In tonight's debate, Paul Ryan will try to make Joe Biden look like an effete manicurist in his approach to fiscal policy, an insider making token trims to bloated budgets. By contrast, Biden will try to make Ryan look like a madman of a surgeon, wielding a chain saw and ready to amputate programs like Medicare and Social Security. Whoever wins that battle of the image distortion will likely be declared the winner of the debate. And possibly - but far less likely - the winner of next month's election.
The debate is Biden's to win or lose. If Ryan makes him look evasive or stupid about real budget conundrums and numbers, Biden could lose. If Biden says something provocative but disturbing, then he loses. But of the four candidates - Obama and Romney, Ryan and Biden - Biden is the most personable, the most likely to demonstrate an instinct for how people respond to policy. He could easily make Ryan look like an out-of-touch policy wonk who doesn't understand or appreciate the concerns of the average American. For this reason, Biden could win the debate.
Both tonight's VP debate and next week's presidential debate will cover foreign policy. Given what is going on in the Middle East - assassinations, civil wars, and maltreatment of minority groups - it would be interesting to ask the candidates how they would intervened in the American Civil War and Indian wars during the 1860s. And then asking how that parallels conditions in the Middle East.
1. Would you have advised Lincoln to send troops to stop the Confederates from succession? How would you justify killing so many Americans to protect the union?
- How do you judge whether revolutionaries in places like Syria, Libya or even Iraq and Afghanistan are more like Americans fighting the British in 1776 or Confederates fighting the Union in 1861?
2. How would you have dealt with American Indian tribes? Do you think they were treated fairly?
- Do you think that Palestinians should be put on reservations, assimilated, or given their own land?