Egads, that was awful. And I do mean awful. Joe Biden’s constant laughing throughout the debate – beyond being annoying, rude, and unprofessional – was obviously coached. We see this in the legal profession with some frequency: litigators who hire coaches to help them act for the jury, in the hopes that the jurors will be swayed by the Academy Award-winning performance, and ignore the evidence. (Or lack thereof.)
It’s already in the annals of campaign debate lore that Naomi Wolf coached Al Gore about how to act like an “alpha male” and “dress in earth tones” during his debates against George W. Bush. And we know how that worked out for him. (Obviously investments were a better career choice than politics.)
Apparently, Joe Biden decided to take a leaf out of the same book. And with the same embarrassing results. One can just hear the conversation taking place prior to the Vice Presidential debate Thursday night:
Acting coach: OK, so the point is to make your opponent look small, young, silly. You want to belittle him. Everyone knows that humor is much more effective than criticism. So we want you to laugh at Paul Ryan every chance you get.
Joe B: You want me to laugh at him?
Joe B: What if the topic is Libya? Our ambassador was murdered in Libya. Three other American diplomatic workers were killed. There are congressional hearings about intelligence lapses even as we speak. I’ve got decades of foreign policy experience; shouldn’t I display gravitas?
Coach: C’mon, this is the American public we’re talking about. They watch shows with laugh tracks all the time. If you laugh, they’ll think it’s funny. Laugh at it.
Joe B: What about the economy? 23 million people are out of work. The unemployment rate is still at 8%. Nobody believes those lower job numbers from last week, and it doesn’t help that they left out the largest state in the country when they reported them. Ryan is going to emphasize their plans for economic recovery. I should laugh?
Coach: You bet. We want you to laugh.
Laura Hollis is an Associate Professional Specialist and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches entrepreneurship and business law. She is the author of the forthcoming publication, “Start Up, Screw Up, Scale Up: What Government Can Learn From the Best Entrepreneurs,” © 2014. Her opinions are her own, and do not reflect the position of the university. Follow her on Twitter: @LauraHollis61.