Like many children across the nation, my neighbor Jin’s ten-year-old daughter was required to watch the vice presidential debate for homework last night. This morning when I saw him walking the dog, I asked what she thought. He said, “She couldn’t really understand the ins and outs of the conversation. Mostly, she just wondered why the two men on TV were fighting.”
And fighting they were. Today we’ll be reading all about Paul Ryan’s eye rolling and interrupting. The pundits will be wagging their fingers at Joe Biden’s finger wagging and smirking. There will be discussion about the generational differences in style and presentation. They’ll talk about Ryan’s Jack Kennedy hair and Biden’s gleaming teeth. I’d like to believe the voting population of this country is just a little more sophisticated than the average ten-year-old and can see beyond the gestures and debate tactics to the substance. Because, while yes these men were fighting, they weren’t simply bullies facing off across the playground, they were fighting about the very future of our country.
Here’s a breakdown of the big issue areas they disagreed on:
The Bad Guys: Paul Ryan went on the attack regarding Benghazi accusing the Obama administration of being soft on terrorists and then launched into a defacto claim that Iran is close to (or already has) nuclear weapons. I actually agree we need better security around the Middle East diplomatic corp. The attack on the Libyan Embassy proved that. But, I do not believe a rock-’em-sock’em tough on the bad guy strategy is best for this country. As Biden said, “The last thing we need is another war.” Obama may have won the Nobel Peace prize too early in his career but his restraint, his commitment to working with other countries rather than going solo, is exactly the kind of international leadership this country and world needs.
The Budget: The Romney/Ryan ticket has promised expertise on the fiscal future of our country. I’d like to believe it. Romney’s business acumen is impressive and Ryan’s depth of knowledge about the federal budget is undebatable. But last night, Ryan did not convince me he and his partner had a specific plan that would help, not hurt. Americans. In the past, Romney has made it clear he is a free market capitalist who would have allowed the auto industry to fail, would have allowed the nation’s foreclosure crisis to run its course, and argues that 47% of Americans are too reliant on government benefits. Ryan’s Ann Randian philosophy of individualism is the same one espoused by Alan Greenspan. You may remember his befuddlement in front of the congressional panel when discussing the financial collapse. He said, the free market strategy of Romney, Ryan, and Rand is “flawed.”
And that fatal flaw is greed. I don’t trust business run amok just as much as I don’t trust uncontrolled government. We need checks and balances. A Republican led Congress coupled by a Romney/Ryan ticket does not provide the balance this country needs. It takes time to heal from the deep pain of a financial crisis (one driven by a free market governmental policies and two wars). We need more time.
The Body Politic: Paul Ryan brilliantly twisted the requirement to offer contraceptives to women under the Obama Health Care plan as an attack on religious freedom. Don’t let me get started on how it could possibly be we are even having this discussion in 2012, but fact checkers were all over that one this morning. This from the New York Times:
From the start, churches and other houses of worship were exempt from the contraceptive requirement. Still, it provoked furious criticism from Roman Catholic institutions and some other religious groups. The administration ultimately offered what Mr. Obama described as ”an accommodation” for church-affiliated schools, universities, hospitals and charities. They would not have to provide or pay for contraceptive coverage, but their female employeescould obtain such coverage directly from their insurance companies at no cost.
As for abortion, Paul Ryan has been unequivocal in his stance: no abortion, anywhere anytime. He co-authored a “personhood” amendment with “legitimate rape” representative Todd Aiken. Last night he softened his pitch saying that the Romney/Ryan ticket supports abortion in the case of incest, rape, or the mother’s health. This might placate some voters, but when it comes to reproductive freedom, Biden brought it home. He looked right in the camera and reminded voters to remember the next president will likely have a chance to replace two supreme court justices. Three words: Roe Versus Wade.
Sure there were other issues they debaters touched on including Obama’s health plan vs. Ryan’s plan for overhauling medicare, defense spending, tax on small businesses – all important issues. They didn’t touch on immigration, the environment, or education – also important issues. We can only hope we will hear more in the next debate between President Obama and his contender, Mitt Romney because the more we hear, the clearer the choice. It’s up to us to decide on behalf of all of the fifth graders across this country.