Last night’s Vice Presidential debate brought forth yet another maddening pretense of an election gone mad.
Apparently–if you follow the logic of a vast segment of the supposedly educated and professional media class–when a candidate like Paul Ryan lies repeatedly, the opposition is supposed to sit politely and listen. Because Joe Biden laughed at Ryan and interrupted him with as many variations on “malarkey” as prime time television would allow, the Vice President was excoriated as rude, impolite, and cranky.
All I can say to the likes of people like Wolf Blitzer, Brit Hume, and Wolf Blitzer is: Are you friggin’ kidding me?
Step with me into the time machine for a moment as we travel way, way back to the far away, distant past of October 3, 2012. What a different era it was. Way back in that long forgotten era, when a candidate like Mitt Romney interrupted President Obama and the moderator and the camera operators and the men’s room attendant for 90 minutes continuously, he was praised by every living soul in media as a hero, a role model, and the kind of debater about whom epic poetry will be written and memorized by children for thousands of years into the future.
Ah, there were giants in the Earth in those days. And what a glorious time it was! But it was so long ago that we can barely remember.
Meanwhile, one week later, Biden gets slammed for being “impolite.”
Yet, where Romney was merely brash, Biden’s so-called lack of manners spoke to a long unfulfilled desire of a huge swath of the American public.
Joe Biden did exactly what tens of millions of Americans wanted every reporter and every politician in American to do when the Romney Ryan campaign steps up to a microphone and lies through their teeth: He laughed at them while they were speaking and interrupted to immediately set the record straight.
As I watched Biden chop down lie after lie that poured out of Ryan’s mouth–many of those lies about Ryan’s own record in the Congress–I literally jumped out of my chair and started laughing with him.
Finally! After two years of listening to the Republicans make up the most absurd and hateful lies and repeat them endlessly without anybody in the media or the Democratic Party challenging them face to face–Joe Biden finally did what everyone should have done ages ago.
Why on earth should Mitt Romney, for example, be allowed to even finish his sentence when he accuses the President of apologizing to America’s enemies in foreign policy?
Why should anyone let Mitt Romney even finish his ridiculous tale about why his health care reform in Massachusetts was good, but President Obama’s virtually identical health care reform was somehow bad?
Why should anyone hold back their laughter as Mitt Romney lies about President Obama hurting small businesses when Romney made millions by buying up small businesses, loading them with debt, bleeding them dry of all their capital, and then hiding his spoils in Grand Cayman funds?
Why should we sit quietly for even one more minute as Mitt Romney claims he will somehow be able to give huge tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires, while at the same time spending trillions on defense and not at to the deficit?
Why should we not laugh at and interrupt Romney when he says on video tape that he thinks half the country is too lazy and irresponsible to work for a living, but then stands up in a debate and claims he cares about working and poor people?
Why should we not laugh at, interrupt, and then pour cold gravy on Paul Ryan when he claims the Obama stimulus plan was bad for America, when the record shows he he wrote letters to the White House–on multiple occasions–asking for that very same stimulus money to help his district? (I couldn’t even type that one without laughing)
This list of questions could go on for pages, but the answer is always the same: Everyone should laugh at Romney and Ryan’s lies, and everyone should interrupt them.
We should all be grateful to Joe Biden for finally stepping up and doing what needed to be done and doing it repeatedly.
Last night’s debate should not just be a feather in the cap of the Obama-Biden campaign, but an object lesson to the media in 2012.
If a campaign is going to spend its time pivoting from lie to lie in desperate search of any focus-group tested line that starts to push the polls–no matter how concocted it is and no matter how easy it is to prove it false by comparing it to the record–then that campaign should be interrupted.
Martha Raddatz, to her credit, did far better at following this rule in the Vice Presidential debate than Jim Lehrer did in the first debate in Denver.
Repeatedly, Raddatz pressed Ryan for specifics and interrupted him when he tried to take the debate off on some tangent filled with false statements. But Raddatz did not have the right role to really set things straight. A moderator can only do so much. Ultimately, it was up to Biden to chop down Ryan’s lies.
Thank goodness he did.
When the public watches politicians like Ryan and Romney lie repeatedly without consequences–when we watch these lies take traction because of media figures who refuse to do their jobs and debunk them–public confidence in our system turns to cynicism and disgust.
But we have not given up. Last night, hopefully, was just the beginning of a new trend: candidates who lie will be treated like candidates who lie.
Ready, set, go.