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The Biden-Ryan debate: Tarzan and Pinocchio meet the Blue Fairy

By Earl Yazel
Saturday, October 13, 2012 12:32 EDT
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We’ve now thrilled to the thrilling showdown between Joe Biden (or Tarzan: virile, sincere, not-exactly-a-spoken-wordmeister, long-haircut-in-the-back) and Paul Ryan (or Pinocchio: no need explaining this now oft-used reference, is there?)…

… and we had the Beautiful Blue Fairy in the form of Martha Raddatz presiding — someone whose showing as moderator so many amongst the Dems are justifiably impressed with. Many have also made an emotive point of rating her very highly above what they see as Jim Lehrer’s overly moderate moderation from the first debate — which may or may not be as fortunate a “take”… more about that in a moment. Having some Republicans pick on Ms. Raddatz afterwards doesn’t exactly damage her brand on the political left, either.

As good as Ms. Raddatz decidedly was, we ought to remind ourselves that Mr Lehrer certainly could not as easily have phrased certain questions in the manner Ms. Raddatz did without being attacked for it — I’m thinking in particular, here, of her “as a man” question near the end… one she posed to each of the candidates. Remember?

Representative Ryan was asked, “If you are elected, what could you both give to this country as a man, as a human being, that no one else could?

And to Vice President Biden,”… could we get to that — to that issue of what you could bring as a man, a human being?”

These, of course, were prefaced to the candidates as being in the category of that ol’ standard, nowadays: questions regarding “personal character”… but what was unique about the question was the easy gender specificity. The implications of it are interesting, at least from a strictly observatory standpoint.

Not to fault Ms Raddatz necessarily for asking the question in just that manner. Perhaps that should be clearer – I thought she was generally terrific, too, and, after all, we cannot claim to know what was in her mind in choosing the wording used  –  I personally don’t feel that she was asking the question in a so-called  ”bitchy” manner… since some cranks on the right have complained about it, I ought to distance myself from those. I don’t feel she was being out-of-hand nasty in her intent.  I think it is  worth observing, however, if only as a matter of general public discourse about this particular election, that she very obviously didn’t ask “as an individual”  nor only “as a human being”… no, the “human being” question was approached after her mention of “character” with the “as a man” query…

I’ll admit that I may be splitting hairs, merely looking for an original angle. But we can easily imagine what would have happened had Mr. Lehrer asked this precise, exact question, worded in just the same manner… or, really, any male moderator.

This is brought up, here, not to attack Ms. Raddatz having specified the candidate’s gender… she did  follow it up right away with the “human being” qualification… but it is of some interest regarding the later discourse that follows these debates by the rest of us.

What’s the problem? Just this: we need to wonder what might have happened had Jim Lehrer asked the same question.

Let’s posit that Mr. Lehrer’s performance would not have been much-characterized so easily and cruelly as being weak, as it has been, had Jim Lehrer asked a question with that wording at the end of the debate. The more disparaging commentary afterwards might have been on something else, entirely: the “as a man” question very probably would have been labeled as sexist, indicative of patriarchy, etc, in some quarters…. and the issue of how “weak” Lehrer was,  ”over-polite”  etc., would have taken a back seat.  The discussion about the “as a man” question, or simply the question itself,  could have made headlines. Particularly if a candidate had taken some exception to it.

Be that as it might, we must sincerely applaud Ms. Raddatz for steering this conversation on Thursday evening towards something else other than taxes when stateside stuff was discussed. Like the reproductive rights issue. Obviously. And she was polite, too.

We will not see Pinocchio and Tarzan come together again in this process — this was the only formal debate between these two candidates. It should be obvious that Mr. Obama could not have been seen as a success so far were he now in screen captures of the sort we’ve seen of Mr. Biden from this debate — which goes more to the point I was making last entry here at Culture Clutch.

We’ll see a great deal more suspense built on the premise of Mr. Obama’s Lack of Something in the first debate — my hope is that this talk will be seen more generally as based somewhat on a misimpression. Or that what’s happened, so far, will eventually be chalked up to a good strategy. As already implied: Mr. Obama can’t be viewed in screen captures with much eye-rolling, raising his hands toward the heavens, and so forth. This is not to impugn Mr. Biden’s showing — it’s more to point out that we’ve a lot of double-standards in this nation that we’re all but overlooking. Even on the left.

To be more optimistic — we do hope the less distanced format of having everyone sitting across a table from one another might be repeated in a debate between Governor Romney and President Obama… if only because this is so often how Heads of State and their representatives generally face one another in person. Across tables, with interaction much more devoid of the rules of collegiate debate. Let’s hope that everyone doesn’t get too upset, however, should President Obama make his own interruptions and stray from protocol in a manner that even might offend some Democrats. If people think they want things so very much dirtier, then, yes, perhaps they should get it that way. A little.

Let those among the Democrats who’ve wanted something more emotionally confrontational please keep in mind that this is what they’ve been asking for, should it  happen. So: should the President of the United States get somewhat rude with a favorite media figure (just as a ready example) let’s all keep our heads about us. We’ll see.

Earl Yazel
Earl Yazel
Earl Yazel currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he grew up and attended university. He has written for and participated in broadcasts for the flagship Pacifica Radio station KPFA in Berkeley, California, on the long-running Over the Edge program. He may be reached at e_yazel@yahoo.co.uk
 
 
 
 
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