While most people were willing to hand the first Presidential debate to Romney on "style" alone, they weren't willing to afford the same consideration to Vice-President Biden, in his stylistic beating of his much younger Republican opponent, Paul Ryan.
Whereas Ryan's recitation of the Romney talking points was pretty much the same rhetoric we heard from Mitt last week, the reception those words got from the Democratic opponent was entirely different last night. Vice-President Joe Biden wasted no time, opening his gun ports, and blasting Ryan with a one-word refutation—malarkey!—that became a filter for everything Ryan said, and Biden reacted to, the rest of the debate.
And it was Biden's reactions, his dismissive and often derisive expressions that glossed a great deal of Ryan's effort to look statesmanlike and knowledgable, that bothered conservatives particularly. It is just very difficult to be taken seriously, when you have the Vice-President of the United States reacting as if everything you're saying belonged in a barroom bluster-bout, and not a presidential-level debate. Ryan's smugly sincere face begs to be hit with a pie anyway, and instead of that, Biden plastered the Wisconsin Congressman with laughter, and solid, data-driven, contradictions to what Ryan was claiming.
Maybe the most telling moment came when Ryan's effort to demonize Obama's stimulus spending, got hijacked completely when Biden pointed out that Congressman Ryan is a dirty little hypocrite, who in letters sent to the government on behalf of constituents, had praised the benefits of stimulus spending, and had of course been trying to get stimulus money for years (including back in the Bush years).
Asked about this in a followup by moderator Martha Raddatz, Ryan acknowledged the Vice-President had nailed him, and meekly confessed: "That's what we do."
In other words, spew malarkey.
And that is a big reason Biden looked the way he did. As the New York Times, one of the few MSM outlets to view the debate as a clear Biden victory, put it:
"Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. would not sit still for a parade of misleading and often blatantly untruthful descriptions of the state of the economy and the Republican prescriptions for it. Though his grins and head-shakes were often distracting, he did not hesitate to interrupt and demand an end to 'malarkey'.”Meanwhile, one of the Times' conservatives (but the word "squishy" is particularly apt in his case), David Brooks, tried to paint the whole evening as the failure of two generations to communicate. Naturally, Brooks, who identifies with the younger generation that includes Ryan, felt the Republican had been true to the Alex P. Keaton ideal Brooks claims is the model for successful, educated Gen X'ers. Meanwhile, Brooks dismissed the Vice-President as an overly emotional dinosaur—actually Brooks compared him to the lovable dimwit in The Honeymooners, sewer worker Ed Norton.
This contrast is interesting because, unlike Ryan, who exudes the creepiest aura of utter insincerity, Alex P. Keaton had personal integrity, given to him by his ex-hippie liberal parents. And the joke (and also the interesting thing) about Ed Norton was that, regardless of what other people thought about him, and his job, his spirit and self-esteem were always high-flying.
Of course, Brooks' comparison is silly. Ryan is no Alex P. Keaton, and Vice-President Biden is definitely no Ed Norton. While whining about how Biden showed his age by not giving voters "a more respectful brand of politics", Brooks said the remedy to this discourtesy he imagined his correspondents would want is "delivering some punches to Biden" and to do this for weeks!
Brooks, who often seems quite alienated from the art of clear writing, did not tell us the political affiliation of these prospective Biden punchers. But most Democrats woke up this morning in a mood to fully embrace what Biden did to Ryan, and especially the style in which he did it. Most Democrats hope President Obama can, as one person said, get a case of whatever it was Biden was drinking.