October 16, 2012

Why Biden acted the way he did at the VP debate.

Something just came into focus for me this morning. You know that I didn't think Obama was that bad in the first debate and that I watched the debate a second time and still didn't think Obama was that bad. I heard something on the radio this morning that hit me as a revelation. It was NPR's Morning Edition, and I can't find the specific quote that jogged my thinking, but someone said the reason Obama made such a bad impression was that looking down and taking notes, he seemed as though he was agreeing with what Romney was saying.



I never thought about it that way, perhaps because, as a lawprof, I'm used to seeing people looking down and taking notes on what I'm saying and it never occurs to me that this behavior signifies that the note-takers agree with me. When I saw Obama looking down and writing, even when he nodded his head and smiled, I thought he was taking account of Romney's points for the purpose of refuting them when it was his turn to speak. I thought his casual attitude expressed confidence that he did in fact have answers to whatever it was Romney was saying.

But I'll assume most people don't read that behavior as I do. They took it to mean Obama was agreeing with Romney. If that's the basis for the opinion that Obama was terrible at the first debate, it would explain the advice worked out for Joe Biden: Whenever Paul Ryan is speaking, remember you are on camera and you need to manifest that you disagree with him. Don't allow yourself to look as though he's making some worthy points and reasonable people might agree with. Don't dutifully wait for your turn to refute those points. Show that you object constantly.

It was a ridiculous display, but I can understand how people who thought hard and tried to be analytical arrived at the notion that it was a good idea.

ADDED: Like me, Obama taught law school classes. Perhaps he shares my interpretation of the meaning of silent note-taking.

129 comments:

Nathan Alexander said...

I took it the way you did, and I think most people did.

If anyone on the Obama team insisted on the interpretation you offer here, they were truly grasping at straws.

Which means, I think you may be right that they thought/insisted that Obama looked like he was agreeing.

buster said...

I doubt you're right about this. One doesn't have to be a professional lecturer in a university to realize that when Obama was taking notes and sometimes smiling when Romney was speaking, he wasn't agreeing with him. Particularly since Obama never agreed with Romney when his turn came to speak.

Everyone who goes to high school takes lecture notes, and understands the significance of it.

Matthew Sablan said...

People took it the way they did because Obama, on many controversial topics, voiced actual agreement with Romney. It's the same strategy he took with Hillary at the debates: Agree on many things, but try and find a wedge. There just was no wedge against Romney because he had facts, something Obama was not prepared for.

David said...

Naaah.

What notes? He took a few but not many. They can't bring notes in with them.

He was showing disdain. Dismissiveness. He was doing exactly what you theorize Biden was told to do. But he was doing it in an even less attractive way.

buster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shouting Thomas said...

Apparently, none of the Obama people think that debating the substance of the issues is of any importance.

Which is why they are losing.

They thought they had Romney set up. It's as if they were re-running LBJ's atomic bomb scare campaign against Goldwater.

Romney's crazy! He's a vampire! He's sucking the blood out of factory workers! He's infecting elderly women with cancer!

Obama has a substance problem, not an image problem. The fact that we're wrestling so much with their image problem is the proof that Obama has a substance problem.

Quayle said...

When you don't have the evidence or the logic to have a serious dabate, you are reduced to having to demonstrat that the other side is completely insane, stupid, evil, and/or immoral.

The reason Obama can't do the reasonable answer strategy is that he doesn't have any reasonable answers.

Jay said...

but I can understand how people who thought hard and tried to be analytical arrived at the notion that it was a good idea

Really?

How about showing disagreement in the answers?

Biden acted the way all leftist act when engaged in political dialogue, they have no substance so they go for theatrics.

Note From the Pew Research Center:

Six-in-ten voters say they watched at least a little of last Thursday night’s vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan at Centre College in Danville, KY. Among debate watchers, as many say Biden did the better job (47%) as say Ryan (46%). …
Republican voters overwhelmingly say Ryan did the better job in the debate (88%); a comparable percentage of Democrats (89%) say Biden did the better job. Among independents, 50% say Ryan did better, 39% say Biden


It also doesn't help the "strategy" when said strategy is dependent on an imbecile to carry it out.

Hagar said...

I would not describe that as hard thinking.

Besides Obama consistently looked disdainful and contemptuous of Romney's statements, so he hardly "seemed as though he was agreeing with what Romney was saying."

Matthew Sablan said...

Biden was, I think, expecting more push back from Ryan (besides politely asking "both of us" to stop interrupting.) If Ryan had done the same as Biden, it would not have looked so odd. But, Ryan was polite, reserved and patient.

Bob Ellison said...

buster said..."Everyone who goes to high school takes lecture notes, and understands the significance of it."

Would that it were so.

The thing that bugged me about Obama's note-taking was that he did it with his left hand. Sinister!

Jay said...

Whenever Paul Ryan is speaking, remember you are on camera and you need to manifest that you disagree with him. Don't allow yourself to look as though he's making some worthy points and reasonable people might agree with. Don't dutifully wait for your turn to refute those points. Show that you object constantly.


Alternatively,
Joe Biden is dimwitted and showing his age.

Alternatively,
he was trying to provoke Ryan into losing his temper thus revealing that Romney/Ryan really are the cold, calculating robber baron ticket!

Shouting Thomas said...

I think I'll go with the Obama had never before been tested theory.

McCain laid down and quit rather than risk being labeled a racist.

Obama has been adored and over-praised his whole life because he's black and, as Biden says, "clean and articulate."

I think that Obama was stunned that Romney refused to play to the crazy image the Obama campaign had fashioned for Romney. And, Obama was doubly stunned that Romney wouldn't just lay down and quit.

White guys aren't supposed to fight back. If they do, they're racists. And, white guys are supposed to assume the fetal position and cry when they're called racists.

Richard said...

I don't see how anyone thought this was a good idea.

This is the sort of thing novice debaters do their freshman year of high school. It takes months for coaches to get them to realize that all their crazy facial expressions and head shaking does nothing to convince the judge that their position is better. In fact, it only makes the judge look for a reason to vote against you.

And anyone who has sat on a jury will tell you just how annoying it is if audience members are shaking their heads, mumbling comments or acting like what a witness is saying is ridiculous.

These actions show a lack of respect for the audience. In this case, it was the voters. Biden in no way helped his cause. All he did was fire up people who hate Ryan and think anything he says is ridiculous. Only those biased to the cause. Those who either like Ryan, like discourse, or haven’t made up their mind completely had to of been put off by this.

rehajm said...

I think it's reaching a bit. Obama went into the first debate feeling confident with a small but comfortable lead, especially in electoral college votes. So you play prevent defense, or a better Obama analogy, run the four corner offense. Disagree when necessary, but look presidential, in control. Make your opponent make up lost ground. Of course, it failed, as Romney performed beautifully and voters responded.

With Biden, he's the veep. The veep can be the attack dog, the bad cop, and not let it settle all on president's shoulders. Heck, if he keeps it up for 90 minutes he might rattle the new kid. But no harm, no foul one way or another...

SteveR said...

I hardly think anyone would come away from the VP debate with a worse impression of Biden. He's been full of shit for a long time and his behavior on the Judiciary Commitee when questioning SCOTUS nominees, being a prime example. But he's been given a free pass by a certain percentage of voters because...well you know.

TosaGuy said...

The debate was two weeks ago and its still being analyzed. This does not help Obama and only increases the pressure to perform in tonight's debate.

Has Obama ever done well under pressure? Has he ever been subjected to do-or-die pressure?

Cath said...

Biden's over the top performance was a strategic trial balloon to gauge exactly how fired up Obama should act at tonight's debate.

Conclusion: not THAT much. Don't want to look crazy!

Bob Ellison said...

I, like the Professor and others, came away from the first debate thinking "Obama won". It seemed close, but I figured Obama stayed Presidential and thoughtful, and I thought that would be enough-- that Romney needed to clobber him.

I guess I was terribly wrong. But it seems to me that too many people take their impressions of who "won" the debate from the MSM. The MSM said Romney clobbered Obama, and I suspect (here my conspiracy theorist shows through) that this helped the pollsters to quickly start "tightening up" their models and reports.

Pat Caddell said on FNC yesterday that every MSM analyst was already writing the column that says Obama clobbered Romney tonight. That result would fit my conspiracy theory.

Matthew Sablan said...

Er... Romney DID clobber Obama in the first debate. The first half hour is essentially Obama lying about $5 trillion (which his campaign later admitted to) and Romney calmly, patiently explaining to him that he is incorrect. It is like a Goofus/Gallant of debate prep, with Obama as Goofus and Romney as Gallant.

... does that date my age?

rehajm said...

Bob Ellison said..

The thing that bugged me about Obama's note-taking was that he did it with his left hand

Moreover, he writes left handed with the 'hook' left handers should never write with. Bad form

Franklin said...

I think it's much simpler: Biden, his handlers, and most Democrats, apparently, are complete fucking assholes.

EDH said...

And that would also explain why Obama said he was being too "polite".

When Obama was looking down for protracted periods, however, I didn't get the impression he was taking notes.

By contrast, I could tell Romney was taking notes in bullet point fashion.

And some of Obama's vocalized "yeps" were said while looking half askance at Romney.

Original Mike said...

"...but someone said the reason Obama made such a bad impression was that looking down and taking notes, he seemed as though he was agreeing with what Romney was saying."

I don't understand that assertion (that looking down and taking notes is synonymous with agreement) at all.

AJ Lynch said...

Wrong Althouse.

Obama can't defend his piss poor record.

Biden is retarded but thinks he is a man of the working class yet he, like Obama, has never had a real job.

Livermoron said...

Obama';s looking down made him look guilty when Romney was pounding him.
Dogs do it, people do it.
We recognize it immediately, at an instinctual level at the very least.

Dr. A's point and mine share a common genesis...you can't feel guilt if you don't believe you are guilty.

MadisonMan said...

... does that date my age?

Goofus and Gallant are still around, in Highlights.

ricpic said...

It's an Althouse-Obama soul meld.

Zach said...

I disagree about the note taking and nodding. I read the body language as that of someone who's taking criticism poorly. Lots of nodding, little eye contact -- someone who wants to say yes without coming to actual agreement. Think of being lectured by your parents -- you already know what they're going to say, you think it's a little unfair that you have to be quiet and take it. You nod and try to move on without engaging.

More generally, I think his problem in the debate was that he was trying to get by with a half effort. The things he was saying weren't horrible, they just weren't the best arguments possible. It was kind of tired and repetitious and passionless. It was easy to remember that he had been skipping out on debate practice, and you kind of wondered what other things he had been giving half efforts to.

Unknown said...

Think you're misreading that. Obama got whooped because he's not that good. Was never good, in fact, was just better - much better, will stipulate - than Bush, and thus the contrast in 08 made him appear like a superman. Plus cannot forget he's black, and there's a well known tendency among liberals to wildly enthuse about "articulate" blacks.

As for Biden making an ass of himself, it had nothing to do with note-taking, it was just over-reacting to Obama's whooping.

sometimes cigar is just a cigar.

David-2 said...

Bob Ellison: "The thing that bugged me about Obama's note-taking was that he did it with his left hand. Sinister!"

Great double entendre in the use of the word "sinister"! Bravo!

(One of several reasons the Althouse blog comments are worth reading: the word play!)

Shanna said...

Ryan took a notes a fair number of times.

I think what Biden was doing was more the old 'pound the table' when you don't have much to say.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

I read an analysis I agree with. They said Biden worked for the Dem base. The base wanted someone to express their contempt for everything Republican and Biden did that. Sorry I don't remember where I read that and I'm too lazy to google.

Writ Small said...

Althouse is overthinking again. Obama did not rebut many of the accusations Romney made. He left them hanging. It wasn't so much the looking down, but it was that when he did look up, Obama often didn't engage with the accusations that Romney had just put to him. What is the point of taking notes if you then ignore the attack?

Biden, like Romney it pains me to say, let nothing his opponent said go unchallenged. There was a world of difference stylistically in Romney's approach, but the perception of strength versus weakness was much the same. I'm not a hugh fan of Palin, but she handled Biden much more effectively than Ryan.

Joe said...

What baffles me is why anyone takes notes during a debate.

edutcher said...

Supposedly, not looking at someone who is handing him his lunch is a tic of Barry's. People who disagree with him aren't worth his attention.

So does this mean the "feistier" Zero will look at the Romster when he's telling the crowd what a loser Barry is?

PS It doesn't sound as if Zero is prepping much more for this debate than the last:

During a quick stop at a local campaign office, where he delivered pizzas to volunteers

Obama started debate preparation around 10 a.m. on Sunday before breaking for the campaign office stop.

traditionalguy said...

Obama left-handedness was forgiveable.

But that leading from behind crap has got Obama fooled too.

Obama's only message was that he has a secret plan rebuild a re-distributed ust society after he alters, eliminates and destroys our strong military and economy...for our own good.

Besides that Obama relies on painting a Mormon missionary that lives out his persecuted faith as a cigar smoking Episcopalian Daddy War Bucks right out of a 1930's Marxist propaganda film.

It's not body language. Obama has no message that can WIN a debate unfiltered by the propagandist Media.

SteveR said...

Obama-The Comeback Kid. Already written with two weeks to get all the glowing praise and coloful metaphors in place.

EDH said...

Did you notice the stack of note cards Biden had compared to Ryan's couple of sheets of paper?

bagoh20 said...

You're falling for it, even though you recognized the truth. Obama was not especially bad - Romney was just much better. Romney was good when he was being factual and he was good when he was blowing smoke. He was just good.

Still, it's what you would expect from someone who is smart, does his homework and practiced with the idea that he could lose and needed to do a good job. It's not surprising at all if you did your own homework about Romney.

Obama's performance was also not a surprise if you have looked at him and his work habits, rather than the fluff.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

But what does it mean that I don't recollect either Romney or Ryan taking notes?

cubanbob said...

Zero has to knock it out of the park tonight. Mitt only has to stay at the same level he was on in the first debate.
Since Zero is the one asking to have his contract renewed the onus is on him. Promising four more years of the same isn't going to cut it. So all he has left to offer is that Romey will be worse than him. That's a tough sale to make.

DADvocate said...

you need to manifest that you disagree with him. ...

An approach that would work when used with the appropriate subtlety, i.e. slight nodding side-to-side in disagreement, frowning, and such. Instead, Biden came across like a complete ass.

Strelnikov said...

Oh, bullshit. He stunk up the joint.

Original Mike said...

"What baffles me is why anyone takes notes during a debate."

So you don't forget which points to rebut.

Bob Ellison said...

EDH, good catch! But that's not a stack of note cards. It's a really thick handkerchief (sp?) to wipe away the laughter tears.

smarty said...

Typical female, overthinking it. This is how you mind-$^&%ed yourself into voting for him the first time.

Obama is the emperor with no clothes, and he and his people have long believed that if you repeat a lie enough people believe it, their problem is that they believed it too. He was unprepared, he was convinced that Romney was stupid because his people said so,and he has frankly done a lot of disasterous things in office that cannot be defended in an honest conversation.

Obama had not had a real press conference in 7 months. He got into office by using lawyers to exclude or ruin his opponents, until he had to lie, cheat and lie some more against Hillary. McCain was a hand-selected patsy.

SO Biden's rudeness was heavily coached, giving Obama permission to be a jerk in the next debate as long as he isn't as big a jerk as Biden.

bagoh20 said...

The problem with Biden's performance was not the plan, but the performance, and that's because of who they were stuck with as the performer.

Yesterday a story came out that said that Biden was the only member of the administration who was against pulling the trigger on Bin Laden. The man has never been right about anything. The perfect choice for an Obama running mate, and his first mistake as President. Unfortunately not his last. I hope we can end his string in January. Regardless he will make some doozies as a lame duck. I can hardly wait for that fiasco.

gerry said...

Obama isn't that bright, judging by all performances without teleprompters.

I hope he behaves like Biden. I hope he takes that advice.

elkh1 said...

Debates are all about optics: who looks "Presidential"? Romney won by looking presidential, Biden lost by looking like Joker. Not too many people pay attention or follow what the candidates say. They know those are either lies, half truths, or promises that would never be kept. Why bother? The undecideds will decide with their gut feelings.

furious_a said...

So Romney wasn't taking notes while the President spoke, or took them more quickly than the President, or knew when the camera was on him?

If one is disdainful of another (as the President clearly is of Gov. Romney) one does as little as possible to engage or acknowledge him. The President has two more chances to get past that starting tonight.

Baron Zemo said...

The debate was like foul shooting.

Obama was Wilt.

Romney was Rick Barry.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

@CubanBob

I disagree. If Obama does just a little better, the media will swoon and talk about Obama being on "top if his game" and the first debate was "an anomaly".

I say this because the media proclaimed Biden the winner when only Dems thought he did OK. The nature and reasonable interoretation would have been that Biden over did the theatrics and looked bad to independents and Ryan was disappointing and failed to carry Romney's momentum forward.

bagoh20 said...

I predict Obama will implode. Possibly there will be tears and cries for "Mommy". Maybe even a little :"Why does everyone hate me?"

He will likely make the mistake of toking up before the start, and once again forget who has been in office for the last four years.

rehajm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael K said...

The signs that Romney was really good in the first debate are the Democrats' response that those were "lies." I also didn't think Obama was that bad but he was passive. I was just very pleased that Romney was doing so well. My personal opinion in the Biden debate was that the lefties are discouraged and just wanted to see the hated GOP slapped around. Slow Joe gave them what they wanted and they didn't care if he alienated women and moderates, so important the weeks before.

Baron Zemo said...

Of course Wilt was one of the greatest players of all time.

But he just did what came naturally. He relied on his natural talents and just bulled his way through.

Practice was not his thing.

Baron Zemo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

These debaters thoughtfully nailed* the analysis.

*http://qz.com/12008/the-worlds-top-debater-is-a-15-year-old-from-pakistan-heres-her-take-on-who-won-last-night/




rehajm said...

But what does it mean that I don't recollect either Romney or Ryan taking notes?

Perhaps, like me you saw a slightly different debate. There were two different camera feeds- I began watching on CNN where they had a split screen, with side by side closeups of their faces. When I switched to CSPAN, when one candidate was speaking, the other had his back to the camera. It wasn't obvious there was note taking going on...

gmama3 said...

Obama was poorly prepared for the debate. He was fuzzy and disengaged. He isn't a great speaker.

Here's a excerpt from answer to what would you do as president?

Number two, what’s important is occasionally you’ve got to say now to -- to -- to folks both in your own party and in the other party. And you know, yes, have we had some fights between me and the Republicans when they fought back against us, reining in the excesses of Wall Street? Absolutely, because that was a fight that needed to be had.

He may be clean but he's inarticulate. That won't change in this debate. I still can't see why anyone still thinks he's so masterful. If you believe in his policies vote for him, but if you are disgusted by the huge amounts of waste and spending, don't.

edutcher said...

Last time out, the Romster did what he's been doing all his adult life, presenting a business plan.

Tonight, you have the second half of that sort of situation - questions, comments, and overcoming objections.

When has Zero ever done this?

bagoh20 said...

All through Obama's administration there have been examples of how Obama fights adversaries. He disses them by pretending to ignore them, to act as if they are unimportant. This is how he has handled our allies like the British, Netanyahu, and others. It's a long standing personal style.

He is always trying to play people - either pretending you are the center of his attention, or ignoring you depending on what he wants. It is his primary tactic, and he cannot easily drop it.

AprilApple said...

Safe media prediction by Bill...

"... If Obama does just a little better, the media will swoon and talk about Obama being on "top if his game" and the first debate was "an anomaly"."


This.

nina said...

Obama underplayed his convictions, Biden arguably overplayed them, Romney struck a better balance. It is, in my opinion, a poor way to judge a candidate, but theater is theater. People tune it to watch the word fight.

One interesting analogy that comes not from my teaching days but from days of appearing in court on behalf of clients -- I remember that sometimes clients would get angry if I underplayed my statements. I tended not to get angry and stick with a calm message and that was really disturbing to some: they felt I didn't appear convinced of the strength of my arguments. I couldn't agree less, but after a while, I saw their point: one fired up lawyer against one calm lawyer-- which would you prefer to have on your side?

the wolf said...

That's a very charitable analysis of Obama's debate performance. I doubt he can do much more than look a little better because on substance he's going to get hammered.

Anyone who's spent time at a poker table can tell Biden is a man projecting more strength than he actually has. He hasn't the confidence of his points, so he covers them with mannerisms. And that's being charitable to Biden. It's possible he's just a dick.

PatCA said...

I also thought he was taking notes, but he did actually nod in assent and say okay at times, seemingly agreeing with Romney! That's what convinced me he was at sea.

dreams said...

Romney is going to win in a landslide. Obama has been exposed. Liberals, the trust fund baby populated liberal media have contempt for the American people and their contempt has at long last been exposed too. The American people via the first debate have had an epiphany. Romney in a landslide.

furious_a said...

...one fired up lawyer against one calm lawyer-- which would you prefer to have on your side?

The lawyer who doesn't anger the presiding judge.

dreams said...

The liberal media have already decided that Obama wins tonight's debate but it doesn't matter because Romney is going to win in a landslide.

Christopher in MA said...

Has Obama ever done well under pressure? Has he ever been subjected to do-or-die pressure?

His wedding night, perhaps.

deborah said...

Nina, if you are voting for Obama, would you mind giving a quick rundown of why you feel this way? Domestic and foreign.

wyo sis said...

The teacher analogy is interesting. As a teacher of young children I see what Obama did as passive resistance or aggressiveness. The sullenness and refusal to look the adult in the eye is very tell-tale. Taking notes or appearing to disregard the other by doing something else while they're talking is also characteristic.

BarrySanders20 said...

He wasn't taking notes of what Romney was saying. He was writing thngs like

"Oh Shit. Got me there!"

"Damn. Good point."

"Write something, dammit! Look engaged!"

"Can't I just eat my waffles?"

"Don't just do something. Stand there!"

"What time is Malia's jv volleyball game?"

"Tingles, Baby! I give tingles."



Mike said...

Why does everyone assume he was taking notes?

President Obama isn't always paying attention during those major international summits. Instead he's doodling.

The president admitted it himself during an interview Friday with WJLA, bragging that when it comes to his drawing skills he's "pretty good" and enjoys sketching all sorts of things.

"Sometimes when I'm in a big important international meeting and you see me writing stuff down it might be that I'm just drawing some folks," he said.

wyo sis said...

The nodding is like a child saying "yeah-yeah-yeah" to their parent while being reprimanded or instructed.

virgil xenophon said...

The spin/"framing" the major MSM editorialists/opinion-makers put on this is key. (I don't mean the campaign spin-meisters)
Political Science texts call this the "two-step flow of communication" wherein the majority of people do not make up their minds from the debate itself, but rather by how it is interpreted by all the "really smart" people. The Nixon-JFK debates were a classic example. Polling immediately after the debate showed that radio listeners overwhelmingly thought Nixon had won. This was so extraordinary that the pollsters went back two weeks later and re-polled the same people just to be sure. In the intervening time-period, however, all the MSM editorialists--who uniformly watched the debates on TV--declared JFK the overwhelming winner. Re-polled, those radio listeners now changed their minds and a bare majority this time declared JFK the winner--mainly on the basis of those editorials they responded. TV Debate replays were not a factor--as the entire debate was never re-played on-air during that time-period..

Inga said...

So true Nina, Democrats aren't so different than Republicans in that they want to see their candidate as convicted as they are. Obama's strength is to stay calm and collected, but when I perceive him to not be engaged, it's frustrating. I used to worry way back in 2008 when he and Hilary were head to head, that he was too aloof and that trait would come back to bite him.

Matthew Sablan said...

Tonight expect a lot of regression toward the mean. Obama will do better, and Romney will not do as smashing. Therefore, expect the story to be: Obama wins big.

creeley23 said...

the reason Obama made such a bad impression was that looking down and taking notes, he seemed as though he was agreeing with what Romney was saying.

I find that a bizarre interpretation for people's responses to Obama's looking down. Since this is the first I've read it anywhere, I doubt many viewers, lawprofs or not, read Obama's behavior as agreement with Romney.

Consequently, it is a slender reed upon which to build an argument for Biden's behavior.

In any event, looking down for long periods of time while in a televised debate is nearly as poor form as turning one's back to the audience.

To me it looked like Obama was angry or upset and trying to conceal his emotions, or that Obama despised Romney so much that he refused to look at him.

But never, ever would it have occurred to me that Obama was signifying agreement with Romney. I have to say that strikes me as a flat stupid idea, and more a liberal rationalization of the debate fiasco than anything else.

Tarzan said...

Biden was, I think, expecting more push back from Ryan (besides politely asking "both of us" to stop interrupting.) If Ryan had done the same as Biden, it would not have looked so odd. But, Ryan was polite, reserved and patient.

This.

Biden kept waiting for Ryan to break and play the game. It was gamble to get Ryan out of the intellectual sphere where he excels (and Jokin' Joe doesn't) into the emotional sphere where Joe could just ham it up, egg on Ryan to hopefully say something foolish or unintended and possibly look like the winner in a fight in which both were pigs.

Instead, Joe was the pig, all by his lonesome.

MayBee said...

Somehow, Paul Ryan didn't seem to agree with what Biden was saying, yet Ryan didn't act belligerent.

And Romney didn't seem to agree with what Obama was saying, but he didn't act belligerent either.

Obama simply looked like what we've all heard- he disdains Romney. He could not even look at him.

Larry J said...

I tend to go by Occam's Razor, where the simpliest explaination is most often correct.

The reason Biden acted like a stupid asshole in the debate is that Biden is a stupid asshole.

As for Obama, the reason he came across as such a lightweight in the debate is that he is (and always has been) a lightweight.

Joe said...

"What baffles me is why anyone takes notes during a debate."

So you don't forget which points to rebut.


If you can't remember which points to rebut in that short a time frame, you have no business debating, let alone being the President of the United States.

Synova said...

I missed both debates so far.

I just wanted to say that I look down and take notes *when* I agree. When I disagree I'm generally looking up at my instructor, intensely, with a "what are you on?" expression.

avwh said...

Obama usually poses with his nose up in the air, like all those famous posters and iconic photos. So, of course his worshippers were shocked when all he did was look down at his podium for 90 minutes - they'd never seen him strike that pose before!

More seriously, Zero is in trouble precisely because the media hasn't ever held his feet to the fire, so he's not used to taking tough questions or answering any real criticism. He's never faced a legit opponent before (at least not since losing to Bobby Rush in his very first campaign). So this is really uncharted water for him - mostly of his own doing, with a big assist from the compliant, lapdog media.

dreams said...

This is going to really hurt Obama. A loser exposed.


"Pool report: Reporter: "Is Hillary to blame for Benghazi?" Obama: Silence. Kept walking.
16 Oct 12"

Synova said...

But I do think that different people interpret body language differently. It's often hard for Americans to break eye contact when we're in a culture that expects it because we interpret it as rude.

Of course in some cultures it's rude *not* to look away.

It's something you learn pre-verbally so it's a particularly hard behavior to subvert.

traditionalguy said...

As to taking notes style it is done as a way to appear intelligent and the holder of the Pen of Authority over the weak opponent and to show no interest in the mere opponent's speech.

The wives are trained to look directly and approvingly at husbands who are publicly speaking to show respect and interest in them. The opponent does the exact opposite of that.

AprilApple said...

Like is easy for Obama when he gets nothing but softballs.

Life is fabulous!

traditionalguy said...

Also as a style, the loudest and best projection of the voice draws attention to that man. But the cool medium of TV makes a soft spoken man seem superior.

What Obama has to learn is how to assert himself while he stays aloof and cool.

Just being the sexy, smiling, thin black man is not enough now. What else does he have?

Since Obama has no "honest and determined" persona to bring into the debate, he is stuck.

Original Mike said...

"If you can't remember which points to rebut in that short a time frame, you have no business debating, let alone being the President of the United States."

Smart people use the tools available to maximize their performance. Fools overestimate their abilities.

Synova said...

So they can take notes but not bring notes?

I think they should be able to bring notes, just as many as they want.

Original Mike said...

I don't know if they're allowed to take notes or not. Has that been covered upthread?

Synova said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3z3AR1fMr0

Romney "look America in the eye" ad.

Jay Vogt said...

I have yet to see an explanation of VP Biden's performance that makes sense to me. But whatever the thinking and strategizing was that's going into the Dem's debate prep is, I think it ignores a compelling reality.

Gov. Romney spent years in the investment management business. This necessarily involves presenting plans and ideas to groups of very smart people who are paid to say no. And, they are paid well to do this.

To survive in that role one simply needs to be outstanding in the convincing presentation of complex ideas and proposals. One needs to be nearly perfect in both content and delivery. It is an exceedingly unforgiving environment.

I don't think that President Obama ever really had to hone those skills as a community organizer, state senator from a friendly district, US senator from a blue state, or presidential candidate in an election weary of both Clintons and republicans.

Romney is simply very good at this. Obama can at best be OK.

Note taking by both was modest, appropriate and unobtrusive.

Joe Schmoe said...

Why did Biden act that way? Do you see or hear talk radio and opinion TV? Bombast, up to a point, always gets people's attention.

He was also following the Garage Mahal-Alinsky Rules of Radical Engagement: always be on offense, make the other guy defend-defend-defend. Democrats are good at this because the stuff they implement is always shitty, so they simply resort to flinging poo at everything Republican. They can't defend their own shitty programs. But the fact that they keep getting elected means this tactic works pretty well.

From Inwood said...

nina

"One fired up lawyer against one calm lawyer.... which would you prefer to have on your side?"

With all due respect, & I wasn't a trial lawyer, this is what is known as the "fallacy of incomplete enumeration".

I would prefer a trial lawyer firmly & strongly in command of the facts & the law & able to present the story/issue, i.e., facts in a reasonable, even-tempered manner, using emotion & humor when necessary, no matter what opposing counsel is doing.

I don't think the choice need be between Mr. Bluster vs. Mr. Milquetoast.

BTW Howdy Doody & a pre-1953comic strip character; does that show my age?

dreams said...

November 6, we replace a loser with a leader. Liberals can wallow in their liberal emotional excrement while bragging about how they much they care for poor people as we conservatives and independents elect a leader who has respect for his fellow man, a leader who knows people have dignity and deserve to be treated as adults not as children by a nanny nation.


"This small article from the Wall Street Journal by Sara Murray provides a very good look at one aspect of Mitt Romney's leadership skills. If a key part of the organization stumbles, you don't fire them, you get them ready for the next round."

"Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman told me in an interview during the RNC's Tampa Bay convention that during her time at Bain everyone --everyone-- wanted to work for Romney on his projects. This approach to mistakes is no doubt part of the reason why. No Captain Bligh dramatics, no Hollywood faux rage, but calm, professional leadership."

http://www.hughhewitt.com/blog

Dust Bunny Queen said...

So they can take notes but not bring notes?

I think they should be able to bring notes, just as many as they want.


NO! The point of a debate is to show which side is most prepared and able to rebut the points presented by the other side. It isn't the time to make written speeches or read from notes. Although any good debater will have already, in their head, memorized speech snippets that can be used to counter arguments.

Debating is the ability to put yourself into the other person's mind and think of all the arguments that they might make and be ready to counter all possible arguments and points. Practice Practice PRACTICE.

The point is to see who is most nimble in their thinking. Can think on their feet. Pull facts and arguments from their brain. Able to bring together your facts and arguments in new ways DURING the debate.

Taking notes during the debate is a good idea because there may be a point that you want to rebut or refute, and you may not have that option in an immediate time frame, and you do NOT want to forget it in the flurry of comments and arguments. Also a new point may occur to you, when your opponent is speaking, that you will wish to bring up when it is your turn to speak.

(Captain of my college debate team and we were damned good!)

To have all the information on written notes is a terrible idea for a debate.....well you might as well use a teleprompter or just phone it in. Pre-written notes tell us nothing about the candidates or debater if everything is just canned and ready there is no skill involved.

creeley23 said...

I just wanted to say that I look down and take notes *when* I agree. When I disagree I'm generally looking up at my instructor, intensely, with a "what are you on?" expression.

Synova: I'm sure you do.

However, if you were debating before a television audience of 70 million on one of the most important occasions of your life, you would probably not respond as though you were a student attending a lecture.

I don't say this to single you out, but to emphasize how bizarre Obama's behavior. I've never seen a political candidate do that on television. I don't remember Obama doing that four years ago.

Althouse keeps saying Obama wasn't that bad in the debate, and maybe he was just mediocre if one ignored his body language.

But I believe it was all that peculiar looking down that killed Obama in most people's eyes by the end of the night. It was hard to interpret his body language, but everyone sensed it was odd and less than optimal.

Synova said...

Sure DBQ but if someone read prepared bits they'd look like an idiot. If they didn't know what was on the notes they'd look like an idiot.

I just thought it was weird when people were all "Romney had a cheat sheet!". A cheat sheet with what on it, pray tell? Some bit of debate winning data that he wouldn't know otherwise? It's just stupid.

I never did "debate" in school but the competitive "speech" categories that I did all allowed notes. I'd carry a suitcase full of news magazines to competitions and have 20 minutes to prepare once I'd been given my topic. I used notes. That made it no less spontaneous... hit these points, cite that data...

Candidates wouldn't know what questions they'd have and they'd have rebuttals so anyone *reading* would look dumb. But someone pulling numbers off their notes to dispute the other guy would look well prepared.

TMink said...

I did not listen to the debate, I watched it while listening to music through headphones.

Obama lost. He looked uncomfortable and pissy. He never had a look of agreement on his face at all. Ever (during the debate.)

Mitt looked dreamy. He looked like he knew what he was talking about (whatever that was) and had some energy and excitement. His smiles were real smiles! Not so his opponent. Mitt won.

This was not Obama the unknown vs. the old and tired McCain. This was Obama the tired v. the dreamy, energized Mitt.

That is how it looked.

Trey

TMink said...

I did not listen to the debate, I watched it while listening to music through headphones.

Obama lost. He looked uncomfortable and pissy. He never had a look of agreement on his face at all. Ever (during the debate.)

Mitt looked dreamy. He looked like he knew what he was talking about (whatever that was) and had some energy and excitement. His smiles were real smiles! Not so his opponent. Mitt won.

This was not Obama the unknown vs. the old and tired McCain. This was Obama the tired v. the dreamy, energized Mitt.

That is how it looked.

Trey

Original Mike said...

"Taking notes during the debate is a good idea because there may be a point that you want to rebut or refute, and you may not have that option in an immediate time frame, and you do NOT want to forget it in the flurry of comments and arguments. Also a new point may occur to you, when your opponent is speaking, that you will wish to bring up when it is your turn to speak."

Exactly.

PatCA said...

I think you are right, wyo sis, it was just sullen rebellion.

Michael K said...

"To me it looked like Obama was angry or upset and trying to conceal his emotions, or that Obama despised Romney so much that he refused to look at him."

I think both Obama and Biden were angry the whole time. I'm sure that Obama was coached to not show irritation and arrogance, so, when he was angry he put on the big (sh*t eating) grin.

Biden was the same only with no control. He was in a rage most of the debate, shouting down the moderator who was on his side !

Biden lied his way through the Sarah Palin debate in 2008. He blusters so no one ever calls him on it. I was hoping Ryan would do so but I suspect he was coached not to look like a smart alec.

creeley23 said...

DBQ: I'll take your word that it can be useful to jot an occasional note during a debate.

But Obama kept getting lost down there for ten, twenty and thirty seconds at a time. It seemed like something different from notetaking. It seemed like a near-pathological disconnect with the social reality of the occasion: an important, nationally televised debate.

As a debate captain, wouldn't you intervene with a teammate who was behaving as Obama did that night?

I can't imagine that Obama's prep team let that go. He won't do that tonight.

creeley23 said...

I think both Obama and Biden were angry the whole time. I'm sure that Obama was coached to not show irritation and arrogance, so, when he was angry he put on the big (sh*t eating) grin.

Michael K: ...or look down to jot notes (or doodle for all we know).

Yeah, I think there was something emotional going on with Obama and the notetaking was a cover that got out of hand.

Chip Ahoy said...

It wasn't just Biden's smiling and grinning inappropriately. It was the grimacing, the frowning, furrowed brow, anger, exasperation, evil eye, disgust, impatience, mirthless laughter, dismissiveness throughout, overall sinister, yes sinister, utterly risibly plastic face. It was make faces night for Biden. He honestly thinks that fake ass smile is endearing, charming, disarming. It is not. Then the dumbass begs imploring, "who you gonna trust?"

Really? You just asked us that you dumbass, within your pitch perfect display of a used car salesman cartoon.

It is the thickness of the wall put up that contains the Biden reality distortion that doesn't allow a single Ryan utterance to penetrate, it is the actual disavowal of communication, the intense need in stopping any Ryan expression before it gets expressed, kill it before it's said, like abortion, It was the scene of an abortionist killing Ryan's reality word for word as it exited Ryan's mouth

and that's why

Biden and Obama and all the rest are having their asses handed them again come just a few weeks.

In short, it was the disordered scattered conversation that goes past each other, the same political discussion I have with nearly everyone I know with precious few exceptions.

TMink said...

Chip, Biden looked histrionic and unstable to me. But then I was just watching. 8)

Trey

Michael said...

Please understand that Biden and Obama and their minions spend many happy moments mocking Republicans and their supposed intellectual inferiority. They have done so with each other and their cohorts for years, decades in the case of Biden. They actually believe that business people are not as bright as them and are callous to boot. They believe this. Each of them is convinced that if they were not giving their lives for the good of all they would be rich themselves, rich by their own making. These false premises are the thin ice upon which they skate.

Fr Martin Fox said...

I don't think the debate performances matter as much as many seem to think. Not saying they don't matter at all; just that they are overblown.

I didn't think President Obama's performance was as awful-terrible as it is portrayed; but even if so, again, it doesn't matter that much. He sure lowered expectations, didn't he?

Our genial hostess made an excellent point some days ago; that it is to Obama's benefit that the talk be about how bad he was, rather than, how good Romney was. Romney was fairly likely to come out of the first debate better than he came in, because Obama's strategy is to paint him as Thurston Howell by day, Count Dracula by night. So maybe they said, let Romney have his night.

If the presidential candidates debating doesn't matter all that much, then the veep candidates' debate matters much less. All they needed was for Biden not to scare people. He didn't. His clownish behavior actually has two benefits: 1) it's a distraction from all the stuff Obama really doesn't want to talk about and 2) it makes Obama look better by comparison. Obama doesn't have passion? Joe does. Joe seems unbalanced? Don't worry, "No drama" 'Bama will cool it down.

Also, given the carping from Obama's friends about his debate performance, sending Biden out to behave that way does two things: it gives the critics what they want; and when the reviews come in, not so positive, it shuts them up.

creeley23 said...

I don't think the debate performances matter as much as many seem to think. Not saying they don't matter at all; just that they are overblown.

Fr Martin Fox: When debates matter, they matter ... in some cases, big time. Two weeks ago we saw the most striking example in the modern era.

In ninety minutes Romney undid several hundred millions of dollars of negative campaigning from the Obama team, reversed the tide of the polls, and drew even with Obama or overtook him, depending on which polls you favor.

That was huge.

Before the debate Romney had been written off by most of the MSM, the traders at Intrade and Nate Silver had Obama with an 80% likelihood of winning.

So maybe they said, let Romney have his night.

People say this, but never offer any support. I don't see it myself. After working so hard and spending so much money on Obama's campaign, they said, "Let Romney have his night"? I don't believe it.

If Obama had decisively beaten Romney that night that would have clinched the election (aside from the Benghazi wildcard). If Obama had matched Romney, the prevailing momentum would have improved Obama's already good chances.

hombre said...

Biden didn't ake notes because he had his lies in place:

He lied about Benghazi;

He lied about the anti-religious provisions in Obamacare;

He lied about his votes on the MidEast wars;

He lied about troop withdrawal from Afghanistan;

Etc., etc.

Obama doesn't have Biden's chutzpah, so he has to take notes.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

As a debate captain, wouldn't you intervene with a teammate who was behaving as Obama did that night?

Once the debate is in progress, the members are on their own. The Captain can't stop the debate or intervene.....although the idea of a big hook around the neck dragging the person away has crossed my mind.

I can't imagine that Obama's prep team let that go. He won't do that tonight.

That's why you need to prepare and prepare and film yourself. Review the film. Fix your demeanor and errors and do it over and over and over again. If you have a team member (like Obama) who doesn't take the criticism seriously, who doesn't prepare or rehearse, or who thinks that he/she knows everything and goes off on a tangent you are in big trouble. This is what O'Biden seemed like to me in his over the top performance. In a "real" debate situation, he would be given a big fat "F" and thrown off of my team in a second.

hombre said...

"I don't think the debate performances matter as much as many seem to think." (1:56)

The first one mattered because it was many people's first opportunity to see Romney at a neutral site where he could not be defined by Obama's smear campaign or media bias.

furious_a said...

Our genial hostess made an excellent point some days ago; that it is to Obama's benefit that the talk be about how bad he was, rather than, how good Romney was...Let Mr. Romney have his night.

Would make sense if the President had ground to give, recent polling indicates that he didn't.

Kim Strassel in th WSJ indicated in a recent column that the damage done by this approach was to Mr. Obama's momentum and to his campaign strategy to date:

Cue the frantic "What now?" question in Chicago. Campaigns are about momentum, and after Wednesday's debacle, Mr. Obama will be under great pressure to come up with something fresh.

[..]

Yet the painful reality is that the strategy Mr. Romney torpedoed on stage was the best Team Obama had. The president can't run on his legislation; it isn't liked. He can't run on the economy; it's terrible. Pivot to something sunny and big? Too late.

Fr Martin Fox said...

I said:

"I don't think the debate performances matter as much as many seem to think." (1:56)

Hombre said:

The first one mattered because it was many people's first opportunity to see Romney at a neutral site where he could not be defined by Obama's smear campaign or media bias.

Well, and that goes along with another point I was trying to make. A lot of Romney's "success" in the first debate was a product of this; how could it not be?

I remember in 1984, all the buzz about how Mondale won the first debate, and how shaky Reagan looked. Obviously that didn't make much difference.

Again, I didn't say they don't matter, but I think their importance is overstated. For those who are committed to your candidate--which is most of those who are likely to vote--you either see your guy winning, or you explain away his stumble.

For the undecided/uncommitted...I'm curious (a) how many there are and (b) how many of them will actually vote? At some point, you're talking about people who, I suspect, will never bother to show up on election day.

wyo sis said...

creeley
I agree, when they matter, they really matter. Not all presidential debates produce anything, but when they do it's a big deal for a long time. We still talk about those moments many years later.

tina said...

Romney also took notes, but he spent more time looking attentively and politely at Obama.

Obama didn't just look down & take notes. He had a peevish, petulant look when he did glance Romney's way. And his answers were the same old same old vague talking points. No substance and definitely not truthful.

That was the problem.

Nora said...

It's beter for Obama he looked down a lot, since when he did not he looked as an arrogant arse.

Nora said...

I listened NPR for some time after I listened to the last debates, and they were so partisan, and stretched the facts so much, it was shameful. So I can see no good reason to take whatever they pronounce for serious dicussion.

NPR spin aside. I got an impression that Obama looked down as much when he was talking to Romney as when listening to him. I got very strong impression that Obama could not meet Romney's eyes. He also blinked a lot when trying to talk directly to Romney. I think this is the reason people found him less trustworthy than Romney. A debater who have no guts to look the opposite side in the eyes is not exactly perceived as somebody who is confident in what he is saying.

Michael K said...

"Blogger Fr Martin Fox said...

I don't think the debate performances matter as much as many seem to think. Not saying they don't matter at all; just that they are overblown."

It matters far more for Republicans, especially in recent years. There are very few opportunities for Republicans to reach the voting public without the media putting a big fat thumb on the scale. Stephanopolis' question to Romney about contraception last spring is an example of how difficult it is for Republicans. That question was obviously coordinated with the Obama camp. Gingrich got big applause when he attacked the moderators.

When there was a proposal to have Fox News stage a debate with the Congressional Black Caucus (!) in 2010, the Democrats refused. Without the leftist moderators, there would be no debates. That's why the laft was so angry at Lehrer.

caradoc said...

I don't think most people took it as either of the alternatives. I know that both my wife and I thought it was because he was pissed off and didn't want people to see his anger. Here in Hawaii it's called "stink eye" and he was gonna give it if he looked up.

JL said...

Althouse: Don't be so averse to the obvious that you become willfully blind to it. Re: Biden's behavior- sometimes a buffoon is just a buffoon.

Ann Althouse said...

"One interesting analogy that comes not from my teaching days but from days of appearing in court on behalf of clients -- I remember that sometimes clients would get angry if I underplayed my statements. I tended not to get angry and stick with a calm message and that was really disturbing to some: they felt I didn't appear convinced of the strength of my arguments. I couldn't agree less, but after a while, I saw their point: one fired up lawyer against one calm lawyer-- which would you prefer to have on your side?"

I've had some experiences like that in the law school. Some people seem to want puffery and fulsome praise. To me, that's inherently unbelievable. You build you credibility with modesty and precision. Ask me in private some time and I'll give you juicy details. (I mean Nina, not just anybody!)

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