Critics one and all called the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan undoubtedly what the American people wanted to see between Mitt Romney and president Obama; true enough as the stakes couldn’t have been higher on either side democrats hoping to turn things around after the president’s fumble, republicans hoping Romney could keep momentum going so that their prospects for the Whitehouse aren’t completely sundered until 2016. And apparently both sides got the message; they both came out swinging on the issues ending in a draw that left both parties claiming victory. Changes in both moderator and style seemed to liven up this debate as well keeping them better focused on topics important to the people and asking harder hitting questions, getting to obvious distinctions between the candidates, their positions. Highlights garnering attention from the public included the many facial expressions of the vice president and the “excessive hydration” of the challenger. Hey I would be smiling, laughing and exhibiting some interesting facial expressions too if I had to listen to someone seriously attempt to convince me and others present the sky is green, if the person next to me had their facts so jumbled, their viewpoint so skewed I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about, where they could have possibly obtained their information. Likely congressmen Ryan’s fluid consumption was either a nervous habit; perhaps he had a case of cotton mouth from all that talking. Or, maybe he was hoping some of that water would reach his pants that were surely on fire from all the lying.     

It began with a showdown centering around the now growing controversy of exactly what happened in Libya that lead to the death of a US ambassador; was it a protest gone wrong or was it an actual terrorist attack vice president Biden quick to point out they didn’t know about the Libyan consulate’s request for more security clarifying we consisted of himself and the president, regardless of the information circulating through the state department, reports after the debate placing the request only the day before our embassy was attacked. Ryan blasts the 2 weeks it took for the president to call this a terrorist attack but like always he’s spinning the facts to suit his point instead of adjusting his point to suit the facts; fact one it took two weeks for the FBI to even get into the country to begin investigation what happened. Again shortly after the debate reports surfaced of a recording, a phone conversation between 2 al Qaeda personnel saying the attack in Libya was because of the anti- Muslim video, possibly talking about ways to blame it on aforementioned video, then we wonder where American intelligence, officials and thus the media got the idea it was because of an inflammatory video. Now republicans want to turn it into some big conspiracy requiring investigation while Paul Ryan accuses democrats, the Whitehouse of blaming the Romney ticket for reiterating the issue. No, they blamed Governor Romney for jumping the gun, sticking his foot in his mouth regarding both Egypt and Libya by issuing a press release blasting the president for an apology about the film when the ambassador in Cairo was actually responsible for the statement among other inaccuracies that made him look silly. Next was a discussion on Iran and how an Obama administration has let them get 4 years closer to a nuclear bomb; referenced was the foam board presentation by the Israeli prime minister and the red line illustrating when we must stop Iran lest they become nuclear capable. Biden very clearly articulated how close the world is not to this terrible outcome pointing out that they have nothing to put enriched uranium into and that the red line he demonstrated was when Iran could enrich uranium to a refined enough level to make a weapon not when they had a weapon to put it in. Syria became another site of smack down points in my view going once more to Biden who again blatantly explained, similarly to Iran, why we haven’t gone in guns blazing or armed the people. In Iran the danger is first and foremost igniting and spreading nuclear material should there be war, and secondly, creating another terrorist vacuum, just like we tried to prevent in Iraq and Afghanistan.Syria is even more complicated because members of regional terror groups are piling in daily; we don’t know who to arm, who the people are wishing for freedom and terrorist agendas taking advantage of a terrible situation. 

 To say nothing of how much Ryan agreed with what the Obama administration has done, he agreed with the 2014 exit of Afghanistan he agrees with the content of the sanctions against Iran’s government, he didn’t think we could do anything differently in Syria other than working with our allies to identify freedom fighters earlier, daydreaming in some sort of la, la land where they were going to magically work with us their tentative, on again off again, depending on the situation allies, no matter how much they want rid of a dictator too. He  had no new ideas on how to keep Iran from being the next nuclear armed nation, no ideas on how to arm the right people in Syria to produce a stable government post Assad other than repeating that the Russian reset wasn’t working and how he would not have let Russia water down sanctions, block sanctions from going through sooner. As a citizen civilian I had no idea what he was talking about by Russian reset but I do understand the UN works similar to other voting bodies, resolutions, actions are voted on; get enough votes, actions passed. Don’t, action not passed, does not happen; Russia may have continually voted against sanctions, may have been seen as a deciding vote, but what about all the other countries who said no? Similarly Ryan never said who had called Assad a reformer while he slaughtered his own people; I remember seeing a news piece on this, they spoke of him as a reformer in the past tense, until he began attacking his people. Relatedly when pressed about what he would do to resolve the conflict the way he thinks it should be solved, would he put boots on the ground American troops on the ground, not only did the congressmen hedge, he said only if it was in America’s interests, implying it’s somehow not in the interest of the entire planet not to have a nuclear Iran; hardly forgotten is the reason they have not directly said they want to put troops there is because they know the American people do not want us involved in another war. Face it complex problems dealing with foreign nations aren’t going to be solved in an afternoon over a round of golf; this isn’t the so called unraveling of the Obama foreign policy; it is the uprising of multiple peoples, it is the toppling of dictators and the messy road to nation rebuilding by people who have no idea how to do it and the message from us is now limited or no help because we are tired of nation building, we can’t afford it, we’re too focused on ourselves.  Yet Paul Ryan was called competent on foreign policy judging by this debate performance; why because he can pronounce obscure places in Iraq and Afghanistan rarely mentioned on the news?

Conversations on the economy centered around rehashing of the same old tired things being said just with a few new numbers thrown in; once again those numbers seemed to fall in favor of Biden who talked about the 20% tax break wanted by the Romney/Ryan ticket that was going to help most 120,000 families who are going to get another 250,000 a year, when their average income is already at minimum 1 million dollars. He didn’t let him off the hook for Mitt Romney’s comment about the 47% of American’s who refused to take responsibility for their lives zinging his opponent saying these were his mom, dad people he grew up with paying a greater effective tax rate than Romney, simultaneously blasting Ryan for a comment where he referred to 30% of Americans as takers stating it was time for them, their party to take some responsibility. While Ryan listed Obama’s supposedly failed campaign promises including unemployment at or below 6%, his promise to lower the deficit making me wonder if they all live in never, never land pretending the great recession didn’t happen, that stimulus funds weren’t required to keep us from going under, funds Ryan himself asked for to aid his own state which is now apparently “aiding constituents in applying for grants.” Neither did our sitting vice president let him skirt his running mate’s comments about letting GM go bankrupt nor did he let people forget his challengers’ idea of letting the housing market hit rock bottom; he also broke through the republican illusion that the recession fell out of the sky like no one, at least on their side, has any idea where it came from.  He boldly spoke the truth saying it came from the deregulation generated by the former president, deregulations still supported by republicans, by Romney/Ryan, and now not only do they want even less regulation of business, but they refuse to acknowledge  such lax regulations caused the problems and could cause much more in the future should they get their way.  According to them we’re going in the wrong direction the economy is limping along at 1.3%, worse than last year, which was worse than the year before, making use of selective memory, sticking one’s head in the sand whatever you want to call it; it’s like him and people who subscribe to his thinking don’t understand what analysts have been saying over and over, haven’t noticed the debt crisis in Europe has effected the US, the world economy. Adding to global fears is the uncertainty regarding whether or not US leaders can get their collective acts together, make the tough decisions, taking action on a plan to deal with the debt. Yes Obama broke his promise on the debt to bring financial crisis, housing market crisis relief to struggling people; his pledge about unemployment may have been a silly one to make, as you can’t wave a wand and create an outcome you choose, but current unemployment numbers are a result of far more than just his policies.  Further when asked about plans the Whitehouse incumbent said of the opposing side: just get out of the way and let us pass the middle class tax cut, get out of the way and let us help home owners upside down on their mortgages but who have never missed a payment. Frankly I’ll take their scattered plans over Romney’s 5 point plan, because the former shows adaptability, where as a 5 point plan is all he has.             

Medicare was another hot button issue of the night complete with yet more numbers if not in favor of Obama/Biden polices then certainly against the Paul Ryan plan to secure it for future generations. He correctly terms it a voucher program whether the opposing side calls it premium support or a cheeseburger; he exposed the little known public fact the congressman tried to privatize social security by tying a portion of people’s money paid into that system to the stock market, saying imagine what would have happened if people’s money had been tied to the market; he was of course referring to the 2008 financial collapse. Showing no signs of stopping he laid out the numbers of the latest plan costing seniors 6,400 more dollars on average than what they currently pay; he exposed a huge flaw in the “you can buy whatever plan you want including traditional Medicare” line of thinking, what opponents along with outsiders have been saying for some time, one it will not keep pace with healthcare costs, two as it covers less forcing people to move to other plans, there will be no money to fund traditional Medicare. Returning to plans to keep social security solvent in coming years, under the Ryan initiative persons in their 40’s at initiation of plan would receive 2,700 less in benefit monies, a person in their 20’s 4,700 less. Over and over congressman Ryan said when you don’t have a record to run on meaning the other guy, you paint your opponent as someone to be scared of, someone to run from; however, Mr. Ryan shot himself in the foot so to speak on that front when he brought forth his plan on this issue when he frightened seniors, those with disabilities, by virtue of confusion, if nothing else about what was going to happen to their benefits now or in the near future. He, not the opposing party made himself something to run from not just by tampering with an institution helping those beyond working age or those who will never be capable enough to work. Do we need to fix the program; do we need to make sure it is available for future generations?  Of course but it appears there is the right way to do so and the Ryan way to do so.    

Taxes seemed to be the next segment and added to the math lessons, math only rich Americans would like, a 20% tax reduction across the board for everyone according to Ryan paid for by closing loopholes, limiting deductions; Biden correctly pouncing on the fact you cannot pay for it without getting into popular deductions both liked by the American people and aiding the middle class get by, child care, tax credits to send children to college, the home mortgage deduction. Experience played well over youth that night as the vice president was able to counter the we’ll work with congress to iron out the details concept touting he was in the room with Regan when he put forth limiting deductions boldly proclaiming he detailed what he planned to, wanted to cut; repeatedly Martha Raddatz, moderator of debate proceedings was heard uttering phrases like no specifics then, again no specifics on several issues not just the ticket’s tax plan. And on that tax plan, it’s vote for me then I’ll iron out the details, lines implied by both the congressmen and the governor, yet he’s supposed to be the business man the Whitehouse has been lacking for so many years. What business man do you know, does he know, who would approve a plan without sufficient details?  Going back to those 120,000 families and the 250,000 more dollars in their pockets, it comes at the expense of an average $2,000 tax hike for the middle class. Corporate tax rates were brought into the fray too republican opposition saying the Obama proposed tax hike for corporations would kill a million small businesses our democrat vice president fired back saying 97 % of small businesses make under $250,000 per year and would remain unaffected; incidentally they too would be unaffected by the Obama plan to tax wealthy citizens making above 250,000, important knowledge for those small businesses filing as individuals. Biden also revealed other entities considered a small business under the Romney/Ryan tax plan, hedge funds positing profits of 8 to 8 million, classified that way because they are pass through. While I have no idea what the last part meant, neither being an accountant or an investor, I understood the first part; get creative with business classifications to give  the well-off something they don’t need while denying rightful help to others who could thrive with it.

More and more for me along with many other voters it has become about what democrats, the Whitehouse, the president haven’t done, and no, I don’t mean that in a negative sense, rather a positive one. None have introduced personhood bills effecting not just women’s legal right to an abortion but types of birth control, fertility treatments. They ensured women can get full reproductive healthcare and did not use religious freedom as a vehicle to further a conservative agenda. In fact someone with non-conservative leanings arranged for a woman to testify before a panel on women’s issues contrasting the republicans who actively tried to block her appearance and the conservative mouthpiece who thus misrepresented everything she stated about women needing variations of the pill to treat medical conditions, married women trying to do the wise thing and delay having a family until they could afford it boiling it down to the sound bite we all heard about her having so much sex  she wanted the government to pay for her birth control then calling her a slut. Her actual position was reasonably women should have access to health insurance that provides all options. They are willing to pass things like the stimulus bill, create programs to help citizens vs. letting Detroit go bankrupt, let the housing market hit rock bottom. They are willing to institute things like the Buffet rule to level the playing field, cut subsidies to big oil before they cut public television, endowments for arts and humanities, our last vestiges of culture, slash education; speaking of which they are willing to stand up and tell colleges keep your tuition rates equal to inflation before simply reminding students that the money they borrow they must pay back. Mr. Ryan’s analogy of even if you doubled taxes on businesses from what they are now it would only run the government for 98 days falls completely flat when you recognize it is not the only democratic, Whitehouse purposed way to deal with the debt; in addition to getting the rich to pay their fair share in taxes, not paying for Warren Buffet sized tax brackets prescription drugs, handing them social security and Medicare the same way we do someone who make 20-30 thousand a year while working, cutting subsidies to big oil, law was passed to keep congress members from using inside information learned on the job to influence their investments, limiting the mortgage deduction to $500,000  and one home has been put on the table as well as keeping corporations from buying overseas products solely for the tax right off. Perhaps they could work harder at these things becoming law, brainstorming more ideas if they could stop dealing with conservative stupidity, the Todd Akin’s, the religious freedom police, the Rush Limbaugh line of thinking, cupcake provisions, personhood bills.  

Subsequently it’s nice Mitt Romney gives 30% of his income to charity; to put it bluntly he should making 20 million a year and not paying the above percent in taxes. It was a very heartfelt story congressman Ryan told about Governor Romney setting up a college fund for a family injured in an auto accident, but let’s remember it’s because he can, because he pays such a low tax rate, because he’s found every conceivable way to take money from people without really doing a day’s work. Personally I find it hard to believe that our potential future VP’s faith tells him, guides on what to do concerning the vulnerable when looking at his plans for Medicare, what he tried to do to social security. Nearly everyone will find Joe Biden’s view on faith and public life everything from more reasonable to more palatable saying he personally believes what he believes but he will not force his beliefs on other people; that is how you separate faith and public life. All in all the debates pose a serious quandary for voters in that same arena forcing them to choose between faith and sanity it seems, between faith and  common sense, between faith and tangible things they have to have, choosing between faith and a future.