Vice Presidential Debate: Raddatz Strikes Back

By S.M. Blanchard

“To all the fact checkers out there, remember that every time Mr. Biden called Mr. Ryan “my friend,” he was lying.”
-Matthew Moberly Carbondale, Illinois, United States of America

So went the general feedback on the Twitter and Facebook feeds of Americans the nation over. Though the vice presidential debates carried some important themes that detailed vital differences in the democrat and republican tickets, many Americans were just as intrigued by the sheer rhetorical roughhousing of the debate as the actual content within it.

Vice Presidential Joe Biden, who had 25 years experience in Congress and one presidential run by the time Congressman Paul Ryan graduated high school came into the debate seasoned and ready to attack. Said to be making up for Obama’s lack of zeal in last week’s presidential debate, Biden forcefully took control over young upstart Ryan, who maintained a collected stance throughout the course of the 90-minute session. The banter of the debate, which included Ryan slamming Biden’s 47% attack on Romney’s misspeak leaked out earlier last month, responded that the vice president should know that, “words don’t always come out of your mouth the right way.” At points, the banter accumulated in an almost sibling-like atmosphere of ‘he-said, she-said’, complete with an impressive set of facial expression and smirks from Vice President Biden.

But the truly striking person to watch in the debate was Martha Raddatz. The ABC correspondent took control of the debate from the beginning, coming at both candidates from their respective opposing political viewpoint. Raddatz asked provoking and charged questions in response to the candidates’ retorts; responses that American viewers sitting the political fence would probably be questioning themselves.

A prime example of this can be seen in the discussion of Iran’s potential nuclear armament. When Biden downplayed the threat of Iran, Raddatz probed Biden as to his own conceptualisation of Iran as a threat, and then followed up Biden’s look at the facts response with a quote from former Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, who stated that ignoring the potential development of nuclear arms in Iran would be a catastrophic decision for the nation. This forced Biden to backtrack on his own dismissive statements and address the legitimacy of the threat, as well as detail the proposed plan of action of Obama’s foreign policy. In response to Ryan’s attribution that what was needed in the Iran situation was facilitation, understanding, and the changing of minds, Raddatz immediately probed as to how the Romney ticket proposed going about this ‘changing of minds’ in a quick manner. Ryan’s response to this was the offering that the suggestion of a hasty timeline to create change in the minds of Iranian leaders to prevent a potential nuclear armament was questionable.

Raddatz’s strategy not only kept the debate on track, but also drew out moments of acute and authentic responses from the candidate as to their actual policy plans and sentiments to the issues at hand. Her style of facilitation allowed for the brief dismantling of the shadowy-figures behind the Vice Presidential candidates to reveal their intentions underneath their party’s political zingers.  It was in this style of debate that we saw Biden, the man, who had faced the death of his young wife and daughter in a car accident years ago, sympathise with the compassion of Romney’s well known charitable work, and time spent with other American citizens who had lost loved ones in accidents. This shared mutual respect for Romney’s character as well as the reliving of such a tragic experience gave way to a moment of vulnerability that served the Vice President to drive home the authenticity of further points. This brought an authenticity and humanness to a debate that was otherwise wrapped up in rhetoric.

After last week’s presidential debate, where PBS Jim Lehere unapologetically allowed for a no-holds-bar atmosphere of seemingly chaotic and unapologetic disregard to maintain structure, Raddatz controlled force of the arguments last night drew out an alternative narrative for the Vice Presidential debate that lent a fresh and compelling perspective to the political issues at stake in America’s future.

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