Illustration by Samantha Sarvet
Article by Caleb Diehl /// Staff Writer
Last Thursday at Centre College in Danville, KY, Joe Biden finally ignited the democratic campaign with scathing assaults and personal appeals, while Paul Ryan sought to reassure undecided voters that the Republican cause carries reason and purpose.
Biden contrasted Obama's academic introspection with brazen questions. He said early in the heated sparring that Ryan's statements were, “just a bunch of malarkey.”
Ryan responded with equal fervor as he conjured apocalyptic foreign policy scenarios and crushing domestic burdens.
During a discussion of the timeline for intervening in Iran's nuclear capabilities, the congressman warned, “the centrifuges are spinning faster.”
Biden responded, “let's all calm down here.”
The debate, held across an intimate table with both candidates within easy reach, differed markedly from Governor Romney and President Obama's abstract policy discussions. The topics, like the setting, moved inward from the auto bailout to accidents involving loved ones, tax policies to descriptions of personal charity.
This fierce contest nevertheless brimmed with tension and animosity. Biden satiated Democrats by accusing Romney of the failures into which Mr. Obama failed to delve deeply. Biden limned the Republican ticket as detached overseers who, “bet against America all the time.” He particularly focused on Romney's infamous admonition of the 47 percent of Americans who he said are dependent on government.
In response to the last attack, Ryan cooly retorted, “I think the VP very well knows, that sometimes the words don't come out of your mouth the right way.”
Biden indeed stuttered and stumbled over verbal tirades that defined his outraged character. Ryan countered with quiet intensity, but the vice president's incredulous laughter punctuated his slower remarks.
Martha Raddatz of ABC News moderated assertively but failed to elicit significant agreements. She noted that this was the first debate featuring two Catholic candidates, but that this common faith still led each to opposing policy positions.
She asked both men to elucidate their deeply personal stances on abortion. Ryan said first that the Obama administration is, “infringing on our first freedom---freedom of religion,” by affecting Catholic institutions with healthcare regulations.
Biden instead said he refuses to allow his personal convictions to conflict with the expression of other religious traditions. Ryan said private beliefs cannot be separated from public decisions.
Tax policy offered one of the starkest depictions of partisan ideology in the entire debate.
Ryan said that a Romney administration will, “lower tax rates across the board and cut loopholes.”
Biden passionately refused to allow tax cuts for upper-class earners. He clearly asserted that the Obama administration seeks to permanently end the Bush era tax cuts, and appealed directly to the camera with earnest rhetorical questions.
After the second formal debate, however, an American public left with rapidly oscillating poll numbers and polarized verbal torrents still seeks to answer its country's most critical question.