If my writing comes across as disoriented, it is because I have just finished watching a mash-up of all 85 times that Vice President Joe Biden interrupted Paul Ryan, his Republican challenger, during Thursday night’s debate (well, 82 times; three of them were interruptions of the moderator, Martha Raddatz). When viewed one after the other like that, it really begins to frustrate the viewer, who puts himself in Ryan’s shoes. I found myself wishing he would finally turn to Biden and say, “Sir, will you please stop being a child and let me finish!”
Paul Ryan kept his composure, however — obviously a wiser decision than the above would have been — so good for him. He didn’t let Biden’s antics throw him off balance. Maybe he had just finished watching Billie Beane (played by Brad Pitt) say in the film Moneyball, “When your enemies are making mistakes, don’t interrupt them.”
And I can’t decide if that was Joe Biden’s goal — to distract Paul Ryan, to get him to lose his temper, something — or if he is simply that big a clown. “Fool” would probably be a more suitable word, if his laughing and his interruptions and his hostility and his overall maniacal manner were not a mere technique (“If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet,” as the Book of Proverbs put it).
But were his antics a technique? I don’t think his interruptions or his finger-wagging at the female moderator (something Paul Ryan not only would not have countenanced, but would not have been able to get away with) were techniques. I think he is just that abrasive a personality. So what about the Cheshire grin and incessant giggling? I fail to see how this could be a strategic move inasmuch as strategies are supposed to help a candidate, not make it seem as though the man a heartbeat away from the presidency has just escaped from Arkham Asylum.
Except the laughter was a strategy, by my judgment. It was a bad one, of course, because was one which will surely backfire. Yes, it helped fire up the increasingly despondent base, something I am particularly grateful for because their defeat in November, should we be so victorious, will be that much more of a shock to them and therefore an even tastier treat to me. He used his smiles and laughter to evoke an emotional response from his supporters, leading them, the non-thinking, into thinking that Biden, as relaxed as his smile indicated he was, was in the lead.
But what did undecided voters see? They saw a thoroughly unhinged bully on the left and a serious, well-schooled, clear mind on the right.