Civil Discourse Now

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Veep "debate" prediction: Biden by 7 1/2.

   Okay, this Thursday, at 9 p.m., is another "debate." Vice President Joe Biden will debate U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for V.P. The location of the debate is Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. The moderator is Martha Raddatz, ABC senior foreign affairs correspondent. The topics are all things foreign and domestic. After all, this is the only Veep debate.

   I shall return to my formula for how to score debates as used for last week’s "first" presidential round.

   As I said last week, in high school and college debate, ballots had six areas, each awarded five points, for a total of 30 points possible per speaker. I heard a commentator on John Fugelsang’s show suggest these "debates" should use college format. I doubt, however, that most people in the television audience would want to hear people speak at a pace of 200-220 words per minute (to squeeze as many arguments as possible into a 10-minute speech; it’s called "spread" in debate).

   Here are the areas by which I will judge.

   Delivery: Both men seem to have decent deliveries, no doubt from years of public speaking. I will look for hesitations and audible pauses. This might seem technical, but it is an aspect of how the message is conveyed. If someone cannot be understood, the message is impaired. Also, when a speaker slips into what she or he believes is a down-home drawl or attempts to employ street language—cringe! Gag!

   Responsiveness to questions: This, again, is the "duck" factor. Every time one of the candidates answers a question with a non-answer, that is a duck. A person does not answer a question when that person simply tries to spin it into his or her talking points. Usually candidates waddle into and out of "debates," so we will see how this goes. Ryan had a big mallard last about 10 days ago when he said the math on his budget would take too much time to explain.

   Evidence: Let’s hear facts, not anecdotes. Joe O’Biden (the Sarah Palin form of the Vice President’s name) usually is chock-full of anecdotes. I shall wince at each use of an anecdote and score downward accordingly.

   Demeanor: Ronald Reagan (whom I usually do not quote for a positive statement, but for this, okay, I’ll paraphrase) said TV is a mostly appearance, some sound, and a little content. This is a "debate" between candidates for Vice President. They do not have to look so much "presidential" as avoid the appearance of hatchet men. 

   Organization: Again, this is not a college debate round, in which we used flow sheets to chart our opponents’ arguments. Still, organization is important. President Obama rambled last week. (I think he might have had to deal with a wife who was pissed off that he had scheduled a debate on their anniversary, and she was sitting on the front row. "You’re the President. You couldn’t get this one lousy debate set on another day?")

   Gaffes: Biden’s known for these. However, Ryan can step in the cow pile once in a while, too. If you notice each man has a string tied to one finger—Staff reminder: no gaffes—do not be surprised. Each of these men will focus so much on the jugular vein of the other, we might not hear any gaffes. Gaffes largely are products of an idle, rambling mind. These two guys will be out for blood. Biden wants to re-capture points Obama lost. Ryan wants to make sure people know him for him, not as Number Two. (Interpret the Number Two bit however you wish.)

   The big factor in last week’s debate was the failure of one candidate—President Obama—to hit the weak points of his opponent. I may be wrong in my assessment (after all, I am a Cubs fan), but failure to focus on targets should not be a problem this week. Each of these two men, at times, displays the characteristics of a rabid wolverine. Each will sniff for the other’s rhetorical blood and pounce. 

   My prediction: Biden has the experience. Ryan is a frat boy (so was I) who has gotten by on a captive audience. He is adored by the right wing people who dominate his audiences. I think we shall witness forensic carnage. My pick: Biden by 7 ½. Of course, I picked the President by 5 ½. Maybe that dooms Biden. We shall see.




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Comment by Kurt Lorey on October 9, 2012 at 5:02am

Let's hear your definition of political gaffe then. I can't contradict you unless I know your frame of reference.

"if you listen closely"? Do you mean, by placing your own interpretation upon his words? A context that only exists in your mind? Please explain that further, for clarity's sake.

"He never said that"? That is the lawyer talking. If he implied it, he said it. It's called "code-talking", I think.

Re; Rage Against the Machine. Now don't you think he was just trying to sound artificially hip? Do you even know what that band sounds like? Aren't you imposing your own intrepretation on something for which you have no context? Have a listen, then come back and discuss.

Railing against something, then taking advantage of it when you lose in politics is hypocrisy in action. Whatever happened to principles in action. Out your window, I guess. Because that is the same as, "But Mom, everybody else is doing it".


Better than ANYONE? Do you have any shred of evidence to back up that ridiculously pompous statement? Same with the IQ comparison. "Pretty sure", "certainly"? Evidence, have any? Without any evidence, your statements are simply empty bluster. What next? Mike Pence - Sooper Jenius?

And here's one more thought. "Knowing numbers" and understanding what those numbers mean might be mutually exclusive concepts. I too, could spout off strings of non-contextual, large numbers in a speech. Does that make me an economist? No. A mathematician? No. Rocket Scientist, perhaps? Again, no.

Comment by Paul K. Ogden on October 8, 2012 at 11:58pm

Kurt, none of those qualify as "gaffes," at least not how that term is defined.  Nor are they accurate.  If you listen closely to what Ryan says, he never said the plant in his district closed under Obama's watch. From the context, that was the implication, but he never said that.  As far as "Rage Against the Machine" goes, I think Ryan can like any band he wants. And there is nothing at all inconsistent with arguing against the passage of a stimulus as national policy, but then once that policy is adopted, asking for his district's share of the money.

Ryan knows the numbers about the national debt and pending entitlement disaster better than anyone.  He's HONEST about the situation, which I don't think makes him a "doctrinaire."  As far as IQ goes, I'm pretty sure Ryan's is pretty high and is certainly higher than Biden's.

Comment by Kurt Lorey on October 8, 2012 at 3:04pm

Ryan gaffes? How about the "Obama closed a plant in my district in 2008"? Or, how about claiming that "Rage Against the Machine" is one of his "favorite groups" (since Ryan IS one of the machines)? Or, how about asking for stimulus monies, then later lambasting the stimulus package?


Regarding your opinion that Paul Ryan is an "intellectual", in the words of the inimitable Inigo Montoya, "I do not think that word means what you think it does". He may have an IQ over 100, but he isn't an intellectual. Not by a long shot. Pernicious doctrinaire, I'm thinking is a better description. And, Republican and intellectual don't go together anymore. Haven't for more than a decade. The doctrinaires drove them out in a fit of anti-intellectualism. Look at Indiana, for example. All gone.

Still, I agree that being smart doesn't automatically improve one's intrinsic debating abilities. In fact, I might posit that the format of these "debates" actually favors the candidate who cannot think so well. Less to distract them from their script.

Comment by Paul K. Ogden on October 8, 2012 at 10:53am

What gaffe has Ryan ever uttered?  His saying the math on the budget would take too long to explainin a media soundbite is 100% correct.

Ryan is an intellectual.  Biden has about 50% of his intelligence.   Intelligence doesn't make a person the better debater, however.  After all, weren't you a good debater, Mark?

Ryan's negative is that he has a tendency to be brutally honest about the numbers.

I do join you though in trying to raise expectations for Biden.  I think Biden, who is much more seasoned, will win the debate by a 1000 points.


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