Monday, October 15, 2012

Vice Presidential Debate Thoughts

NOTE:  Sorry for lack of updates in a while, I just had to move out of my house, freetime is limited.  But now, with that past, our irregularly scheduled Planet Blue should be back on the air.  I started this post on Friday, and I haven't gotten it finished until just now.  And there are a few movie reviews floating around unfinished too.

I suppose I'm massively out of touch with the regular world of politics, but I honestly thought the Obama-Romney Debate was a draw.  Then to my shock, for the past week apparently we've been in the midsts of a full-fledged Democaplypse as the entire Obama campaign seems to be on the verge of collapsing - so say the pundits.  I can't say which was more difficult to watch, the Republicans gloating over their apparent crushing blow, or the Democrats endless justifications as to why they technically won and how debates don't matter anyway.  To face facts:  I'm a Democrat in everything but name now, and perhaps my last debate post was part of that, I guess.  My point is, I didn't feel defeated by the events of last Wednesday night.  I thought Obama understated his case, he let too many falsehoods go past, and he was under-aggressive.  But did that mean that Romney had the better arguments?  No, not at all, and that's what I care about.

Now the Vice Presidential Debate historically has been insignificant, as told to me personally by none less than Karl Rove*.  In the 80s, George Bush's running mate, Dan Quayle, got his ass caved in rather dramatically by the Democratic challenger.  But, do you know who that challenger was?  No, you don't, because it didn't matter because the Democrats lost that year.  The Vice President is a virtually ceremonial position and we all know it.  However, I have my doubts this year, since this year's VP debate really was not about the Vice Presidential Candidates, as much as the entire campaign.  Four years ago it was all about the nation collectively being massively disappointed to see that Sarah Palin actually could be coached into a coherent debate performance.  This year its mostly about Joe Biden stepping in to save the Democratic blueballs and launching a massive offensive against his opponent.  Did it work?  Perfectly, for the Democrats, the bleeding was stopped nicely.

As a show, Thursday's debate was considerably more entertaining than the previous one.  Biden laughed off his opponent repeatedly, facing the camera with a "can you believe this?" expression.  He interrupted Paul Ryan who could only hold stoic and try not to let his opponent's antics set him off.  I happen to really like Paul Ryan as a political figure despite of my opinions, so I'd say, if anything, the debate convinced me that I would not mind a Ryan Presidency.

But Paul Ryan isn't the candidate, is he?  So its all academic.  We have Mitt Romney, and Ryan lost mainly because he had to support Mitt Romney's own lack of clarity about what he stands for.  This was particularly clear during the foreign policy discussion, when Paul Ryan's attempts to criticism the Obama Administration fell completely flat because, sadly, Mitt Romney's foreign policy doesn't really look different than Obama's.  One exchange went like so:  Paul Ryan says something along the lines of "I don't like that 2014 Afghanistan withdrawal deadline."  Then Biden coolly said, "So, what would you do differently?"  And Paul Ryan has no substance to back it with.  "Obama is too soft on Iran."  "So what is Romney's position?"  "More or less the same, oddly."  And again, there was a mention of the Romney tax plan, which is so infuriatingly unclear that I can say with some certainty that Romney has no tax plan at all in this stage, maybe a broad bullet point plan - if that.

Anyway, the issues of the night that were the most interesting for me, and the most illuminated as to what you'd expect from the candidates:

Libya Embassy Attack:  Here is probably the one place that Romney has actually managed to convince me that he has some ammunition against the Obama foreign policy.  As it turns out, the murder of the US Ambassador to Libya last month had nothing to do with that movie, "The Innocence of Muslims"**, and instead was an organized attack on the United States the likes of which we have not seen in years.  And well... the Obama administration didn't handle it all that well.  Intelligence faults are no excuse, since you've been running the intelligence force for the last four years.  Biden did mention that Ryan's budget cuts did limit embassy security funds, but that's nonsense.  Even with limited funds there had to enough money to focus security on obvious global hot spots like Bengazi.  I'm afraid the success of this attack can be traced to nothing less than gross stupidity on Obama's part.  We probably won't know the true story for awhile, and this is a relatively minor story in the midst of a much larger election.  My vote isn't changed by this news, but its definitely influencing my relative apathy towards Barack Obama lately.

Nuclear Iran:  The Iran-Israel split has been altogether the most frightening issue of 2012.  The belligerence between these countries would be a catastrophic disaster for the entire Middle East region, and its a war that Israel, in all likeliness, cannot win, and should not pursue.  The economic sanctions put in place this year have greatly damage Iran's economy (though claims of "most successful economic sanctions in history" are dubious).  However, Iran is still moving in its atomic program, but time is not on its side.  I don't quite know what is going to happen in the next year involving the Iran issue, but Obama's course has been sturdy.  Biden brazenly declared that their would not be a war which is probably a good line for a war-weary public.  Is that the correct strategic line, though?  Its still unknown if Obama can actually commit for a hard choice, I don't know if he's merely a moderate or an outright wimp.

Still Paul Ryan's claims that Obama "watered-down" the economic sanctions against Iran were completely out of line.  The sanctions had to be cut down somewhat so that Russia and China would let them get passed, it was compromise.  Then again, Republicans don't know how to compromise anymore, so maybe the distinction is impossible for them to perceive.  I like that Romney can offer a tougher face to Iran in terms of rhetoric, but in terms of true actions, nothing seems to be changed.

Afghanistan:  Obama is moving the troops out in 2014, so would Romney.  Wow, great debate.  I would have given Romney some points if perhaps Ryan had said something along the lines of "2014 as a date should not be set in stone and we should prepare for a longer stay if its needed."  But he didn't say that, he just said "we like 2014 but please whisper."  That doesn't mean you're tougher on foreign policy, sorry.  Afghanistan might stabilize as a country, but Biden said the Obama's purpose in Afghanistan was a terrorism hunt, not nation-building.  So I guess Afghanis, you aren't going to find much help from either candidate here.

Syria:  Paul Ryan said something interesting during the debate:  "We will not use ground forces except to protect the security of the United States - but bombing isn't out of the question."  The Syrian Civil War is the story of 2012 as far as international relations are concerned.  And Obma has mostly ignored it.  Its unimaginable for Assad's regime to survive at this point, but the war seems to continue lurching on endlessly, while the world watches.  Libya was generally a success (except for that Mali Civil War we in the US mostly ignore), but Syria, somehow, is not worth our effort.  Its quite a place for us to be in where Syria's best hope is a Turkish invasion from the north.  Unfortunately, Ryan had no answer to the debate moderator when she asked "what is your criteria for intervention?"  Which is pretty pathetic, actually.

Economic Stuff:  Biden actually made an excellent point here, one that I actually should have thought of.  He recalled President Bush's quixotic attempt in 2006 to privatize Social Security - which had no chance in hell of passing against a Democrat Congress.  Well, just imagine if Social Security had been tied up in the stock market in 2008?  My God, the nightmare.  He also blasted Ryan in the face when he pointed that Paul Ryan himself asked for Stimulus money, just after Paul Ryan criticized the Stimulus policy.  Ryan had no counter.  There was more health care tussling, which was largely a repeat of the first debate.

But I really hope Romney can write up a list of "loopholes" that he's going to close.  Because without those, his economic credentials are utterly worthless.  I'm not going to vote for somebody who isn't laying out the plan.  Not that a major tax overhaul wouldn't be nice, but can I see what you're going for?

Abortion:  Uch, Paul Ryan, I like you, but WHY???  I'm sorry, going Pro-Life is a deal breaker to me, man.

Anyway, in terms of likeability, I thought Biden came off as something of a dick, while Ryan stayed cool and looked Presidential.  I have a good feeling about the hypothetical 2016 Republican ticket, since it would almost certainly contain either Paul Ryan or my own Governor Chris Christie***.  And both of those choices are people we should be allowed to vote for now, instead of the waste of space that is Mitt Romney.  Its a shame.

* I mean, I wasn't talking to Karl Rove, but he was giving a seminar at my theater.  I made sure to keep the lights a little bright just to see him sweat.  Heheh...  I wanted to corner him and ask him about Iraq at some point, but sadly I never got the chance.

** Which means, of course, I'll have to give it a proper review when its finally released publicly.  Now that the film stock is not actually dripping blood, it can finally be seen as a silly "Troll 2"-style disaster... but still horribly despicable in its unending hatred of the Muslim faith.  But still, its remarkably goofy, so there's that.

*** Still, Christie's education cuts... I kinda can't look past that as an Education Major.  Still, he can actually get stuff done, and chose to stay the road and finish the job we elected him to do and finish his term.  Which is endlessly respectable.


  1. What do you think could be done about the Syrian Civil War? If you were Obama, what would you do?

    1. Almost exactly the same thing as our Libyan strategy. Arm the rebels and bomb Assad's military to defeat. We've already committed ourselves against him, Hilary Clinton has mentioned that Assad cannot continue to lead Syria. The longer the conflict goes on, the less stable Syria becomes. This is how Afghanistan became the terrorist nightmare that it is today, almost forty years of war will do that to a country. So bombz.

  2. Well blue were you satisfied by this round? i personally am hit with a very strong case of apathy right now.