Friday, October 12, 2012

The veep stakes

Last week I wrote that the Presidential debate looked very different to me that it did to most major  pundits who proclaimed their opinions far and wide.  The Daily Beast posted an interesting article that helps explain why: "But with the rise of blogging and especially Twitter, journalists are spending more and more time immersed in the world of retorts and clever one-liners than ever before." So thoughtful responses from Obama, because they weren't snappy or zingy, led him to be caricatured as sleepy, tired, unfocussed. 

After last night's Vice Presidential debate, even greater dissection of the contestants was offered up. Fortunately, looking sleepy was not a charge that could be leveled against either Joe Biden or Paul Ryan.

I thought Joe Biden's energy and pugnaciousness were refreshing, and I did not mind his interrupting  Paul Ryan or Martha Raddatz, since he had valid points to make. Often he corrected a point made by his opponent, a move calculated to try to get people to actually think about what was being said (which is one of the only proven ways to counter mis-information). Much has been made about his smiling at Ryan's statements, but Joe does not have a poker face: much better to smile at something you consider a bunch of "malarkey" as he colorfully termed it, than scowl and/or shake your head! Paul Ryan looked far too earnest. Like he was trying reallyreallyhard to convince the moderator (and by extension, the viewing public) that he was right. His bulging eyes, raised eyebrows and furrowed forehead were exhausting to watch. So earnest, so sure of himself; he walked a very fine line between confidence and smugness. He crossed it a couple of times. But I know he appealed to those who were predisposed to see him as the Next Big Thing and Joe as a washed-up glad-hander.

From a professional standpoint, my critique is of their delivery only; there are way too many organizations who have fact-checked their content for me to weigh in on it. I would give this one to Joe. He was at ease, yet forceful when he needed to be. He used vocal variety to express different ideas and thoughts appropriately. He was at home in his body: he moved, he gestured, he breathed. Paul Ryan, for all his confidence, was, oddly and visably ill at ease. He drank way too much water and swallowed nervously throughout. He lacked the kind of vocal cadence you use when you have internalized a message; he sounded well-drilled. He hammered home his messages with pretty much the same tense, I- want-to-really-make-you-understand feeling all the time. Pushing himself at us, not pulling us in. I got the feeling he wasn't a very good listener.

I'll be listening again next week as Obama and Romney meet again. Who knows? Maybe I will hear something new!

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