6:45 Central Time: Get ready!
7:18: "Paul Ryan's very attractive to a lot of women," opines David Gergen on the CNN pre-show. I have the DVR set to play the debate on CNN, but I'm thinking of changing because they're going to display focus group reactions on screen — colored lines — through the whole thing. I want to form my own opinion!
7:47: CNN commentators are finding a hundred different ways to say that the debate will be affected by having the candidates sitting and physically close together. Somehow, it will be harder to fight, at least in a personal way.
8:03: Game on. First question is about Libya and the absence of protests. Biden goes first, not focusing on the question asked, the massive failure of intelligence. Ryan takes notes.
8:06: Biden talks about tracking down terrorists to the "gates of Hell," as Ryan smiles. Ryan immediately attacks the President for blaming the YouTube video. We should have had a Marine detachment protecting Chris Stevens. We've been "projecting weakness abroad." We're witnessing "the unraveling of Obama foreign policy."
8:09: Biden is being rude, laughing and mouthing words. And Ryan is talking about serious national security matters. Biden mutters an interruption. When Biden is given a turn, he calls what Ryan said "malarky." Biden stutters and falters and has to say "uh" about 5 times before he can come up with the word "Iran."
8:12: "We weren't told they wanted more security," Biden says, and now it's Ryan who laughs — a little scoff.
8:13: Should the U.S. apologize? Ryan says "yes" re urinating on Korans — which the moderator (Raddatz) mentioned — but not "for standing up for our values."
8:15: Ryan is speaking earnestly about preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons, and Biden is chuckling toothily, his body shaking like Santa Claus. Biden says if Republicans had had control of the sanctions, the rest of the world wouldn't have followed us. These were "the most crippling sanctions." Biden goes on and on assuring us that Iran is far from being able to deliver a nuclear bomb. He accuses the Republicans of "loose talk."
8:19: Biden talks to "Bibi" all the time and so does Obama. What Ryan says is "a bunch of stuff." When Ryan speaks, Biden is laughing clownishly again. It looks just awful. Ryan isn't rattled by it. I think he knows Biden looks foolish.
8:23: Biden is acting as though he cannot physically tolerate Ryan having a turn to speak!
8:25: Economics. Biden grabs the opportunity to push the 47% theme. He's "had it up to here," he says, with wealthy people not paying their fair share. He sounds really cranky and angry. Ryan: "Joe and I are from similar towns." And in Janesville, his home town, unemployment has gone from 8.5% to 10%. Biden busts out another big grin.
8:29: "The Vice President very well knows that the words don't always come out the right way," Ryan says, getting a laugh, defending Romney from the 47% charge. Instead of taking this graciously, Biden mutters something about how he believes everything he says. Ryan tells some stories about Romney's charity toward the unfortunate, which includes someone that was in a car accident, and Biden takes the opportunity to remind us that his own wife died in a car crash, which is sad, but oddly misplaced.
8:33: Ryan talks about "green pork" in the stimulus, and Biden gets all cranked up about how Ryan sought stimulus money for his district. Biden continually interrupts Ryan in a way I find incredibly annoying.
8:36: While Ryan is talking about Medicare helping his mother and grandmother, Biden sighs long and loud. Sighing! Remember when Gore got in no end of trouble for sighing? How can Biden not know that?!
8:39: "They got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, turning Medicare into a piggy bank for Obamacare," says Ryan. Biden interrupts. Ryan says: "Mr. Vice President, I know you're under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think everyone will be better served if we don't keep interrupting each other." I love the politeness of "if we don't keep" — we — when Biden has been an interruption machine and Ryan has barely interrupted and only occasionally has talked over to keep from losing his turn. The moderator, Martha Raddatz has done nothing at all to control Biden, who is, I think, hurting himself. Biden says: "Well, don't take all 4 minutes then." He should have said, "All right" or something reasonably conciliatory.
8:51: The stress level is rising. Biden is so angry. Why is he yelling? Ryan needs nerves of steel not to lose his cool. I'm impressed that Ryan, when he gets his turn, is able to speak in an even, natural voice. It's hard to concentrate on the policy itself, because the emotional static is so strong.
9:11: Biden has been yelling at Martha Raddatz for the last 15 minutes (as the subject is war). It's so inappropriate!
9:21: They're asked to talk about how their Catholicism has informed their position on abortion. Ryan isn't pro-life "simply because of" his Catholicism. It's also about science and reason. He talks of seeing his bean-shaped unborn child on a sonogram. Biden says "My religion informs who I am." He accepts the Catholic position on abortion that life begins at conception, but he refuses to impose that on others.
9:27: The last question is about negative campaigning. Biden rambles. Paul Ryan attributes the negativity to Obama's failures: he has nothing to run on.
9:34: Wait. That wasn't the last question. There's a question about character: What do you bring as a man? Nothing particularly interesting was extracted by that question.
9:35: Now, closing statements.
9:48: That debate was so annoying! Some of the CNN commentators are talking about how Biden did what he came to do, to fire up the Democrats. "This was not for the independents," says Van Jones. Okay, well, but independents were watching, and Biden was horribly rude. He created this disturbing atmosphere of anxiety.