Four last thoughts on Thursday’s Biden-Ryan debate.
First, Bret Stephens explains that Ryan did not put in a very good performance. With some assistance from John Hinderaker, I noted this yesterday.
The Republican vice presidential candidate clearly was on the defensive most of the night. Mr. Ryan often resorted to canned lines when it seemed he lacked a good riposte. He was too deferential to Mr. Biden, and he let a couple of zingers go to waste by not following up, especially when the vice president kept bringing up the 47%.
One doubts that this will have any significant effect on the election, but it does not bode well for Ryan’s political future.
Second, on the matter of what Ryan should have said to the smug, supercilious vice president, Jonah Goldberg got it right:
Mr. Vice President these are serious issues and serious disagreements about the future of our country. I don’t find them funny and, frankly, I find your behavior here tonight beneath the dignity of your office.
Third, if Ryan was playing rope-a dope at the debate, as I suggested yesterday, it may be that he was setting up Obama for Romney.
In Stephens’ words:
The value of last night's duel between Vice President Joe Biden and Paul Ryan is that Team Romney now knows exactly what's coming from Team Obama in next week's second presidential debate—minus the annoying Biden smirks and guffaws that were a godsend to the extent they distracted from the weakness of Mr. Ryan's performance.
Perhaps he was not thinking too clearly, but Biden telegraphed the arguments that Obama will be using against Romney in the next two debates. Now, thanks to Biden, Romney will be better prepared for them.
Fourth, regarding what the White House knew about the requests for additional security in Benghazi and when it knew it, everyone is discussing what Biden meant when he used the word “we.”
Recall that Biden said:
We weren't told they wanted more security. We did not know they wanted more security there.
The White House claims that Biden was referring to him and Obama. The State Department might have known, but he and the president did not.
This is legalistic nonsense. When a vice president or president uses the first person plural pronoun, he is speaking as head of the government.
Otherwise, he would be suggesting that State Department functions independently of the executive branch.
When the State Department staff makes a mistake, the Secretary of State is responsible. Since the Secretary reports directly to the president, he is ultimately responsible, regardless of whether a specific piece of information crossed his desk.
There is nothing ambiguous about the chain of executive responsibility