I finally had the opportunity to watch the Vice Presidential Debate last night. While the exchange may or may not affect the outcome of the 2012 election it was a good opportunity for me to get to know the candidates better. Vice President Joe Biden is not known for his eloquence and last night certainly did not change that. He came across abrasive and did not offer much in terms of substance on foreign or domestic policy. Congressman Paul Ryan was an unknown to me. He came across reasonable, attentive and able to provide an educated stance on foreign and domestic policy.
In terms of foreign policy the United States position in Afghanistan was discussed at length. It is good to have goals any time an organization enters or exits a course of action. The United States should be no different. Both candidates seemed to be leaning more towards isolationism. This is a function of not only the current economic climate, but also American sentiment. Biden said it best with his quips about putting “two wars on a credit card” and Ryan said it even better with his line about “strategic national interests of our country.” In Syria an important distinction was made that the United States needs to determine its humanitarian position around the world.
The domestic policy discussion was anything but. Ryan stuck to the party line about lowering taxes, increasing the tax base and modernizing entitlement programs. I respect that somebody is willing to say it out loud. Biden did his best to stir up fear, uncertainty and doubt. Biden’s stance should resonate with voters as any change is bad, especially given the segments that depend on certain tax breaks and entitlement programs. However, Biden was not willing to offer any degree of confidence in how Social Security and Medicare could stay solvent beyond the current generation. While I disagree with the Norquist pledge, I also disagree with continuing towards program insolvency that will only be solved by taking tax policy back 50 years.
Over the past two debates, the Republican ticket has made great strides towards providing a framework for a Republican administration and seems willing to address high priority issues for America. Whether they enter with a Democratic or Republican controlled congress should not be an issue as the ball will firmly be in their court to get it done or go home. I have no idea what to expect from a second Democratic administration. Nothing will get done in the economy with a Republican controlled congress. The only remaining low hanging fruit the administration can go after could be immigration reform. I believe that exiting Afghanistan in 2014 will occur regardless of the November election.
Discussing abortion was a ridiculous red herring to bring social issues back on the table rather than the more pressing domestic and foreign policy issues. While there are fundamental differences in the Democratic and Republican brand, neither party is willing to trade political capital on fringe issues like gun rights or abortion.