First Take

by Lisa Schiffren

Maybe I have low standards, but I think Ms. Raddatz did a fine job. Her questions were serious, and mostly framed in a neutral way. She came down harder on the Obama foreign-policy record than any from the media so far, maybe ever. Perhaps a few days of listing all the personal connections, and conflicts of interest that most serious Washington journalists have to Democratic administrations, is a useful tool for keeping them honest.

The most offensive Biden tactic: blaming the intelligence community for the Obama administration’s deliberate misleading statements about Libya.  Behaviorwise, the smirking and mugging was overwhelming. Was this a demonstration of what happens when a moderately intelligent person fails to comprehend that the person he is speaking with knows as much — or more — as he does? We might need a psychologist to explain, but is it a mental tic, or can it really be overwhelming condescension? Can anyone find it anything but disturbing? Aren’t there drugs for that sort of thing? Time for a check up.

Ryan was steady and cool. I’m not so sure that he is warm, or will light up the emotion receptors we are told are so important for most voters, especially women. His respect and love for his mother and descriptions of her struggles when his father died, go some way toward that. And again, the fact that Ryan hewed to the Romney line on abortions — with standard exceptions — without attempting to signal his personal disagreement . . . will reassure those who know that the GOP ticket is a better bet on economic and national-security policy, but who really hate hearing men make absolute pronouncements on abortion. Now that issue can move to a back burner, and this election be about the economy and the sort of nation we are going to be.

On balance, I’d say that Ryan’s performance was stronger, but Biden did enough to keep his loyal constituents happy. This one was a holding action, not a game changer. Which is fine, since the right team seems to be winning at the moment.

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