What Biden must do
October 11th, 2012
10:07 AM ET

What Biden must do

By Fareed Zakaria

The conventional wisdom following last week’s presidential debate was that President Obama performed badly. I think that’s a fair reflection of what happened. It is still inexplicable to me why the president was so passive, why he did not bring up issues such as Romney’s 47 percent comment or the auto bailout or explain the popular provisions in the Obama health care bill. But for whatever reason, perform badly he did.

But the lessons for Joe Biden – as he thinks about his upcoming debate with Paul Ryan – derive less from watching Obama than from watching Romney. Romney had one of the best performances I can remember watching in a presidential debate ever – it was punchy, intelligent, empathetic. There is no question there were substantive problems, most notably the fact that Romney’s tax plan simply doesn’t add up – he cannot do a 20 percent tax rate cut while also retaining all the big deductions for most people without massively adding to the deficit. He certainly can’t do it while also promising to maintain Medicare and Social Security as is for current retirees. But Romney was good enough that he was able to convincingly argue that 2 plus 2 equals 5.

Ryan is like Romney in one sense, and this is a very different Republican team to the kind Democrats are used to facing. For the last several decades, the Democrats have been up against Republican politicians who had a certain resonance with the country, but were not really policy wonks. Instead, it was often the Democrats who were smart at policy – it was Democrats who understood the fine details. They would find themselves up against Republicans whose strengths were different – a rhetorical gift or a likeability factor. Think about Ronald Reagan, for example. Or take George W. Bush. Even George H. W. Bush and John McCain seemed inarticulate or uncomfortable when dealing with specific policy issues.

Obama on debate: I had a bad night

This time, you have a Republican ticket that is steeped in public policy – and knows how to articulate ideas. Romney’s entire training in the private sector primes him for these kinds of debates. After all, what do management consultants do? They provide crisp, compelling presentations on what a problem is and what their solution would be.

Paul Ryan, meanwhile, is comfortable with detailed policy discussions and is used to defending his ideas in Congress and in the media and coping with back and forth questioning on these issues.

Obama and Biden on the other hand have been in their respective presidential and vice presidential bubbles for the last four years and have simply not had to defend their positions in the same way – they are more used to staff meetings (over which they preside), campaign rallies (where they meet adoring crowds) or fundraisers (where they meet adoring donors).

If Vice President Biden wants to improve on the president’s performance last week and reenergize a dispirited Democrat base, he will need to recognize that the Republican ticket he is facing is quite different – and in this sense better – than virtually any before.

 


soundoff (257 Responses)
  1. Senior, too

    I'm a senior citizen and Medicare has worked just fine for me now for over 5 years. What is not working so well, is the supplemental Medicare Advantage policy I changed to last year. The terminology makes it sound as if I have no deductible , but in reality I seem to be making that up, and then some, in co-pays for doctors and drugs. It is, of course, being administered by an insurance company. I am a very healthy senior but If i stay on this plan, I can't imagine how much it will cost me if I really get sick!!! Go Joe!

    October 11, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Reply
  2. Rick

    What Biden has to do is tell some better lies,,,

    October 11, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Reply
  3. Rick

    Bisen is a Joke...

    October 11, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Reply
  4. Howard Feinski

    Does Biden have 35 years experience or 1 year of experience thirty-five times over?

    October 11, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  5. SM McMahon

    Old people aren't foolish. Most of them aren't all that healthy, either.

    Everyone should realize that if Republicans repeal "Obamacare" and Romney/Ryan went ahead with the voucher system than about 90% of Medicare eligible folks would be totally BEREFT!

    Try going out at age 70 to buy yourself some health insurance with your stinking voucher. So you've got high blood pressure, prostate cancer, osteoporosis or heart disease. Sorry, that's a pre-existing condition which WOULD have been covered under Obamacare, but no longer. We're sorry, but your medications won't be covered, either. And be happy because you didn't have to go before any death panel to arrive at this sorry state.

    I think we have to live with a fact about the GOP. The party cannot ever tell people, even their supporters, at least the ones that aren't millionaires, what they will actually do if they have the chance. If they did, they would never elect another Republican to national office. They get away with it in some congressional districts – the ones gerrymandered to the point of idiocy. But, not with most Senate races and definitely not for President.

    Consequently the GOP must lie, obfuscate and demonize the opponent to elect a President. We get lies about them wanting to preserve Medicare. They can't tell the truth – they want to eliminate it, they always have. They can't tell the truth about lowering taxes for the wealthy – it's not about creating jobs, it's about taking care of their big donors. They can't tell the truth about global warming – they know it's happening, they don't care because any action to save the planet would hurt profits. They can't tell the truth about spending – they are not against spending, they just want to spend on the military and their corporate sponsors. The can't tell the truth about the size of government – they don't want a small government, they want a government so big it can police every womb.

    To elect a President, Republicans have to lie because no one in their right mind would buy what they are actually selling.

    And to the comment that their plan would only affect those under 55 (changed,as a "concession"), well, I'm under 55 (just) and after paying into the plan for the past 35 years, I object, and my parents are not that selfish to not object its effect on their children and grandchildren.

    October 11, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Reply
  6. Senior, too

    It occurs to me to wonder how many congressional republicans over 65 are now enjoying Medicare plus their own job benefits? Yet, they want to do away with Medicare? Isn't that a bit of a conflict?

    October 11, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Reply
  7. Muin

    Senator Biden was with reagan, oneil to make all the deals. He proved that he's very knowledgeable about every single issue. He proved that he doesn't need lecture from anyone about domestic or foreign policy issues which is good.

    October 12, 2012 at 6:21 am | Reply
  8. Timmy Suckle

    I kissed my way up to VP at a health insurance company. Now I take over $500,000 of your health care dollars for NO VALUE ADDED to your health care. And that’s just me. Now think about how many other VPs, Directors, Managers, etc. are at my company alone. Now multiply that by thousands of others at hundreds of other health insurance companies. From 10 to 25% of your health care dollars go towards administration that adds NO VALUE to your health care. But my company’s PAC dollars will continue to fool you little people into thinking that a single payer system will be bad. Little people like you are so easy to fool. Little people also don’t realize that a single payer system is the ONLY system that would allow little people (as an entire country) to negotiate better health care prices. Little people don’t realize that the Medical Cartels already know that. And that is the reason why the Medical Cartels spend so much PAC money from the hospitals and doctors lobbying against a single payer system. Some little people say that a single payer system would cost you little people more. But if that were true, then wouldn’t the hospitals and doctors WANT that extra money? Yes they would. So why do the Medical Cartels lobby against a single payer system? It’s because the Medical Cartels know it would allow little people to negotiate better health care prices. And that’s what the Medical Cartels are afraid of. Period.
    But us big wigs at insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmacy companies don’t ever need to worry about health care no matter what it costs. We get our health care paid for one way or another by you little people. And we get the little people that work at our companies to contribute to our PACs. And us big wigs say it’s to protect the little peoples’ jobs. But in reality it would be in the little peoples’ best interest to NOT contribute to the PAC. Again, little people are so easy to be fooled. I won’t ever have to worry about losing my job with so many little people being brain washed by the Medical Cartels’ PAC money. Not only that, the Medical Cartels’ PAC money is used to elect so many republicans that will never allow a single payer system. Republicans have always fought against any meaningful health care reform. But that’s what our Medical Cartels’ PACs pay them for. Politicians can be bought so easily.
    Pretty soon the only people that will be able to afford health care is us big wigs. And that’s the way it should be. We don’t want you little people using up the resources when we need them. And once again, I thank you little people for capping my SS tax at the $106,800 level. Now I only pay 1.3% SS tax and you little people pay 6.2%. Also, thank you for extending my tax breaks. I’m using the extra money on my vacation houses.

    October 12, 2012 at 10:12 am | Reply
  9. johnny

    The latest election news surprised even me! American early voters have given President Obama a 10% lead over Mitt Romney.

    But what is more surprising to me is I cannot find any Wall street medias rent even talking about that! I think most Wall Street execs and the bankers are diehard anti-Obama.

    October 15, 2012 at 12:27 am | Reply
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