WASHINGTON, October 12, 2012 – In one of the strangest televised spectacles ever, Vice-president Joe Biden launched into a sustained, ninety-minute laugh attack on his opponent, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan. The occasion was the 2012 Vice-presidential debate, and Biden’s over-the-top performance scored big with the Obama campaign’s discouraged base.
But for American voters on both sides of the aisle and in possession of at least half a brain, Biden’s antics were excruciatingly painful to watch.
Surprising revulsion from MSM, blogosphere
The problem is that virtually no one else beside the foul-mouthed left-wing trolls generally found crawling beneath the swampy, paranoid rocks of “Daily Kos” and “Media Matters” appreciated the Vice-president’s 21st century vaudeville comedy routine very much at all—not even this administration’s heartiest big-media cheerleaders.
An article posted on righty website “HotAir” just after the debate succinctly captured the essence of Biden’s apparent gambit as well as the general audience reaction:
“I expected ‘table-pounding atmospherics’ from Biden but I didn’t expect him to act like a total jackhole for fully 90 minutes. Give him credit for knowing his target audience, though: His task tonight was to get the left excited again after Obama fell into a semi-coma in Denver, and evincing utter disdain for Ryan — grimacing, shouting, laughing inappropriately, constantly interrupting, the total jackhole experience — is just what the doctor ordered…. The Democrats needed someone to go out there and clown for liberals, and if there’s one thing this guy knows, it’s clowning.”
But many on the left as well were left with mouths agape at Biden’s manic performance. Sniped Politico, one of the safest of havens for Journolist-style material:
“Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan were the two candidates on stage at Thursday’s vice presidential debate, but a third character emerged: Joe Biden’s laugh, which didn’t escape the notice of tweeting politicos. (And led, of course, to at least three satirical Twitter accounts:Laughing Joe Biden, Biden Smirk, and yet another Laughing Joe Biden.)”
Politico also cited a variety of related Twitter quips, including this one from a former staffer and (current) Journolist member, BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith: “So did Biden practice laughing at Ryan???” Answer: Likely, yes.
Biden’s nonstop laugh track was offensive enough just in terms of dignity and protocol. Thursday evening’s Class Clown is, after all, just a heartbeat away from the White House, at least until January 20, 2013. So what kind of message was this for the free world? Hardly one to inspire confidence in a time when we all could use a little reassurance that at least one or two adults yet remain in Washington, DC.
Worse yet, however, were key issues that Biden also found uproariously funny. Clearly intending to put down Paul Ryan’s grasp of Middle Eastern affairs—which, we’ve learned lately, the Obama Administration grasps even less—Biden laughed his tush off constantly during exchanges on this topic. Once again, this was something pundits on both sides of the political divide didn’t fail to notice.
Tweeted Weekly Standard’s Mark Hemingway: “Joe Biden’s laughing through talking about Iran sanctions?” Muting considerable anxiety about his candidate’s performance, MSNBC’s S.E. Cupp crisply observed that “Biden needs to laugh a little less through the Libya, Middle East, nuclear Iran segment.”
Via lefty site “Mediaite,” we get this clip of Tom Brokaw shaking his head on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” even as shameless left-wing apologist Mika Brzezinski (daughter of the hapless Jimmy Carter’s hapless Secretary of State Zbigniew Brzezinski) tries to paint a happy face on the Veep’s debacle performance. Brokaw, according to the site, “approached the Vice President’s performance a bit more critically, saying that he simply ‘can’t contain himself’ before pointing to the fact that Biden continued to smirk or laugh while he and Ryan discussed serious, solemn issues like Iran and Libya.”
Spinning away, Brzezinski gave it a go, asking us to disbelieve our eyes by observing, “’I don’t think he was laughing’” but instead “showed that he was ‘amused’ at Ryan’s approach to these issues.”
The former NBC Nightly News anchor shot back, arguing, essentially, that it’s all “about tone… regardless of one’s level of amusement, and he maintained that Biden’s demeanor should have been ‘dialed down’ during discussion about critical, serious matters.”
Via the same website, we also note that “Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace” also “slammed Vice President Joe Biden’s demeanor at Thursday night’s vice presidential debate against GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. Wallace said that he was shocked by how ‘openly contemptuous’ Biden appeared to act towards Ryan and that he thought Biden’s behavior lacked historical precedent.
“’I think I’ve watched almost every presidential and vice presidential debate since the first four Kennedy/Nixon debates in 1960 and, thinking back over the last few minutes, I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen a debate in which one participant was as openly disrespectful of the other as Biden was to Paul Ryan tonight,’ said Wallace.
“’You could talk about the smirks, the smiles, the head shaking, the mugging – it was openly contemptuous and disrespectful,’ Wallace said. He said he was put off by the words as well as the style – calling Ryan’s statements ‘malarkey’ and ‘stuff’ and ‘loose talk.’”
Laughter, derision, condescension, and theatrical smirking aside, the Roman Catholic Bishops, still in shock (and in court) over the Obama Administration’s violation of the First Amendment in its Obamacare pro-abortion dictates, also issued a blistering indictment of Biden’s outright falsehoods when challenged to address the issue. (Link to the essence of their angry rebuttal to the allegedly Catholic Vice-president over at “PowerLine.”)
Generally on-target conservative columnist and commentator Charles Krauthammer summed the whole performance up rather succinctly in the following video clip:
“HotAir” added a rather useful postscript to the media input, adding that, “For what it’s worth, the media lost patience with Biden’s shtick too, but I doubt that’ll cost him anything…. And yes, needless to say, [debate moderator] Raddatz was also terrible. Exit quotation from Greg Gutfeld: ‘Biden is the drunk at the bar; Martha is the unhappy bartender, and Ryan is the unfortunate salesman caught in the middle.’”
What may actually be going on here is the dawning of a realization by the media—President Obama’s tried and true “Amen corner”—that the Democrats’ campaign, never as robust as originally depicted, has been going straight down the tubes since the first presidential debate, won decisively by Mitt Romney. They realize that, while Biden’s antics may have pumped up the Democrats’ base of radical socialists, they probably disgusted all Republicans and the many undecideds that were still sitting on the fence until Wednesday evening.
Our critical take on Biden’s performance
We find ourselves in essential agreement with most of the observations above, save for Brzezinski’s customary and willful cluelessness. Similar to Chris Wallace, we, too, have seen most televised presidential and vice-presidential debates since Kennedy-Nixon, and have never in all those years witnessed an undignified performance of this magnitude. In every way, Joe Biden jumped the shark in this debate in a stupefying, degrading performance that may never be equaled or exceeded again. Take a look at the following clips to see what we mean:
So why did he do it? Anyone who really knows isn’t really saying, but most media veterans have sensed it. It’s clear to us that this was a tactic decided upon after the President’s first-debate debacle and rehearsed to a fare-thee-well by the Vice-president and his sparring partners in the days leading up to his contest with Paul Ryan.
A week or two ago, one conservative blogger warned rather presciently that it would be difficult for Ryan to win this debate no matter how much he studied the issues or how hard he practiced in mock debates. The commentator’s reason was simple: Biden is such a loose cannon, so naturally predisposed to lie, spin, and plagiarize the work and thoughts of others while attempting to pass them off as his own, that it would be almost impossible for a rational individual like Ryan to plan for or predict what would go down during the debate.
Ryan no doubt prepared for every line of attack conceivable. But it’s by no means certain that he, his debate prep people, or his sparring partners could have foreseen the devious tactic that Biden and his handlers had already settled on: belittle and deride every response made by the wonky, serious, would-be Republican veep, cause him to lose focus and fumble, or perhaps even goad him into an wild or incautious infuriated response to Biden’s relentless laugh-attack.
Still smarting from the debacle that occurred in Obama vs. Romney I, it’s also clear that Biden and his debate team would work hard to deprive Ryan of debating time and the ability to slip in concluding remarks. Democrats have long been masters of nonstop talking without taking a breath, never permitting always more-polite Republicans to get more than a word or two in edgewise. So under no circumstances would they ever permit Paul Ryan get up a head of steam in any of his responses, coaching Biden to cut his opponent’s remarks in mid-air whenever possible.
In this, predictably, moderator Martha Raddatz—whose ex-husband has high hopes for a plum position in any Obama II Administration—was happy to assist. She reliably interrupted Ryan with fresh, unrelated questions, cutting him off, and denying him even short concluding statements to her previous queries. She also added lifelines to Biden, again by changing the subject whenever Ryan appeared to be getting the better of the argument. It was similar, though different, to the way Jim Lehrer tried to help the President out in his first debate with Mitt Romney.
Biden, who is free of any sense of shame or dignity, kept up his laugh attack almost without letup throughout the evening, throttling back only during the surprise left curve thrown at both candidates by Raddatz who challenged them on their abortion positions vs. their avowed Roman Catholic beliefs. Immediately, the always-more-serious Ryan scored points here as Biden was loath to laugh uproariously during a discussion of the tenets he purports to believe in.
At several times during the debate—which we watched for the first time via the Internet—we found ourselves turning off the sound, so offensive was Biden’s approach to serious matters. For us, it was the apotheosis of the modern, left-wing Democrat belief system. At the core of this system, which now borders on a secular religion, is the faith-based belief that all Republicans are stupid, evil, greedy, and beneath contempt; and that all Republican beliefs are to be sneered at, belittled, ignored, and banned from public explication or discourse.
The current Democrat political machine very strongly resembles the old Stalinist, Communist propaganda machine. The Party is the only authority. The “truth” is whatever the party says it is. And therefore, anyone advancing an argument in conflict with the Party’s “truth” is to be smeared, slandered, and denounced to the point at which his or her arguments are no longer heard or believed.
Today’s Democrats feel they don’t need to demean themselves by even addressing arguments counter to their own. This, in turn, dictates their constant condescension toward their opponents as evidenced in spades by the kind of smirking, derisive approach Biden took toward a young, earnest opponent who was and is demonstrably smarter than he.
Democrats like Biden, since they rarely have to debate anyone anymore or defend their increasingly outrageous beliefs, are no longer skilled debaters, while Republicans are. The latter, of course, are long-accustomed to defending everything they say, including the articles “the” and “a.” They can debate an issue. The average Democrat cannot.
But the Democrat can and does draw upon a huge quiver of logical fallacies, particularly arguments “ad hominem” to caricature his opponent. The objective—usually successful in a century where a clear majority of constituents no longer have even a passing acquaintance with our Constitution, history, and heritage—it to make his opponent the butt of jokes and laughter, thereby removing him, as well as his ideas, from the arena.
And that’s exactly what the cynical Biden was up to. And he was the perfect guy to do it. Without shame, incapable of genuine remorse, it was nothing to him to play the Class Clown on TV for the edification of his base—increasingly a bunch of juvenile creepy-crawlies whose primary vocabulary consists of variations on the F-word.
But, as we’ve already noted, along with other commentators, Biden’s vulgar ninety-minute sitcom pilot couldn’t have gone over very well among serious types.
So how did Biden really come across to normal people on TV?
We quickly found ourselves almost mesmerized by the Veep’s smirking and shameless mugging during his televised vaudeville show. Consequently, we started free associating, and we began to recall various images as they dashed in and out of our stream of consciousness.
The first thing we recalled were Clint Eastwood’s brief observations concerning Joe Biden that were made during his controversial but highly-effective appearance on the final day of the Republican Convention in Tampa. Let’s recall them by taking a look at this video:
One anonymous blog commentator offered the following observation:
“Did Clint nail this or what?
The Empty chair and the Big grin with a body behind it.
The New Yorker has their next cover.”
(And indeed, that was what the New Yorker used as the basis for its next cover, to our complete amazement.)
But as funny and accurate as Eastwood’s quip was, who knew his pronouncement on Biden would soon take on the prescience and solemnity of the Delphic Oracle. The aging but still spry actor somehow knew what Biden would do in the Vice-presidential debate—hide behind a laugh and a condescending smirk rather than expose his own feeble grasp of reality before the voting public.
Moving on from Eastwood, we found ourselves increasingly unable to focus on the content of Biden’s performance, primarily because it turned out to be a content-free zone, heavy on laughter and inappropriate zingers. For example, at one point, he tried to appropriate Lloyd Benson’s palpable hit on the G.H.W. Bush’s hapless running mate, Dan Quayle by accusing Ryan of not being up to the standard of Jack Kennedy. Except that, unlike Quayle, Ryan had never introduced that comparison at all.
So given the lack of content, we were forced to focus on Biden’s visuals which were so distasteful we found ourselves trying to think back as to when we’d seen similar images in the past.
Our first thoughts turned to the logo on various packaged cheese offered by the Parisian grocery company Fromageries Bel. You’ve seen it before in your Safeway dairy case: La vache qui rit, “The Laughing Cow.” But no, that didn’t work. The cow on these packages is too friendly, too lacking in cynicism.
Ah, perhaps Lewis Carroll had the answer here with his phantasmic, all-knowing, but mildly threatening Cheshire Cat. Maybe. But no, not smug enough. And the Cheshire Cat never clearly hated Alice. He was simply bemused and amused by her slowness to grasp what the cat thought should be obvious. And he always had the good sense to fade away before we, or Alice, had simply had enough of him.
Our synapses next moved to Jack Nicholson. His Joker in the initial “Batman” series of films had that wide, permanently forced grin that at once echoed the circus clown and the grinning psychopath. Nicholson’s Joker, though, was still tough to take seriously as a super-villain. Still too funny, and Heath Ledger’s more chilling reprise was too cunning and intelligent. Neither seemed a good match for Biden, although another Nicholson character—the increasingly insane protagonist in “The Shining”—was perhaps closer to the mark: insane but highly goal directed to kill.
But still no cigar. But between the Joker and “The Shining?” Not quite enough genuinely wild craziness here. Maybe this was indeed more of an animal force we were tuning into. Something like Warner Brothers’ Taz, maybe? Wild and crazy, yes? Out of control? Yes. But we needed something more in our evolving image, something, perhaps, that lacked soul or intelligence.
This writer finally hit the metaphorical mark when he moved on from Taz and recalled a favorite negative observation made by his old man some time in the 1950s. Dad hated it when he’d encounter this or that cadre of know-nothing low-life types. Whether on TV or on a street corner, these were blustery, uneducated types who snarked, laughed, and sneered at pretty much anything they didn’t know very much about.
Often young, occasionally older but still clueless, these characters tended to resemble TV’s subnormal pair of animated dumbbell adolescents, Beavis and Butthead. Dad called them “laughing hyenas” and couldn’t stomach their lack of intellect and their essential, aggressive incuriosity about life and work in general.
“Laughing hyenas.” Now there’s a metaphor that works. Laughing hyenas when you get down to it aren’t funny, really. They chortle, snort, sneer and do seem to laugh uproariously as they look you in the eyes and see only dinner. And maybe they are laughing, since you’re not in on the joke. At any rate, their outward activities and vocal expressions are primal, not thought out, and not based on any rational theory of the world. They are disturbing, threatening creatures. They want you dead. And maybe on some level, they think that’s funny, too.
Whatever the case, once having established, stalked, killed, and consumed their prey, our pack of hyenas moves on without reflection or remorse. Next.
That’s what finally inspired our headline illustration, PhotoShopped, perhaps somewhat crudely, onto an actual AP image from Thursday’s debate. It’s an icon for our times: one-dimensional predatory threat display disguised as hilarity vs. earnest, problem solving sincerity. Our fundamentally unserious Vice-president-as-laughing-hyena tracks closely, we suspect, with how Joe Biden and his performance were likely viewed by the few remaining true undecided voters in this election season. It’s quite literally what we ourselves took from this debate. Perhaps you were reminded of something similarly distasteful.
Unless President Obama pulls a Lazarus or two in his final televised debates—which will probably require a big assist from a hitherto compliant but now nervous media—Joe Biden’s haunting, hyena-like visage may very well have sealed this Administration’s electoral doom. The media is already beginning to hedge its bets and Thursday didn’t help. They remember what it was like when their candidate, that awful one-percenter John Kerry, took a pretty fair “surprise” drubbing at the hands of George W. Bushitler in 2004. The MSM hates to get egg on its collective face by backing a loser. And after the first two debates, it’s beginning to look like 2004 all over again to many of them.
It’s difficult to take an administration seriously when it fails to take itself or its opposition seriously, not to mention the endless and ongoing domestic and international messes in which we’re currently embroiled. But that’s exactly what came across on Thursday evening TV loud and clear.
Having already jumped the shark, Joe can’t say it ain’t so.
Read more of Terry’s news and reviews at Curtain Up! in the Entertain Us neighborhood of the Washington Times Communities. For Terry’s investing and political insights, visit his Communities columns, The Prudent Man and Morning Market Maven, in Business.
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