Two Men, Totally Different

A scene from the vice-presidential debate in Danville, Ky., October 11, 2012


Biden, more than most people, talks about “the middle class” without cease. Increasingly, I’m coming to see this as one of the most phony-baloney phrases in our lexicon. I guess it means everyone who doesn’t wear a top hat and tails or sleep under a bridge.

Ryan says, “Jack Kennedy lowered tax rates, increased growth. Ronald Reagan . . .” Biden interrupts, “Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy?”

I suppose people will think of that as a good debate line, particularly in light of 1988. But could there be a stupider, more nonsensical line? No, Ryan doesn’t think he’s Kennedy (I assume he’s an infinitely more upstanding man than Kennedy). He thinks that Kennedy lowered tax rates, thereby increasing growth, which is what happened.

That is a part of JFK’s legacy that Democrats don’t want to remember or honor.

Ryan, in a statement on deep cuts to our military, says, “This invites weakness.” He means “aggression.” Too bad. Heart in the right place, though.

Oh, sorry, meant to say something earlier. When Biden mentioned Ryan’s writing him to request stimulus money for Wisconsin? He got him good, I’m afraid. Especially with the concluding quip, the coup de grâce: “By the way, any letter you send me, I’ll entertain.”

Biden’s best line of the night, IMO. (Ryan could have said something like, “I thought the stimulus was a massive waste, but as long as those dollars were being spent, my constituents might as well have gotten a few of them.”)

What Ryan says about Afghanistan, I believe. It is exactly my view. Whatever we do, says Ryan, and say I, we must not reverse the gains our men have sacrificed to make. Vietnam, Vietnam.

No one likes to think about this — it is too horrible — but 52,000 of our guys died when the two Vietnams could have been united under Communism twelve years earlier, with zero American deaths.

One thing I like about Biden — he pronounces the Afghan capital “Ka-BUHL,” rather than “Cobble.” Good for you, Scranton Joe! (For a piece I wrote long ago on the pronunciation of place names, etc., go here.)

I don’t think Biden is very attractive when he says “Hear me.”

As I wrote during the convention, I don’t think he’s very attractive when he says, “Look, folks . . .”

I don’t think he’s very attractive when he says to the moderator, “You be a little straight with me here.”

By the way, she interrupts and argues with Ryan. I’m not sure she does it so much with Biden. A little. But less.

Repeatedly, Biden says, or suggests, that Republicans are for war. That we want another war. This is one of the most disgusting things he does all debate long.

I thought of some lines from Psalms, which I quote in my Nobel history — particularly, the essay on peace within that book: “My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.”

Biden is always shouting. Odd, when you’re sitting down at a desk with a couple of people. He sounds like Mussolini making sure the paesani hear him way in the back of the crowd.

Like many other people, I think, Biden says “verbage” when he means “verbiage.”

There was a very popular phrase in the 1990s — you heard it from the liberal media all the time — and Biden reminds me of it: “angry white man.”

Ryan quotes Hillary Clinton with approval: The Russians are “on the wrong side of history,” said HRC, when it comes to Syria.

Hmmm. Seeing as I’ve been linking to essays in this column, go here, to see my take on “wrong side of history” (and “right” side).

About abortion, the moderator says, “This is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country.” Yes. It is also a matter of reason.

Something to love about Ryan: When the moderator says, “What could you both give to this country as a man, as a human being, that no one else could?” Ryan says, in essence, Nothing. “There are plenty of fine people who could lead this country.”

A man, Ryan is.

I wonder: Has a decision been made, in the Romney-Ryan camp, to avoid the age-old question “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” ’Cause the answer, in 2012, for Americans at large, is no.

Look, I don’t know how the public will react to this debate. I often find myself at odds with the public. And I find them hard to read. For example, from 1992 on, I found Bill Clinton a repellent figure. A charlatan, a snake-oil salesman — a snake. How many terms would he have been elected to, but for the 22nd Amendment? Would he be president still, 20 years later?

I thought Biden was repellent, in this debate. Disgusting. Nasty. Disgraceful. All that smirking and sighing and eye-rolling and laughing (derisive laughing) and interrupting. He wasn’t aggressive. He was rude. He was an ass. I’m a conservative Republican, so what do I care? But if I were a liberal Democrat, I’d be mortified. “This is the guy representing us?”

But you never know what Americans will like. I think of the music they listen to. The movies and TV shows they think are great. This does not necessarily inspire confidence.

Ryan? On balance, I thought he was very good. Superb, even. Thoughtful, polite, informed, honest, sincere, smart, nimble, concerned, likable. I would have thought this if I were on the other side — if I were a liberal Democrat. I would have thought, “Oh, crap — their guy’s some kind of knight, and our guy’s a boor.”

I thought Ryan put conservative arguments, classical-liberal arguments, in ways that ought to be appealing to the non-ideological. Even to those who are inclined against conservatism.

But again, what do I know, when it comes to the public mind?

As for my own mind: I think Romney and Ryan would be very, very good, in executive office. We need them. I hope they get the chance.

Two more things, before I sign off. 1) I thought Biden’s behavior was much worse than Gore’s in the first 2000 debate. And 2) Biden brought up Judge Bork — my friend Bob Bork, Robert H. Bork — as a bogeyman. He has been defaming Bork for 25 years now. Joe Biden isn’t fit to tie the shoelaces of that magnificent man. Not because Bork’s IQ is about a million points higher. No, it’s a matter of character.

To order Jay Nordlinger’s new book, Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.