted by both the moderator and his opponent, and the whole thing descended into absurdity, despite Ryan's efforts to keep the dialogue civil and fact-centric.  Biden interrupted Ryan no less than 82 times, prompting Chris Wallace to observe that he had never seen such a "disrespectful" display in a Vice Presidential debate. 

In spite of being outnumbered and under attack, Ryan presented himself as dignified, knowledgeable, likeable, and even managed to work in some memorable quips.  At one point, he drew the night's only memorable laughter (other than Biden's), when he rebutted Biden's attack of Mitt Romney's 47% comment by reminding him that "sometimes the words just don't come out your mouth the right way."  He spoke well for Mitt Romney, at one point even getting Biden to admit, "I don't doubt the man's generosity" in response to Ryan's testimony to Romney's charitable nature. Only minutes before, Biden had asserted that Romney is a greedy bastard who shirks his responsibility to pay his "fair share" to help others.

Even when Raddatz presented a token question on abortion to establish him as a key player in the Republicans' war on women, Ryan handled himself well as a man of honesty and conviction, as opposed to Biden's awkward response to the teed-up question, suggesting that he believes in life as a Catholic, but will not defend it. 

And while Biden's rude antics may be just the kind of thing that excites the left, I believe we will find that independents will not share that excitement.

On the morning of my writing this, I spoke with a client who happens to be a police officer, a wonderful person, and an independent voter. She asked me what I thought of the debate.  My response remained rather apolitical, as I was interested in her unencumbered thoughts after having watched the debate only twelve hours before.   She said that she has been undecided up to this point, but she thought that Biden came off as a rude, arrogant jerk.  And immediately following, she said, "And Paul Ryan seemed like a good man who knows his stuff."

I'd say Paul Ryan did just fine.

William Sullivan blogs at: and can be followed on Twitter