Biden-Ryan Debate First Impressions

Did Biden come across as intense? Or just a jerk? Did Ryan come off as inexperienced by comparison to the much more seasoned Biden? Or as a decent, earnest guy ready to step onto the stage?

Overall, I found the debate frustrating.  Joe Biden came in determined not to repeat Barack Obama’s mistakes and was relentlessly aggressive, interrupting at seemingly every comma. Paul Ryan was of good humor, slow paced, and too polite. Martha Raddatz didn’t moderate at all; she allowed Biden to interrupt constantly while interrupting both speakers too often.

I’ll be interested to see the “time of possession” stats for this one. I’m guessing Biden ran away with it, with Raddatz second and Ryan third.

I mostly listened and watched the Twitter reactions of my foreign policy feed, only occasionally venturing into the other room to watch the mannerisms. Biden came across as angry and condescending, while Ryan came across as measured and friendly. Both were pretty vapid on the issues, hitting their talking points regardless of the truth.

On Afghanistan, Ryan missed a golden opportunity. Biden was sneering in his constant repetition of “we’re turning this over to the Afghans we trained.” Yet Ryan was unwilling to note that it’s those trained Afghans who are the greatest threat to American troops in the country.

I’ll be interested in seeing how this played with normal people, of which I’m admittedly not one. Did Biden come across as intense? Or just a jerk? Did Ryan come off as inexperienced by comparison to the much more seasoned Biden? Or as a decent, earnest guy ready to step onto the stage? I’m not a good judge of these things because my filter is so different from that of those who don’t follow this stuff on an hour-by-hour basis.

UPDATE: My insta-reaction seems to match that of those surveyed by CNN: VP Debate Poll: Ryan 48, Biden 44.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Fiona says:

    Biden won this one, hands down. Ryan wasn’t bad but he wasn’t great, and he once again failed to defend the numbers for Romney’s tax cuts and refused to suggest which deductions they’d eliminate.

    I thought Raddatz did a good job; she asked good questioned and actually followed up.

  2. john personna says:

    So, you prefer Ryan “points game” on Afghanistan to Obama’s more assured withdrawal?

    That seems opposite to your policy position over the last year.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: I agree with Biden much more than Ryan on Afghanistan. Unfortunately, Biden was stuck defending the horrendous policy of Obama, which he vociferously opposed.

    I think we should have gotten out some time back. The Surge was a huge mistake. And so was the timeline.

  4. Ed in NJ says:

    Wow, you couldn’t be more wrong. Biden eviscerated Ryan. If Romney won last week for being more aggressive, you have to apply the same standard here. Add in that Ryan had no command of facts, floundered when he went off talking points, and had a furrowed brown and sipped from an empty water cup all night, the optics for him were terrible. Amateurish, in no way prepared to be VP.

  5. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    Neither the surge nor the timeline exist in a political vacuum.

    When the theme of GOP attack on Obama is “weakness,” how realistic is it for a minority on the right to demand that Obama take a path which the majority of the right would attack and make hay with?

    No. As I’ve said before, you need a consensus on the right for faster withdrawal before you can fault Obama for being out of sync. Until then I’ll think he is being as dovish as he can get away with.

  6. Andre Kenji says:

    Biden flush the floor with Ryan. It´s a bigger smackdown than Bentsen v. Quayle.

  7. @john personna:

    You are forgetting that the Afghan Surge was a policy that Barack Obama wholeheartedly embraced when he became POTUS and that he campaigned on the idea that Afghanistan was the “good war” that the Bush Administration had ignored in favor of going to war in Iraq.

  8. Argon says:

    Raddatz won the debate. Like Jim Madigan who moderated the third Warren/Brown debate, she demonstrated how it’s done.

    Jim Lehrer and David Gregory have been ‘schooled’.

  9. Just Me says:

    Biden was rude and a jerk. He didn’t win at all, unless you get extra points for being rude. However I do think he was better prepared. I did think he was contradictory-somehow the intelligence community was a failure in Libya, but won’t fail at all with Iran? Of course it is clear that the Obama admin intends to handle the Libya issue by throwing intelligence under the bus along with Hillary (although she should be under the bus on this one, but her culpability doesn’t exonorate Obama).

    I think the real loser of the debate was the moderator who stunk. She had no control and her questions were awful. I also think she spent way too much time on foreign policy, when it is the economy that absolutely sucks. I would have liked more focus on the economy.

    I think Ryan won, but it was closer to even.

    Biden didn’t fail, but hisrudeness probably hurts Biden. I suspect Obama’s plan for next week is to be somewhere between his awful performance in the first debate but not nearly as rude and obnoxious as Biden.

  10. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    When you said the word “campaign” you got my point.

    Does Obama face real campaign pressure to be more dovish? Or as I say is all the election time pressure to be tough?

    Look, we three would agree on an accelerated withdrawal, but if we were running the Republians would call us weak at a minimum. They’d probability add that it was a Taliban victory.

  11. Jr says:

    Old man Joe killed that poor kid.

    Ryan just looked way over his head.

  12. Inhumans99 says:

    Just Me…Biden won this debate, you know it, and I know it. It cracks me up that everyone is getting the vapors that mean Joe was picking on that sweet Ryan youngster…as Mr. Joyner is fond of saying, politics ain’t beanbag.

    Will this keep Obama in the game, or was Biden’s intervention to get Obama reelected what was needed, but something that came too late in the game to make a difference, as the saying goes…time will tell.

    It is easy for me to go out on a limb and say that Biden’s performance tonight certainly did not hurt.

  13. Just Me says:

    Well we can certainly have our opinions, but Biden didn’t win the debate he just did better than Obama on substance, but I thought he was ridiculously rude and obnoxious and just as prone to lying. I mean he totally lied about the mandate for birth control on religious organizations.

    Moderator was awful-she couldn’t control Biden and she interrupted just as much as he did.

  14. SWSNBN says:

    Biden was obnoxious and the moderator let him be that way talking over Ryan and scoffing at him. To me, Biden attacked from weakness, not strength. I didn’t think Biden won hands down… Anyone who can not make their point without being derisive is on defensive.

  15. Ron Beasley says:

    This is all about appearance not substance. Biden looks like your crazy grandfather – Ryan looks like a mad weasel.

  16. Mikey says:

    From what I saw, Biden was better prepared with facts and positions, but the split screen will kill him the way it killed Gore in 2000. He was rude, condescending, and smirked at entirely inappropriate times. Ryan came off as far more controlled, keeping his cool no matter what Biden tried.

    Biden’s mannerisms and aggressiveness will be red meat to the Democrat base, but probably turns off the independents. Even some prominent media figures were tweeting their disapprovals of his style.

    I’d say this is a debate where if you looked at a transcript, without seeing the men themselves speaking and interacting, you’d say Biden was the clear winner. But adding in the speaking and interacting, many people would probably say Biden was so unlikable it didn’t matter how he did on substance.

    My verdict: Biden wins the battle, but loses the war.

  17. john personna says:

    @Just Me:

    I agree that Biden was more heavy handed than he had to be, but it was a difficult line. He had to call out malarkey … but he could have dialed it down a bit.

    On Catholic hospitals he talked about what services they could decline to offer. The controversy was about what insurance coverage they had to provide their employees. So he redirected rather than lied.

    Presumably an employee of a Catholic hospital who wanted to use their coverage for birth control would go to a Protestant hospital.

  18. Mikey says:

    @Ron Beasley: Funny! One thing I’ll say, I’d much rather get drunk with Biden. That would be a night to remember, without a doubt.

  19. michael reynolds says:


    It’s really interesting to see how much more objective Democrats are. Almost to a man we said Romney won the last debate. Now we’re saying Biden won this won. I tweeted that it was 60/40 Biden.

    CNN had a shot clock — it was remarkably even, and Raddatz did a great job. And I will say to you what I said to Dems who complained about Lehrer: he who attacks the moderator knows he’s lost.

  20. michael reynolds says:

    I don’t think Biden laughing cost him, I think it hurt Ryan. I know Republicans will want to make the debate about Biden laughing because they got their asses kicked on war, taxes, abortion and medicare. Biden was passionate and real. Always be authentic. And he knew what he was talking about while Ryan looked out of his depth.

  21. Jr says:

    @michael reynolds: Yeah, I don’t know how anyone can sit there and say with a straight face Ryan won.

    The truth of the matter is the crazy old man destroyed the serious policy wonk.

  22. michael reynolds says:


    Republican “policy wonks” never do hold up very well. What with being full of sh!t.

  23. JKB says:

    Charles Krauthammer has it pegged. Biden killed on radio. But he doesn’t have a face for television where Ryan prevailed.

    I was struck by the moderator relentlessly breaking in when Ryan was making his point. At one point, I flipped back over to see both Biden and her yelling at Ryan. In her defense, she did eventually interrupt Biden.

  24. michael reynolds says:

    Here, I’ll give you 100% of Republican policy wonkery:

    1) More for the rich, screw everyone else.

    That is the entirety of what Republicans have to say on every economic issue ever. Everything else they have to say is a lie designed to accomplish #1.

  25. Stonetools says:

    Biden won, but by decision, not knockout.
    Biden was better on just about everything,especially on the stimulus and reproductive rights.
    Above all, he achieved his number one task, which was to stop the bleeding and reinvigorated the liberals.

  26. Stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    To be honest, much of Ryan had to say on taxes and domestic policy WAS laughable.

  27. JKB says:

    Ryan brought the math, Biden brought the spitballs.

    I did wonder why, when Biden got stuck on the Afghan troops loop, Ryan didn’t ask, you mean the ones who are killing Americans training them?

  28. john personna says:

    I thought the moderator asked the right question when she asked Ryan if he was not sharing the tax details or if there was no real list. Ryan’s foundering made me sure there was no list. The whole 20% tax cut thing is empty PR.

  29. michael reynolds says:


    So you liked Ryan’s idea that we put more Americans on the front lines in harm’s way now, and then get out in 2014 anyway, but pretend we aren’t, which will somehow reassure our allies who all wish we’d left two years ago?

    Yes, that was just brilliant.

  30. john personna says:


    Because his ticket wants to stay longer, of course.

  31. David M says:

    Please, no campaign depends on less math than this one. Their tax plan falls apart immediately, so that claim is just silly.

  32. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Their public plan is to wait for 2014 and then evaluate. The ONLY reason to add that is to extend.

  33. Stonetools says:

    @James Joyner:

    James, you act like Obama’s main opponent on foreign policy is Gary Johnson, not Mitt Romney.
    The Republican foreign policy is MOAR war, all the time. And if you don’t give them war, then you are an un-American traitor. How would they have reacted to an early Afghan pullout?

  34. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:

    Well, not according to Paul Ryan tonight. I don’t actually know what they intend — it’s hard to read the true intentions of people who lie about literally everything.

  35. My take is that Democrats are happy with Biden, Republicans are happy with Ryan, and the swing voters are still swinging.

  36. Andre Kenji says:

    @john personna:

    Does Obama face real campaign pressure to be more dovish?

    No, I think that Obama is lucky because the position of Romney and other Republicans regarding war is basically insane. Obama does not have to be more dovish: he only has to point out that he is not insane as his opponents are.

  37. G.A. says:

    Some of you think that cackling idiot won the debate? lol….

  38. michael reynolds says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    My take is that Democrats are happy with Biden, Republicans are happy with Ryan, and the swing voters are still swinging.

    Nope. When Republicans think they’ve scored they pound their chests, strut, shout, guffaw loudly and generally strut around like frat boys with their first cigar. None of that is happening. Instead what we’re getting is attacks on the moderator and complaints about Biden’s smile.

    We all know Biden won. Republicans just can’t tell the truth.

  39. Jr says:

    @michael reynolds: Exactly. Fox news is spending all their time bitching about how rude Biden was.

    Face fact, the old man kicked this poor kid’s ass.

  40. Andre Kenji says:

    Yes, Biden should be arrested for child abuse.

  41. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    He reiterated examining conditions in 2014 tonight.

  42. Dazedandconfused says:

    I thought Biden won. Exposed the vacuous budget planning as about as well as could be expected. However, when I got home and tuned in CNN, there was David Gergen saying it was a draw on substance and a win for Ryan on style. All the talking heads pretty much agreed with him. Their poll shows Ryan won, 48-44. Oh well….

    I suspect that pretty much seals the deal for Romney. If that didn’t do it, nothing will. The public likes the Romney/Ryan tax plan. C’est la vie.

    Afghanistan? They were both BSing their asses off, of course. I dismissed all that on the basis it doesn’t matter which guy wins, the public is so overwhelmingly against extending this it won’t happen, and I understand the reasons for the fibbing. Can’t say I’d do any different, if I wanted to win. History.

    Bad mark on Obama’s judgement is negated by knowing McCain (or Romney) would have done the same thing, and even if they had sunk 50-60% more money into it the end result would have been roughly the same (IMO). Obama, think, is more likely to accelerate a withdrawal in a second term, and less likely to get us in another. The RR ticket is Cheney-ism. No. Thank. You.

  43. michael reynolds says:


    Snap polls are meaningless. I’ve seen three so far and they’re all over the map.

  44. Tillman says:

    Martha Raddatz didn’t moderate at all; she allowed Biden to interrupt constantly while interrupting both speakers too often.

    So, if I’m reading this right, you thought the part of the debate when Raddatz asked Ryan for specifics on his ticket’s tax plan two or three times when Ryan didn’t provide any was not moderating?

    And I’m not surprised your filter is off/different from others considering she switched from foreign policy to domestic policy in the blink of an eye on occasion.

    Still, Martha Raddatz wins the debate.

  45. Dazedandconfused says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I hope so. Listened, didn’t watch. Caught all but about the first 10 minutes or so. Got home same time it ended. Turned on the TV, and am still a little stunned. Thought it’s time to accept as fact that their BS is effective, or CNN has gone FOX.

    Either way….

  46. Janis Gore says:

    @Ron Beasley: Mad weasel. I like it. I was looking for the animal comparison.

  47. Franklin says:

    I didn’t watch the debate. But whatever you think about it, it’s not going to make as much of a difference as the first Romney-Obama debate did. I would go so far as to say you won’t see any statistically significant change in the polls, especially amongst the noise.

  48. David M says:

    It’s amazing the Romney/Ryan Fraud ticket can get above 27% in a poll. As a quick rundown, they’ve promised the following:

    1. A 20% across the board revenue neutral tax cut
    2. That the middle class can keep their deductions
    3. That they will increase military spending
    4. That they will repeal Obamacare
    5. That they will reduce the deficit

    Number 1 contradicts itself, number 2 makes number 1 impossible, and numbers 3 & 4 make number 5 next to impossible. Their proposals are infantile nonsense, yet people take them seriously.

    Biden may have the right idea, just laugh at them rather than trying to explain how the numbers don’t add up, especially when they’ll just continually lie.

  49. Lara Logan’s speech this month on Afghanistan seems more than apt.

    Neither Ryan nor Biden talked straight about Afghanistan.

  50. Janis Gore says:

    I simply have a visceral dislike for Ryan. There’s absolutely nothing he can do short of sending me these cowgirl boots (8 medium) to make me look on him or anything he says with the slightest favor.

  51. michael reynolds says:

    @Janis Gore:
    I’m interested by that. Please don’t take this as sexist but I was wondering how Ryan reads to women. He reads as callow and false to me. There’s something so frat boy douche about him.

  52. Janis Gore says:

    @michael reynolds: Callow is right on.

    He think’s he’s the cat’s meow, and he’s bound to be caught with “a live boy or a dead woman.”

    The Republican equivalent of Anthony Wiener.

  53. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:

    Their public plan is to wait for 2014 and then evaluate. The ONLY reason to add that is to extend.

    Or to posture and act tough for the yahoos.

  54. anjin-san says:

    Ryan’s smugness is a bit hard to take. I am biased on this one, because I have always liked Biden. Sure he is a lose cannon and a bit over the top, but he seems like a decent guy, and when I see him on TV I get the sense I am seeing who he really is. When you contrast that to the BS concern that Romney/Ryan have for the middle class, working class, and the poor, it is pretty refreshing.

  55. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Joe Biden doesn’t lie.

    Joe Biden actually believes things that are factually incorrect, and sincerely puts forth that as his realiity. And he simply can’t comprehend that others remember things differently.

    Benghazi was NOT an “intelligence failure.” The intelligence was actually pretty good. It was a massive political failure — the political people had the intelligence, but either didn’t understand it or didn’t care about it.

    There have been no successful terrorist attacks under Obama? That’s only true if you still call Benghazi a result of a riot over a YouTube video.

    And the mother of all whoppers:

    “By the way, they talk about this great recession like it fell out of the sky–like, ‘Oh my goodness, where did it come from?’ It came from this man voting to put two wars on a credit card, at the same time, put a prescription drug plan on the credit card, a trillion dollar tax cut for the very wealthy. I was there, I voted against them. I said, no, we can’t afford that.”

    Biden voted for both of the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions. He said no such things.

    Maybe he was thinking of the first Gulf War, which he did vote against.

    You don’t listen to Joe Biden to hear the truth. You listen to Joe Biden to hear what he wishes was the truth. He just phrases it to make his delusions sound like reality.

  56. G.A. says:
  57. KariQ says:


    One thing I’ll say, I’d much rather get drunk with Biden. That would be a night to remember, without a doubt.

    Dear lord, yes. If you got drunk with Ryan, all he’d talk about is his abs, P90x, marathon times and how much he can bench press. It’d be a nightmare. Biden, on the other hand, looks like a guy who knows how to have a good time.

    @michael reynolds:

    I was wondering how Ryan reads to women. He reads as callow and false to me. There’s something so frat boy douche about him.

    I can’t speak for all women of course, but he reminds me of the guys I was in officer training with who were sure they were going to be the Tom Cruise from Top Gun (which had just come out) and wanted to be sure everyone else knew it, too. Just so darned impressed with themselves, not realizing that the rest of us were betting they wouldn’t make it through the program at all.

  58. James H says:

    Paul Ryan reminded me of an 18-year-old undergraduate poly sci major who now knows everything. Joe Biden reminded me of that one uncle at the family gathering after he’s had his second helping of gin.

  59. Rodney says:

    Biden won the debate for so far distance that Ryan can’t be see on the race no more…!!! Saddly Ryan the only thing he can do is drink some more water when Biden keep slaping his face with facts. LOL

  60. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    “Knock knock!”

    “Who’s there?”

    “Interrupting veep.”

    “Interrupting vee…”


  61. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: The funny thing is that I usually think Democrats win these things. I thought Gore and Kerry outperformed Bush every time. I thought Biden easily beat Palin, although Palin likely won given the expectations game.

    In terms of point scoring, Biden probably won this one. But he came across as angry and condescending, while Ryan was polite, good humored, and reasonable. I’m thinking the latter will be more appealing to those who haven’t made up their minds.

    In the first presidential debate, Romney won both on points and on style. He was sharp but unfailingly good natured, while Obama was listless and disengaged.

  62. john personna says:

    Style commentary is interesting to me at the margin, but I’d never want it as the focus. I would much rather it be about the candidates’ plans.

    When plans come up short (as in this program debate) or are suddenly abandoned (as in the previous one) that’s the real story.

    (When someone above says that Biden won “on radio” that is a huge concession. It means he won the “debate” part of the debate.)

  63. Fiona says:

    @James Joyner:

    Angry? No. I think he was frustrated because Ryan, like Romney, plays fast and loose with the facts and refused to answer some of the big questions. Condescending? Not nearly as condescending as Romney who steamrolled Jim Lehrer and compared the president to one of his sons.

    Biden was performing for the base and, in that respect, he did what he needed to do. Ryan looked like Doogie Howser in comparison.

    Please don’t take this as sexist but I was wondering how Ryan reads to women.

    I don’t find Ryan particularly attractive. He’s about ten years younger than I am but seems like a kid. There is that frat boy air about him. I actually find Biden a lot more appealing.

  64. sam says:


    @michael reynolds: Exactly. Fox news is spending all their time bitching about how rude Biden was.

    I saw Brit Hume talk about Biden’s facial expressions last night and knew immediately what the next day’s right-wing talking point was going to be. But it was Chuck Todd this morning who nailed that. He said all the talk about Biden’s mug is a tell: They themselves believe the vice-president bested the congressman and are trying to deflect by talking about facial expressions.

  65. john personna says:

    Ryan can’t play “boy wonder” much further into middle age.

  66. Jen says:

    Please don’t take this as sexist but I was wondering how Ryan reads to women.

    The Romney-Ryan ticket, for me at least, brings to mind my time at a small, private, liberal arts school. Ryan reminds me of the wealthy, entitled frat boys I went to school with, and Romney reminds me of their fathers. It’s not a positive image, and probably informs more of my opinion of the ticket than I’d like to admit. The people I knew in college were the types who constantly talked about “pulling up the bootstraps” without ever acknowledging how their lives of privilege gave them a substantial head start.

  67. Janis Gore says:

    I’m 55. It’s striking to read that other educated women around my age see him much the same way I do.

  68. Doug Johnson says:

    I’m sure you believe what you’re saying but the polls don’t back you. Biden did outperform his boss, but that’s not saying much. I’m guessing you thought Obama won also??

  69. Janis Gore says:

    @Doug Johnson: Are you talking to me? Surely someone else.

  70. Janis Gore says:

    Because iIm going to play this election like the big cats do — I’ll vote for the team that sees fit to send me those black Ariat boots (size 8, medium width).

  71. Janis Gore says:

    They’ll look great with my new Armani jacket.

  72. Tford216 says:

    @James Joyner: He did not come off as angry. I think that is a bridge too far. When you use the word angry that undermines your argument. I did expect him to say “Sonny boy” a few times but angry is not the way. And as condescending as Ryan always is he deserved it. People look at Obama as the one who feels entitled that is how Ryan reads to most people.

  73. labman57 says:

    When continually questioned about the specifics of the Romney/Ryan tax plan, Ryan’s only response was that he has a “framework” — sounding much like a used-car salesman who tries to unload a clunker with a rusting chassis and no engine by advertising it as a smooth-running dream car.

    In an effort to support the claim that the economy is actually getting worse, Ryan cited unemployment levels in Scranton … Biden’s home turf.
    For a numbers guy, Ryan doesn’t seem to understand the statistically-invalid tactic of extrapolating cherry-picked anecdotal data into a general trend.

    Ryan’s foot-in-mouth moment:
    “I once met someone whose family died in a car crash.”

    Biden’s poignant response: “MY family died in a car crash …”

    Bottom line: Ryan clearly won — he scored a 9.8 on the bullish*t-o-meter.
    Unlike Obama, Biden DID come prepared with essential equipment to fend off his opponent’s responses: a large shovel and hip-waders

  74. Tillman says:

    @Tillman: Actually, I will say this. The one point she should’ve pressed Biden more on, in the same vein she pressed Ryan on his tax plan, was the question over what else besides taxing the rich would the administration do to reduce the deficit. Biden completely ignored the question, she didn’t call him on it, and I really wanted to hear that answer.

  75. Biden was rude and a jerk. He didn’t win at all, unless you get extra points for being rude.

    Frankly I thought he was being pretty damn polite considering how disingenuous Ryan was being. On pretty much every issue, Ryan’s response was “Well, Obama is doing this wrong. No, we’d do exactly the same thing he’s currently doing, but it would somehow magically work better if we were doing it. No I can’t explain why, it’s part of our secret plan”.

    The Middle East bit in particular had me screaming at my TV. Romney wouldn’t “let” Russia veto security council resolutions? They have a unilateral veto. How are you not going to “let” them use it? You want to embargo Syria? You do realize there’s a major Russian naval base there, right? Are you saying you’d order our ships to fire at Russian Naval vessels to prevent them from going there?

  76. @James Joyner:

    while Ryan was polite, good humored, and reasonable

    He came across like someone who’s fine about telling an obviously lie straight to my face because they think I’m too stupid to notice. I felt like punching him in the face most of the night.

  77. stonetools says:

    In JJ’s view, Ryan who tells a lie politely is better than Biden who tells the truth vociferously-at least this week
    Last week, Romney who was vociferous but dishonest was much better than the polite but truthful Obama.


  78. Rob in CT says:

    I don’t think it’s just “in JJ’s view.”

    There’s a reason these guys go this route (smile while bullshitting you). It works on low-info voters.

    The reason Ryan reminds so many people of that frat boy polysci major in college who came from privilege and talked about bootstraps is because, basically, that’s who he is. No mature adult with an ounce of introspection and humility is a Randian.

  79. Mikey says:

    @Rob in CT:

    The reason Ryan reminds so many people of that frat boy polysci major in college who came from privilege and talked about bootstraps is because, basically, that’s who he is.

    I don’t know, Rob–whatever one thinks of Ryan, I don’t believe he could be fairly characterized as someone who “came from privilege,” at least not from what I know of his biography. Seems to me he was pretty firmly middle-class growing up and did the things middle-class kids do (play sports in high school, work at McDonalds, etc). He graduated from Miami of Ohio, a fine school but certainly not Ivy League.

    He was, however, a frat boy–Delta Tau Delta.

  80. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: Well, speaking as a physicist, I have absolutely no respect for people whose math doesn’t add up. Either the guy is lying to himself (in which case I have no respect because he’s a bloody coward) or he knows the numbers are crap and he’s lying to us.

    Intellectual integrity means a lot to me. Neither Romney nor Ryan manifest it.

  81. jukeboxgrad says:


    I don’t believe he could be fairly characterized as someone who “came from privilege”

    I suppose it depends how you define “privilege.” His great-grandfather started a company that is now a major construction business. It’s still a family business, run by his cousins (link):

    Janesville, Wisconsin, where Ryan was born and still lives, is a riverfront city of sixty-four thousand people … Three families, the Ryans, the Fitzgeralds, and the Cullens, sometimes called the Irish Mafia, helped develop the town, especially in the postwar era. The Ryans were major road builders, and today Ryan, Inc., started in 1884 by Paul’s great-grandfather, is a national construction firm.

    More on that business here and here.

    Also see here:

    Ryan has a net worth of about $4.5 million and earned at least $344,000 last year, putting him in the top 5 percent of income earners. Most of his money comes from his marriage and inheritances.

    If the money I get from being born and getting married exceeds what I have because I worked for it, I think it’s fair to describe that as “privilege.”

  82. Mikey says:

    @jukeboxgrad: I knew about the construction business, which I thought was a bit incongruous with the rather middle-class nature of how he grew up.

    I don’t believe (but am open to correction) that his inheritances are very large. But he married into money, if his wife’s educational pedigree is any evidence: St. Stephen’s Episcopal School (annual tuition over $20K), Wellesley College (alma mater of HIllary Clinton and Madeline Albright) and GWU Law School. And her inheritance, from her late mother, was over $1 million.

  83. Dazedandconfused says:

    @James Joyner:

    Angry? Peeved, and deliberately so, I’d say.

    Romney used a trick of batching BS to neutron-star density and rolling the ball at Obama. Difficult to take apart to begin with, and it takes much more time to expose a lie thoroughly than it does to state one. What doesn’t get refuted appears as truths (“A lie un-refuted is a lie believed.” -Alan Simpson) to low information voters. Sneaky.

    How do you counter that? No perfect way. You can unpack one out and tediously expose it, but then you’ve placed all your eggs in the “he’s a liar” basket. Your position barely gets stated.

    Or, as Biden did, you treat laughable BS exactly the same way a normal person would in a normal conversation.