Wow, what a difference eight days can make. Last Friday we got the last set of national employment figures we'll be able to analyze before Election Day, and they were unequivocally good -- so much so that conspiracy theorists came out of the woodwork to deny and denounce the Bureau of Labor Statistics itself.
And then there was the Vice-Presidential Debate in Kentucky.
After Willard "Mitt" Romney showed us that the ability to prevaricate with shameless gusto can actually be spun into a debate "win" (or, really, that President Barack Obama somehow "lost" because he didn't do what most people do when confronted with so much B.S. -- get angry), we got to see Vice President Joe Biden spar with Romney's VP choice, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Quick 'n Dirty Talking Points
Paul Ryan TALKED bipartisanship; Joe Biden LIVED it. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, taking office just before Paul Ryan turned 3. Biden was 30 years old, one of the youngest Senators ever -- and 12 years younger than Ryan is now.
Ryan mentioned President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker "Tip" O'Neill, but Biden KNEW them both. Ryan's talk of the bipartisan past is at odds with his record in the House of Representatives.
In seven House terms, Paul Ryan has been a partisan warrior, happiest when parroting right-wing think tank talking points and attacking Democrats, Progressives and Liberals on cultural issues; he wears "bipartisanship" like a jacket -- and on him it's as ill-fitting as the one he wore last night.
Here's the difference:
Joe Biden served on the bipartisan Social Security Commission in 1983; and the reforms they came up with added decades to the program's solvency. Their work was not popular, but Congress passed it and Reagan signed it.
Paul Ryan served on the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission in 2009-2010; not only did he vote AGAINST the Commission's recommendations to reduce the annual deficit and the overall debt (something he forgot to mention at his acceptance speech in Tampa), but he now has the gall to say it's somehow President Obama's fault that the Commission's program wasn't implemented.
On foreign policy: Paul Ryan was not picked for his expertise in foreign policy...and it showed. He parroted his own stump speech on Libya and Iran, repeating his ticket's dark innuendoes on what they'd do...until Biden directly challenged him:
Look, imagine had we let the Republican Congress work out the sanctions. You think there’s any possibility the entire world would have joined us, Russia and China, all of our allies? These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions, period. Period.
When Governor Romney’s asked about it, he said, “We gotta keep these sanctions.” When he said, “Well, you’re talking about doing more,” what are you -- you’re going to go to war? Is that what you want to do?
From there, it seemed there really weren't that many differences between the two sides, apart from Romney's call for more symbolic gestures like a photo-op meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. But Biden had the answer for that, too -- talking about the hour-long substantive conversation Obama and Netanayhu had just before Obama's speech to the UN General Assembly.
On Afghanistan, Ryan managed to both agree with the 2014 timeline for complete U.S. withdrawal, and imply that "President Romney" might change his mind and keep troops there indefinitely. In contrast, Biden was unequivocal: We are leaving, and it's time for the Afghans to step up and patrol their own country.
Side note: That Ryan managed to recite words like "Haqqani" and "Quetta Shura" and "Arghandhab Valley" that his handlers told him to memorize is NOT the same thing as foreign policy experience.
Joe Biden knows foreign policy from decades of intricate involvement. Ryan and Romney have nothing but warmed-over neocon rhetoric courtesy of the Bush Administration flunkies "advising" them.
Biden articulately, sometimes eloquently, sometimes haltingly, but with harder numbers than Ryan, reaffirmed the Democratic Party's principles and the Obama Administation's accomplishments.
Ryan represents the 21st Century GOP, dominated by Tea Party zealots, pseudo-Libertarians and far-right Culture Warriors -- and is the running mate of man with no core principles beyond his personal ambition and no outreach beyond vague platitudes and impossible math, leading a party that thinks stoking resentment towards nearly half of America is a winning strategy.
I loved Biden's incredulous comment "Oh, now you're Jack Kennedy?" Frankly, after this debate it's clear that Rep. Paul Ryan couldn't even fill DAN QUAYLE'S shoes.
Ryan is not ready to be President, any more than Gov. Sarah Palin was in 2008 -- both were bad choices by the Republican candidates, driven entirely by short-term campaign goals. Neither decision was truly "presidential:" Sen. John McCain's deicision was a big part of his defeat; we'll know soon enough if Romney's choice to shore up the "conservative base" has a similar impact.
All President Obama has to do now is NOT be the man we saw in Denver on the 16th and 22nd.
I am glad Secreatry of State Ruth Johnson finally relented on the "citizenship check box" on voter application forms -- thus ending (for now) her open defiance of Gov. Rick Snyder's veto of the bill calling for it. As I've said before: If "voter ID" laws are a good idea, they'll STILL be a good idea for 2014 or 2016. States will have time to establish procedures and set up programs that allow every citizen -- regardless of age, infirmity or ability to pay -- to have a valid form of ID in time for the next election.
Trying to force the issue THIS year, under the pretext that voter impersonation fraud was somehow rampant (as opposed to nearly nonexistent, a tiny fraction of 1% of votes cast) -- is WHY we Democrats were so adamantly opposed. Because it looked, walked and quacked like voter suppression, a deliberate attempt by one party to confuse people and erect new obstacles in the way of our Constitutional right.
That said: If you needed to register to vote and didn't...well, in all likelihood you didn't read this blog post in the first place.
Oh, and according to CNBC, "U.S. consumer sentiment unexpectedly rose to its highest level in five years in October as consumers became more optimistic about the overall economy in a possible boost to President Obama's reelection hopes next month." That's DESPITE GOP obstruction and the way Romney and Ryan talk down the economy every day. Between higher consumer confidence and improving employment figures -- 31 straight months of private-secotr Job growth! -- I'm feeling a little better.