Van Jones hit the nail on the head in this short segment during his CNN commentary about the debate. His remark was simple and straightforward.
Speaking to the overall debate and issues at hand, Jones said, "One of the things I think is difficult about the media is that we focus on the horse race aspect of this. There's a horserace aspect, but there's also a history aspect." He expanded that thought by saying, "This guy could be President. Paul Ryan could be President."
There's a scary thought, no? The man who thinks Supreme Court decisions are the whim of unelected judges and therefore not legitimate could ascend to the presidency.
Jones went on to admonish the media, saying "[Ryan] said sixty percent of Americans are takers, not makers. That's worse than the 47 percent. He said that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, that it's socialism. It's important that he get vetted here."
I could not agree with Mr. Jones more, and that is one of the things I think Vice President Biden did so well in the debate. He didn't let Ryan get away with his earnest, boyish claims of crises and budget woes. He showed that Paul Ryan's knowledge of foreign policy is lacking and shallow. Yes, shallow. That was the word most often used to describe it. Rachel Maddow or one of the commentators with her said Ryan learned the material for the test without really understanding it. I'd say that's accurate.
One example of the shallowness was Ryan's mushy answer on Afghanistan and withdrawing the remaining troops by 2014. Biden was emphatic: The troops come home, period. He didn't just emphasize that, he contrasted it with Ryan's talking-point answer about how giving a date was somehow tipping off the opposition to sit and hide until we leave. Biden said it clearly: "My friend and the governor say it’s based on conditions, which means it depends. It does not depend for us. It is the responsibility of the Afghans to take care of their own security."
But Paul Ryan could be the Commander-in-Chief, and what would he do? Wait for that one general that thinks we ought to stay in Afghanistan forever while our economy languishes in a sea of war?
This one point illustrates the entirety of the debate. From Medicare to abortion, to the middle class, to the Supreme Court, to Libya, to foreign policy -- all of it -- Ryan had no depth, no real conviction.
Contrast that with Biden, who really did have some depth, not only of knowledge but also heart. Jonathan Chait:
Biden met his audience at a gut level. Over and over he appealed to them to settle the debate by falling back on long-held prejudices about the two parties. Taxes? Biden set out to utter the phrase “middle class” as many times as he possible could, and to tie Romney and Ryan to the class interest of the very rich. On entitlements, he pulled out of the weeds and reminded voters that Democrats were the party of Social Security and Medicare – “Folks, follow your instincts on this one.” On defense, he repeatedly invoked the possibility that Romney would start another war, which is probably the only real way that foreign policy might enter the thinking of a low-information undecided voter. And three times Biden invoked Romney’s disparagement of the 47%, using it to frame the entire Romney-Ryan economic philosophy.
For this entire campaign, I've waited for someone to ask people for a gut check. Seniors know they're getting better Medicare benefits. Their checkbooks prove it. People see our soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. And they know who has been trying to get jobs bills through Congress and who has been wasting our time passing phony abortion bans. Finally, Joe Biden called on people to do a simple gut check.
For Paul Ryan, tonight was about the win. He wanted to win. Those stupid gym pictures are really representative of how he views things. He's buff, he's fit, he's ROCKY. He's ready to win, because he's been fluffed and feathered and trained to win, except that no one taught him that winning means giving a damn about something other than his own career and his own advancement.
If you think about it, Paul Ryan's debate performance is a great example of Randian principles in play. It was all about Paul, all about a performance.
Being President isn't a performance. It's a responsibility. A grave one. Van Jones is right. He should be vetted.