Joe Biden Asks: Hey, America, Why So Serious?

Posted: Oct 12, 2012 7:34 AM

Well, at least Joe Biden helped Obama keep one campaign promise: He certainly changed the tone of our political debate last night.  Too bad he took it to a disrespectful new low.  Watch and be appalled.  (HT: Correspondent Doug for the Batman reference; update: Jim Geraghty's got it, too -- must be a guy thing?!):

A couple of other observations:

(1) Joe Biden sacrificed his likability in order to try to erase the perception that the Obama-Biden ticket is weak and passive.  He probably could have achieved more of his objectives if he had been tough on the issues but also tried to project an image of avuncular kindness toward Paul Ryan, as if Ryan were a small pup and he the kindly, experienced leader.  His hyper-aggression tipped the audience that the Democrats are on the defensive when it comes to issues, and more than a little bit desperate.  You know Biden's demeanor is a problem if everyone but hard-core Democrats turn off the TV and think, "Is this buffoon really the guy I want in charge if -- God forbid -- it became necessary?" And I suspect more than a few Americans did just that.

(2) It would be interesting to know how the debate played on radio. Notably, a radio news summary (I think on a CBS affiliate) didn't even include a sound-bite from Biden.  This made me realize that his visual antics were so distracting that viewers probably didn't even fully "get" his verbal message (given how unintelligible he often is, perhaps this was part of a master plan?!). I wonder whether he was so blustery and inarticulate that it was difficult to find a good audio clip?

(3) In a sense, Biden's manic performance gives Obama a "Three Bears" problem for his debate next week. Last week, Obama was too passive.  Last night, Biden was too animated, to the point of seeming unhinged.  That means that Obama will have to calibrate his demeanor just right.  Can he do it? He lacks much of Biden's natural charm, and he will be hard pressed to come off assertive without seeming arrogant or domineering.  What's more, the chasm in the ages between Biden and Ryan handicapped Ryan to some extent; he couldn't risk coming across as disrespectful (apparently, that was Biden's job!) to someone so much older.  The gap between the presidential candidates isn't nearly as wide, and so I suspect Romney will have a lot more latitude to push back, so long as he does so assertively, not aggressively.