Watching the Vice-Presidential Debate — with the Sound Off

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Charlie Neibergall / AP

Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin shake hands before the vice presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky., on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012.

I watched the first presidential debate on mute, and the candidates’ body language was telling, just like the debate experts say it should be. So I decided to not listen to anything the vice presidential candidates said either. Surely the visual cues of two completely different candidates arguing in completely different wardrobes would provide new depths of insight into American politics. Plus, if Paul Ryan decided to roll up his sleeves and just let his biceps do the talking—clearly an ace up his sleeve—I wouldn’t miss a thing. 

Pundits were atwitter about potential visual cues on the day of the debate. A CNN interviewee said that Joe Biden needed to appear “aggressive … without seeming overly aggressive.” An ABC news anchor warned that Biden might look “old and tired” next to a younger, fresher face like Ryan’s. A North Virginia image consultant explained how powerful the debaters’ suit colors could be. Navy blue, she told Patch, is the standard for appearing “authoritative, trustworthy and credible.” After a careful study of the color wheel, I concluded that if either candidate came on stage in a yellow-orange suit, that would be a big mistake.

As Biden and Ryan met on stage in Danville, Ky., both men forcefully executed a handshake and shoulder-grab combo. For a moment it seemed like the “Thrill in the ‘Ville” might turn into a real wrestling match. But it was not to be. The foes disengaged and took their seats at the table. Biden wore a blue tie with dark stripes, in Democratic solidarity with Obama. Ryan sported a red tie with blue stripes, scoring bipartisan points. Both men had clearly been briefed on suit colors.

(PHOTOS: Political Pictures of the Week, Oct. 5–11)

Like Romney did in his first debate, Ryan wore a much larger flag pin on his lapel than his Democratic counterpart. “He may be a fiscal conservative,” the accessory said, “but the flag-pin shop ain’t no place for skimping.”

A table debate might seem less visually interesting than a lectern debate. It’s not. The format forces the seated foes into close-quarters combat. From the outset, both men power-stared and smirked while the other was talking. While Ryan’s glances communicated skepticism, Biden’s vaulted into the realm of wild incredulousness—as if he’d prepared for the debate by arguing with someone who was convinced the world is flat.

As Ryan spoke, Biden shook his head in disbelief. He threw his hands in the air. He (more frequently) tried to interrupt. He peered conspiratorially into the camera, as if to say “Can you believe this guy?” And most of all, he laughed and smiled. He smiled like someone was under the table tickling him and it was all he could do not to fall out of his chair.

Biden’s demeanor wasn’t completely oafish. It conveyed a sense of command. Without knowing what was said, I can say Biden looked like a jerk, but he also looked like a pro. He looked dismissive, but he also looked comfortable. Biden looked old too, as ABC News had feared. His white wisps of hair were clearly receding. Next door, Ryan’s mane was dark and full. But the elder debater didn’t lack for energy and kept up with the boyish Ryan.

Toward the end, the questions and answers seemed to get more serious. Biden’s smiles became infrequent. Moderator Martha Raddatz seemed to be breaking terrible news to the candidates. Only during this straight-faced part did I really start to appreciate how much more entertaining the silent vice presidential debate had been than the silent presidential one. Based on body language alone, Biden’s performance took the cake–if only because it was so hard to look away from him. But both candidates seemed deeply engaged, and so was I.

62 comments
LevonTostig
LevonTostig

"Plus, if Paul Ryan decided to roll up his sleeves and just let his biceps do the talking—clearly an ace up his sleeve—I wouldn’t miss a thing."

Writing like that is why women aren't taken seriously.

Benevolent_Lawyer
Benevolent_Lawyer

  Unemployment, in St. Reagan's first term:

 

1981 7.5 7.4 7.4 7.2 7.5 7.5 7.2 7.4 7.6 7.9 8.3 8.5

 

1982 8.6 8.9 9.0 9.3 9.4 9.6 9.8 9.8 10.1 10.4 10.8

10.8  

1983 10.4 10.4 10.3 10.2 10.1 10.1 9.4 9.5 9.2 8.8

8.5 8.3  

1984 8.0 7.8 7.8 7.7 7.4 7.2 7.5 7.5 7.3 7.4 

 

St. Reagan was a failure, as president.

Orakl
Orakl

I read the debate on transcript format. Very revealing. Ryan was not only dodging and stonewalling, but was indeed saying a bunch of irrelevant stuff. Take a read and think about what he said. It makes no sense.  Romney Ryan ticket wants all Americans to simply trust them and donate our vote!  Ramp;R wants a war with Iran. They want to define America as a Christian nation. They want to send everyone back to the mercy of insurance cos. They want to overturn RoeVsWade. They want income tax-cuts for top 1%. They want corp tax cuts for business. They want smaller govt but higher military spending, forget that the US already outspends the next 10 nations with largest military spend.  They want to cut aids and grants to education and send kids shopping for schools with vouchers. They'd be happy to shut the borders to immigration and trade. They want to privatize soc security for young folks so the young can gamble their retirement away speculating in the stock market and end up on the streets at 60. They want to close medicare and medicaid, 'coz no one would die for lacking health insurance anyways! ......  Eight years of Bush had destroyed this country enough. If we voted for Romney and Ryan, the destruction would well become irreversible. Americans need to wake up and smell the coffee before it evaporates completely.

Brad Hunt
Brad Hunt

"But both candidates seemed deeply engaged, and so was I."  Um, no, you were watching it with the sound off.  That is the opposite of engaged.  

Lars_the_pianist
Lars_the_pianist

Personally - at this point in time - I wish I could listen to the rest of the campaign with the sound off.   

Mitt "Mr. Flip-Flop" Romney approves any message that he thinks will work.   (Abortion in Ames - I didn't really believe those things I said about the 47% - eliminate all deductions over $17k -wait maybe $25k - how about $20k).  

Paul "I don't have time to tell you about my tax plans" Ryan but we want to keep defense spending at 4%  (Note to those who read CBO budget scores - on page 17 of Ryan's 2012 budget "total discretionary" which includes defense goes to 3.75% )

 

Arghhh--- is the GOP only for people with very short term memories.   

What a bunch of arrogant losers.

mmm535
mmm535

I watched the debate with the video off (in the car, on NPR). I didn't think it was even remotely close. It was almost as lopsided, in my opinion, as the debate last week. Paul Ryan had no answer to half the questions, dodged a quarter of the questions, and outright lied on the rest. In one instance, he was asked a question and not only dodged it, but went into a fireside story about how Mitt Romney paid for some kid's college. I don't blame Vice President Biden one bit for laughing at his opponent. The idea that Republicans are not only in denial about their loss, but are actually declaring a Ryan win, shows how little substance and logic currently exist in the core of their party. We need to make it a matter of national defense to never let a Republican regain control of the White House. We need people with actual ideas, who know what they're doing-- not vague flip-flopper ready to take us to war with Iran and Syria (and maybe half the world).

Benevolent_Lawyer
Benevolent_Lawyer

 And who can think about LyinRyan without giving a thought or two to his good buddy, Toad Akin.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) has had trouble with facts about reproduction. He said in August that women cannot get pregnant from "legitimate rape" because “the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.” And in 2008, Akin claimed that it is "common practice" for women “who are not actually pregnant” to get abortions.

Now, the GOP Senate candidate who’s running against Sen. Claire

McCaskill (D-MO) said Thursday at a Tea Party meeting in Jefferson City,

Missouri, that there’s no science behind evolution:

AKIN: "I don’t see it as even a matter of science because I don’t know that you can prove one or the other. That’s one of those things. We

can talk about theology and all of those other things but I’m basically

concerned about, you’ve got a choice between Claire McCaskill and

myself. My job is to make the thing there. If we want to do theoretical stuff, we can do that, but I think I better stay on topic."Ah, Missouri...where Troglodytes, Religious Fundamentalists and RepubliKKKrappers go to cross-breed.

Benevolent_Lawyer
Benevolent_Lawyer

  "Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that" -

Yes, he was talking about balancing the budget, and this is something we

desperately need. But nonchalantly casting aside an organization that

helps millions of women is unacceptable. Contrary to popular belief,

planned parenthood is not just an abortion clinic. It provides pre-natal

care to women who wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise. Many Planned

Parenthood locations offer classes to young parents. It provides STD

tests and breast cancer screenings. Overall, it is a complete woman's

health center for those that can't afford to go anyplace else. Millions

of people use Planned Parenthood, but I guess if you have the amount of

money Mitt Romney's family has, you don't have to worry about it.Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2012...

LevonTostig
LevonTostig

You know what's even healthier for women?

Keeping their legs together, instead of spreading them for every loser who comes along.

Now THAT'S benevolent.

Abraham Yeshuratnam
Abraham Yeshuratnam

Watching the debate was made irritable by the demeanor of Biden. Biden, like a clown, now laughing, now gesticulating, clumsily interrupted Ryan’s speech. Whenever Ryan’s speech was interrupted, the flow of thought was broken, and Ryan could not give the punch to smother Biden. Biden’s mannerism and behavior appeared nauseating and despicable to millions of viewers. What is more, Raddatz’s role as Moderator was loathsome. Instead of remaining impartial, she openly sided

Biden, allowing him to interrupt Ryan, and finally she herself interrupted by

not allowing Ryan to emphasize some vital points. . In spite of these

obstacles, Ryan remained cool and became the winner in the debate. After

watching the contemptible and obnoxious brhavior and mannerism of Biden, even

Democrats have opted for choosing the cool, handsome and unflappable Ryan. This

accounts for the lead of Romney in many states.

Abraham Yeshuratnam
Abraham Yeshuratnam

Biden, like a clown, now laughing, now gesticulating, clumsily interrupted Ryan’s speech. Whenever Ryan’s speech was interrupted, the flow of thought was broken, and Ryan could not give the punch to smother Biden. Biden’s mannerism and behavior appeared nauseating and despicable to millions of viewers. What is more, Raddatz’s role as Moderator was loathsome. Instead of remaining impartial, she openly sided Biden, allowing him to interrupt Ryan, and finally she herself interrupted by not allowing Ryan to emphasize some vital points. . In spite of these

obstacles, Ryan remained cool and became the winner in the debate. After

watching the contemptible and obnoxious brhavior and mannerism of Biden, even

Democrats have opted for choosing the cool, handsome and unflappable Ryan. This

accounts for the lead of Romney in many states.

formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

I agree with President Obama.  The debates are a drag.  May as well turn the sound off.  

babycheeks
babycheeks

Wow. You didn't hear a word they said and you get to write a column about the debate. This country's media is so screwed up, proven again by the fact you you get to express an opinion.

formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

What did you learn with the sound on?  Anything new?  Any opinions?

Benevolent_Lawyer
Benevolent_Lawyer

 One of the benefits of having the sound on was that you got to hear Ryan's non-response when confronted with the slight hypocrisy of his decrying the stimulus -- while writing letters BEGGING for stimulus money for his state!

WAPO shouldn't be handing out Pinocchios for lies -- they should be handing out Ryans!

babycheeks
babycheeks

More than I care to repeat for you but some major ones.  I got to hear Biden lie when he said "we" had no request for increase security from Libya, again displaying this administration will never accept responsibility for any mistakes, I got to hear Biden say words that make me believe he does not think Iran is any where near a threat which makes me doubt they will make any hard choices to see that Iran does not get the bomb, I got to hear Ryan essentially admit they cannot offer any promise or commitment on specifics of  how to get the tax cuts and continued military spending and still balance the budget, which makes their budget promises hollow.

Benevolent_Lawyer
Benevolent_Lawyer

Here are twelve reasons why Biden won that debate. 

1. Biden pointed out that Paul Ryan voted for the spending that caused our deficits. 

2.Biden pointed out that Marines are part of the 47% of Americans that Romney thinks are freeloaders. 

3.Biden pointed out that Romney agrees on everything we have done in Iran, and when pressed for what he would do differently, Ryan had no answer. 

4.Biden pointed out that Ryan was wrong that we are

endangering our troops in Afghanistan by drawing down because we are replacing those troops with Afghan roops. 

5.Biden pointed out that 97% of small businesses make less than $250k a year, and the other 3%

are mostly hedge funds that make millions of dollars a year. 

6.Biden pointed out that Ryan begged for stimulus money to create jobs in Wisconsin. 7.Biden pointed out that Paul Ryan’s tax policy math just doesn’t add up. 

8.Biden pointed out that Romney wanted to let GM fail and would not have tracked down Bin Laden. 

9.Biden pointed out that his religious beliefs do not affect his political polices, just as our founding fathers intended. 

10.Biden pointed out that Democrats tried to extend tax breaks for the middle class multiple times, but were blocked by republicans who wanted to hold 95% of the country hostage so that they could get more tax breaks for millionaires. 

11.Biden pointed out that republicans in the House reduced the budget for embassy security forces by $300 million.  

12.Biden called out Ryan for lying when Ryan said that his Medicare plan was put together with democratic help. 

I can’t think of even one reason why Ryan won the debate. Can you?

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

As did you. 

A tweenage girl in Afghanistan just got shot in the neck for doing the same thing.

No appreciation for what you have in this country.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Thanks, Katy. Too bad body language alone didn't convey the awesome "Jack Kennedy" quip by Biden. 50 shades of Lloyd Bentson there. And what sacredh said; we need a real "1000 words."

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

Biden was a believeable commander in chief, strong and confident. Ryan looked like a wide-eyed back-bench congressman. If you had turned up the sound, they would have confirmed those impressions. Obama/Biden is a much stronger team than Romney/Ryan. The latter don't really agree on many things. WE already have divided government. WE don't need divided-divided government.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

I think it's probably a good thing that you didn't really talk about Joe looking old and tired until well into the debate - gives him more air of an elder statesman and he can probably be forgiven more for tiring when he's at the bottom of the ticket.

leliorisen
leliorisen

After watching the debate last night....

 The only reason to vote for Ryan/Romney is if you want to see Roe V. Wade overturned,  The Affordable Care Act dismantled, Medicare and Social Security privatized, a new war waged, gay Americans codified as 2nd-class citizens, and the lives of the wealthy enriched even further.

That is it.

Biden took it to young Mr. Ryan last night. It's about time somebody did

@leliorisen

Petri Nauha
Petri Nauha

 Roe vs. Wade will not be overturned. If it was an issue of Republicans being in control, it would have happened multiple times over already. Same goes with gay Americans.

vstillwell
vstillwell

The Supreme Court has to overturn Roe. Another conservative justice, and it will be overturned. I don't care for abortion at all, but it's the truth. 

Jfante1452
Jfante1452

All it would take is one more conservative justice. Surely Romney would appoint a litmus tested conservative and then as soon as challenged, no more Roe v. Wade.

Jlinaa
Jlinaa

Please don't be naive here - they could and would! It actually took me some time to process the fact that he meant "unelected judges" should not make these decisions - in retrospect.  What Paul Ryan just said was EXACTLY that they would do everything in their power to overturn a law that I basically presumed could not be overturned.  It scared the living heck out of me; not just the statement but the way it was worded making it hard to understand he was talking about "FORTY YEARS AGO,"  unelected judges shouldn't have done this. 

This is extremist to the 9th degree AND he basically also said life begins at conception no matter if you are raped or not.  I wouldn't trust the ticket to make ANY exceptions if they can get the law overturned.

It's interesting he didn't just say, "Wade vs. Roe" was not a case for the Supreme Court to decide - and then let people say what they really thought of his inane pompous arrogance!

leliorisen
leliorisen

Romney has already said he would only nominate justices that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Whatever justice Romney would nominate would also tilt the court on glbt issues. I do not want another Scalia or Thomas. 

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

Why risk it? Vote for Obama/Biden.

bobcn
bobcn

 So, you've concluded that Romney and Ryan are lying when they say that they intend to appoint justices who will overturn Roe?

'If it was an issue of Republicans being in control, it would have happened multiple times over already.'

Ryan cosponsored the extremist fetal personhood bill.  Now he wants to be a heartbeat away from the oval office.  Democrats have worked to protect a woman's right to choose.  The gop has been very actively working to deny women that right.  Elections matter.

Pnnto
Pnnto

It's an issue of control of the SCOTUS.

One more republican on the court followed by one more challenge from one of the states. 

Abraham Yeshuratnam
Abraham Yeshuratnam

Biden, like a clown, now

laughing, now gesticulating, clumsily interrupted Ryan’s speech. Whenever

Ryan’s speech was interrupted, the flow of thought was broken, and Ryan could

not give the punch to smother Biden. Biden’s mannerism and behavior appeared

nauseating and despicable to millions of viewers. What is more, Raddatz’s role

as Moderator was loathsome. Instead of remaining impartial, she openly sided

Biden, allowing him to interrupt Ryan, and finally she herself interrupted by

not allowing Ryan to emphasize some vital points. . In spite of these

obstacles, Ryan remained cool and became the winner in the debate

bobcn
bobcn

Reading Katy Steinmetz's article with my eyes closed

Katy, I decided to apply your remarkable analysis technique to your own article, and it works!   I found that when encountering an absurd article about judging debates without listening to the content the best approach is to close one's eyes and turn the page. It reduces groaning and frees up time for reading something with actual value.

Pnnto
Pnnto

I generally like KS's reporting but these are pretty silly. 

paulejb
paulejb

The only way to watch Joe Biden is with the sound off. If the sound is on every person in the room will lose IQ points just listening to Crazy Joe.

Beholdthejabberwock
Beholdthejabberwock

That's interesting, since reading many of the comments on Swampland has a similar effect. (And yes, I understand the irony of posting a comment. Look for your low-hanging fruit elsewhere.)

sacredh
sacredh

Katy, is there any chance you could toss us a "1000 Words" for the weekend? The Political Pictures of the week just don't cut it. Even a shot of Biden and Ryan at the table would be great.

SAJ2995
SAJ2995

Laughing Joe Biden. Laughing at the issues. America is not laughing Joe Biden.  

 

29 MILLION unemployed American's are not laughing. 

 

15% of our people on food stamps ARE NOT LAUGHING 

 

8% Unemployed ARE NOT LAUGHING 

 

Over 16 TRILLION in debt, AMERICANS ARE NOT LAUGHING JOE

WHY DOES JOE BIDEN THINK THIS IS ONE BIG JOKE? 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

robbert5
robbert5

He thinks that anything that came out of Ryan's mouth was hilarious in its simplicity and idiocy, to which I for one would have to agree to.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Tell the truth - you used the closed-captioning didn't you? 

sacredh
sacredh

That's a VERY personal question nfl. Why not just ask her what she was wearing? ;  )

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

I need to stay on the blog, Sacred.  Need to stay on the blog.

sacredh
sacredh

I did have a good time last night watching the debate. I personally feel that Joe won it by being so aggressive and calling Ryan out every couple of minutes. Joe did look old. Old and experienced. Ryan looked young and inexperienced. I half expected Joe pat Ryan on the arm and say "You're doing fine kid".

73yearoldVet
73yearoldVet

CNN Debate Polls

 

Biden’s mission was to score a major win over Ryan and stop the momentum that Romney/Ryan gained after the first presidential debate.

 

It was a must win big for Biden. A draw would actually be a defeat for the Obama/Biden ticket.

 

Results: Biden bombed. CNN’s poll showed that Ryan won in nearly every category. Biden’s Mission a total failure.

 

48% percent of voters who watched the vice presidential debate think that Rep. Paul Ryan won the showdown, according to a CNN/ORC International nationwide poll conducted right after Thursday night's faceoff. 44% percent say that Vice President Joe Biden was victorious.

 

28% said the debate made them more likely to vote for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and 21% said the faceoff made them more likely to vote to re-elect President Barack Obama.

 

By a 50%-41% margin, debate watchers said that Ryan rather than Biden better expressed himself.

 

By a margin of 53%-43% Ryan had an advantage on being more likable.

 

Ryan also had a slight advantage on being more in touch with the problems of average Americans.

 

The poll indicates that both men were seen as qualified to be president if necessary, by roughly equal numbers.

 

 

Beholdthejabberwock
Beholdthejabberwock

"48% percent of voters who watched the vice presidential debate ..."

That's interesting, to be sure, but I wonder what the precentages are for the mythical "undecideds" the media like to talk about, or even the "low-information" folks.

anon76returns
anon76returns

None of CNNs categories were out of the margin of error, which means that Biden didn't bomb and neither did Ryan win.  That poll was among the general electorate.

CBS polled only undecideds, and they broke for Biden big time, which means that Biden probably stopped the bleeding.  Guess what:  Romney's momentum is blunted, and he has not yet overtaken the President in the electoral projection (though he's certainly eaten up most of the President's former lead).  The Democrats are still winning, if only by a slim margin, but that still leaves Romney needing something else to change the race, otherwise he'll just put in a very respectable losing effort.

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

Biden WON the debate handily. In this polarized environment people will say anything to support their candidate for office. But this was a no brainer. Ryan looked like a lying neophyte while Biden cleaned his clock over, and over, and over.

When Obama did not perform as we expected, we admitted it. Now, we haar this malarkey about Biden's smiles etc. In substance he was stronger, better, smarter and affable.  HE won!! 

This election is OURS to win.  Vote Obama/Biden 2012. Save the country from suffering the HELL to which Romney subjected residents of MA for 4 years!

Obama/Biden 2012   

dmbfan93933
dmbfan93933

I watched the debate and couldn't take my eyes off Biden.  I watched him when he spoke of course, but I also watched him when Ryan spoke.  I tried to remind myself to watch Ryan's reactions to Biden, but just could seem to do it.

As for Obama's performance, I believe he was just caught off guard.  After all he was expecting to debate Mitt Romney (flip), but Mitt Romney (flop) showed up instead.  Actually it was more like flop turned into flip.  I could hardly believe my ears.  He didn't resemble the Mitt Romney who won the Republican nomination at all.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

I'm not going to pound Republicans for thinking their guy won by using margin calls.  Ryan actually put up a fight.  Obama just didn't show up - nobody can logically defend that.

(Mind you, nobody should be able to logically claim that 20% tax cuts are revenue neutral but....)

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

Forgotten hi, Please note that this individual using the same picture and name as me, "Benevolent Lawyer" is a known criminal, identity thief and child molester who has been banned from this site a few times.

You would be well advised to ignore and report him as many here continue to do. The difference is that He has FAR FEWER comments than I do, if you click on his disqus profile.

At this time he has an UNDERSCORE BETWEEN BENEVOLENT AND LAWYER, HE MIGHT CHANGE the iteration later.

Even though he is currently espousing Democratic support, he is a nut job that has no real party affiliation or interest in dialogue, and is a mere rabblerouser, child molester and criminal who belongs in jail.

He has stolen the ID's of other users of this site on many occasions and has been repeatedly banned for those acts. In addition, he has numerous pseudonyms on this site.

This man who has included an underscore between the word Benevolent and Lawyer, could change his screen name to other iterations meant to fool people into thinking that he is me.

It is ill advised that you exchange comments with this criminal.

If you can do so, please report him to the moderators of the

site.

Thanks much.