This year’s vice presidential debate was more interesting than most because of Mitt Romney’s choice of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as his running mate. It shows the wisdom of Mitt Romney and the depth of the Republican team.
After President Obama’s poor showing in the first debate, Vice President Biden was under pressure to perform well. Ryan’s calm, measured performance was about what I expected; he brought data to the table and argued his points clearly, forcefully and politely.
Biden was hopelessly outmatched on the budget; his party has submitted trillion dollar deficit budgets during all four years when they had promised to cut the deficit. Candidate Obama criticized President Bush as “irresponsible and unpatriotic” for adding $4 Trillion to America’s $5 Trillion debt during his eight years in office. President Obama has added another $5 Trillion in just 40 months.
Two radically different views of foreign policy were discussed as well as two different visions for America’s domestic policy and future prosperity.
Biden did surprisingly well defending the policies of his boss, which have been described as the foreign policy of Jimmy Carter and the domestic policy of Franklin Roosevelt. Most economists now agree that FDR’s policies prolonged the Great Depression, and President Obama’s are doing the same for the Great Recession. (Harsher critics have called his policies like those of the naïve Nazi appeaser British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Marxist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.)
However, the way Biden defended Obama was also surprising; it may fire up the liberal base but is unlikely to win over many discerning undecided voters.
Dripping with Disrespect
In contrast to the polite Ryan, Biden was very insulting. He followed his script pretty well, calling Ryan “my friend” at least thirteen times. He used words like bluster, loose talk (three times), slipshod comments etc. He only had half a dozen stumblings, not bad for a man who is known for gaffes. He quickly corrected himself when he started to call Governor Romney “my friend,” leaving that for Ryan and one other world leader.
The most shocking disrespect was calling Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu repeatedly by his nickname: “Bibi has been my friend for 39 years.” It fits with how his boss has treated Netanyahu, lecturing him, keeping him waiting, backing the lone democracy in the region with toothless words while telling it to play nice with a country that wants to wipe it off the map, etc. Apparently “my friend” is reserved for political opponents, not true friends in Biden-speak.
Paul Ryan translated “a bunch of stuff” into “malarkey, he’s Irish” for the benefit of the moderator, who might have also felt lectured to, since Biden was sometimes angrily shaking his finger at her and demanding equal speaking time (he actually talked a little more than Ryan).
Joe Biden insulted the Afghans (his tone as he said: “The only way they step up is say, fellas, we’re leaving; we’ve trained you; step up. Step up.”), the Israelis, and of course the obstructionist Republicans for blocking progress. About the only people he didn’t insult were the Iranians, Libyans, Syrians, and fellow Democrats.
Congressman Ryan a welcome contrast
In contrast, Paul Ryan never once was disrespectful, criticizing only policies, not people. In fact, I only remember him directly addressing Biden once in the closing remarks: “I want to thank you, Joe. It’s been an honor to engage in this critical debate. We face a very big choice. What kind of country are we going to be? What kind of country are we going to give our kids? President Obama -- he had his chance. He made his choices.”
Ryan did quote Obama: “And then I would say, you have a president who ran for president four years ago promising hope and change who has now turned his campaign into attack, blame and defame. You see, if you don’t have a good record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone to run from. That was what President Obama said in 2008. It’s what he’s doing right now.”
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have fresh ideas and a plan. Ryan in response to Obama’s broken promise of no tax increases for the middle class: “Twelve of twenty-one tax increases in Obamacare hit the middle class.”
“The president likes to say he has a plan. He gave a speech. We asked his budget office, can we see the plan? They sent us to this press secretary. He gave us a copy of the speech. We asked the Congressional Budget Office, tell us what President Obama’s plan is to prevent a debt crisis. They said, it’s a speech; we can’t estimate speeches. You see? That’s what we get in this administration: speeches. But we’re not getting leadership.”
Mocking Smiles and Snorts
Biden repeatedly flashed a beautiful smile in disagreement over serious issues like the security lapses surrounding the brutal murder of four of our citizens in Libya, guffawed and interrupted Ryan and the moderator frequently. She had her hands full and was criticized later for not keeping him in line. Some women later described Biden as acting like their belligerent, insensitive ex-husbands, so I don’t fault Martha Raddatz.
Deep-seated Disdain for Other Views
The above comments about Biden are mostly about style and can be shrugged off if one is used to shaming behavior, commonly applied to control people. Just ask Martin Howrylak, who received personal attacks from his political opponents for twelve years on the Troy City Council. Howrylak brushed off the illegitimate shame and focused on delivering on his promises, eventually accomplishing all eight of the original ideas he had on his platform when he ran for council in 2000.
More problematic is the Obama Administration’s demonizing of social conservatives. At the 2012 Democratic convention, the pro-abortion language was changed from the long-standing “keep abortion safe, legal and rare” to “a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of her ability to pay.”
Gone is the common ground where pro-life people could try to work with reluctant pro-choice people to keep abortion rare by promoting adoption, ultra-sounds, informed choice, parental consent, etc. Now the Democrat platform includes taxpayer subsidy of abortions as well as continued subsidy of Planned Parenthood and other radical pro-abortion groups around the world. (Yes, the nation’s largest abortion provider, despite its misleading name, deserves to be given its freedom from federal subsidies.)
The disdain came out toward the end of the debate when Martha Raddatz asked the candidates how their faith informed their positions on abortion. Here are excerpts:
Two Catholic Candidates
Ryan: I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, about how to make sure that people have a chance in life.
Now, you want to ask why I’m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course, but it’s also because of reason and science. You know, I think about 10 1/2 years ago, my wife Janna and I went to Mercy Hospital in Janesville where I was born for our seven-week ultrasound for our firstborn child, and we saw that heartbeat. Our little baby was in the shape of a bean, and to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child, Liza, “Bean.”
Now, I believe that life begins at conception.
That’s why -- those are the reasons why I’m pro-life.
Now, I understand this is a difficult issue. And I respect people who don’t agree with me on this. But the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortion with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.
What troubles me more is how this administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they’re doing through “Obamacare” with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They’re infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals. Our church should not have to sue our federal government to maintain their religious -- religious liberties.
And with respect to abortion, the Democratic Party used to say they want it to be safe, legal and rare. Now they support it without restriction and with taxpayer funding, taxpayer funding in “Obamacare,” taxpayer funding with foreign aid. The vice president himself went to China and said that he sympathized or wouldn’t second- guess their one-child policy of forced abortions and sterilizations. That, to me, is pretty extreme.
Biden: My religion defines who I am. And I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who -- who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.
With regard to -- with regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a -- what we call de fide. Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.
But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and -- I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman.
I -- I do not believe that -- that we have a right to tell other people that women, they -- they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor, in my view. And the Supreme Court -- I’m not going to interfere with that.
With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy -- any hospital -- none has to either refer contraception. None has to pay for contraception. None has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.
(Quickly dodging the question to a separate issue: helping the poor. We have the moral right to make laws against murder and stealing. Those are prohibited in the Ten Commandments. Lumping Muslims into the mix shows a profound lack of understanding of their views on abortion and homosexuality.)
Ms. Raddatz: I want to go back to the abortion question here. If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?
Ryan: We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people, through their elected representatives and reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process, should make this determination.
Biden: We picked two people. We picked people who are open-minded. They’ve been good justices. So keep an eye on the Supreme Court --
Ryan: Was there a litmus test on them?
Biden: There was no litmus test. We picked people who had an open mind, did not come with an agenda. We picked people for the Supreme Court who will serve with an open mind.
(An open mind to vote for abortion on demand, that is.)
Foreign and domestic policy debates pale in comparison to the misrepresentations and demonizations about a difficult and divisive social issue like abortion. Ryan showed respect for the other position, while Biden demonized it.
There are liberal (big government) and conservative (small government) Republicans with both opinions on abortion and homosexual marriage. In contrast, Democrats have pushed all the pro-life and pro-traditional marriage people aside, strengthening the pro-abortion plank in their party platform. Republicans have far more tolerance for different points of view than Democrats.
When was the last time a pro-life Democrat spoke at a Democratic convention? Yet millions of pro-life Democrats continue to wrestle with their conscience and their care for the poor each election. Maybe they will eventually realize that small government principles help the poor by providing them opportunities to help themselves.
At conception, new DNA; every abortion stops a beating heart
I vote for principles and individuals, not parties and am tired of being portrayed as an extremist by people whose views are more extreme than mine, especially on social issues like abortion that are pretty cut and dried. You can’t be half pregnant.
Once conceived (egg meets sperm), the baby has its own DNA. Every abortion stops a beating heart. Aborted babies exit the birth canal, as do live ones. Whether a child is wanted or not does not change its status as a human being. When does an expectant mother ever refer to her fetus?
Pro-life people have been demonized, shouted down and mocked for praying to end abortion. We draw the line at being forced to pay for abortifacient drugs against our conscience.
Many self-insured Catholic hospitals and businesses have been forced to provide contraception and abortifacients as an employee benefit. That's why they and dozens of other institutions (including Wheaton College, a respected evangelical Protestant school) have filed lawsuits.
The Obama administration either does not understand the pro-life position or does not respect it.
The Tide is Turning
For the first time since Roe v. Wade, a majority of Americans now describe themselves as pro-life. A higher percentage of younger Americans are pro-life, this trend will continue as baby boomers age and are influenced by their kids.
Like Mitt Romney, I once was pro-choice, so I understand the other point of view and respect it. I first heard pro-life arguments in my mid-twenties when I was quickly convinced that pro-choice arguments are based on emotion and exceptions, not logic. My pro-life views center on science and logic; my Christian faith and the Bible confirm it.
The economy and foreign policy are the two major issues that will shape the election, but respect for other beliefs is also important and defines what kind of country we pass on to the next generation. We dare not pass them a mountain of debt and a weaker country where minority or majority views are stomped on.