No, it wasn't a mistake. Last Wednesday night Joe was Joe, and we all saw the real face of the Democratic Party: the sneering, condescending, boorish bullyboy that is everyone's nightmarish former spouse. Well done.
Another Joe Biden could certainly have taken the stage; the man has more faces than the storied Dr. Lao. But what needed doing more than anything else was to stoke the base up after the boss' somnambulant Denver performance, so nasty Joe had to turn up. And since he's had lots of practice with this persona, it suited him.
The Veep did score points, especially when he reminded us all how pervasive the appetite for spending other people's money is in Washington. Noting that even his opponent had requested a couple of grants from the president's spendulus bill was tactically advantageous, although I doubt they amounted to more than a rounding error on the Solyndra boondoggle.
And he was pretty effective on the whole stampede-the-elderly thing when it came to Medicare. Too bad he was dishonest in doing it; this is a discussion we must have, together with an adult conversation on Social Security. But the current administration isn't up to the job, as was only too clear on Thursday last. Their strategy is clear: demagogue their way past Nov. 6, and then let the chips fall where they may.
The deficit? Roll your eyes and blame it all on Bush. The national debt? Laugh derisively and blame it all on Bush. The base eats that up. The out-of-control budget? Blame the Republicans, and if it looks like Congressman Ryan is going to point out that the president has submitted three budgets so reprehensible they didn't even get minimal support from members of his own party, shout him down. The narrative must not be challenged.
On taxes, propose that "the rich pay their fair share," and when the congressman correctly notes that taxing the richest 100,000 taxpayers at 100 percent would only run the government for 93 days, sneer and say he's lying. Drag "big banks" and other populist bogeymen into your screed. Treat your opponent as a bloated, bloodsucking assassin of the cherished "middle class," and argue against the cartoon, not the reality. It was a real torches-and-pitchforks performance in the worst tradition of rabid class hatred; worthy of Sockless Jerry Simpson himself.
But Joe being Joe did have glitches, one of which seems to be exploding in team Obama's face. There are four dead foreign service officers to explain away, one of them an ambassador. When faced with this ugly reality, Biden chose the sleazy way out: blame anybody else, especially his opponent. But on the specific question of extra security for the ambassador, considering both place and date, his answer that "we were never asked for additional security" has created more problems than it solved.
Did the vice president not know that there were Congressional hearings on the Libyan events of Sept. 11 on the day of the debate - and that a request for continued presence of a security team by the State Department's chief security officer in Libya had been denied? Whether or not one accepts the testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary Charlene Lamb, who said that that the security request was really a "recommendation," and that the Department was right not to approve it, or White House spokesman Jay Carney's subsequent "clarification" that the Veep was speaking "only for the president and vice president," Biden's statement clearly shows that both he and the president are willing to duck any hint of responsibility which may be politically inconvenient, regardless of who gets hurt. In this case, look for both DAS Lamb and her boss, Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy, to be thrown to the wolves. There's an election to win.
Then there's the myth that the killing of Ambassador Stevens was the product of a mob provoked by a YouTube tube video. In fending off congressman Ryan, vice president Biden asserted "this was what we were told by the intelligence community," but it's clear this was untrue. The same Congressional hearings featured sworn testimony by State Department and other officials saying essentially "we never said that." Who will be sacrificed to maintain this lie remains to be seen.
It's also clear why Joe continues to embrace this absurdity: to do otherwise would be an admission that killing Bin Ladin and embracing the "Arab Spring" - centerpieces of Obama's Middle East policy - actually increased the danger of terrorism, not the reverse.
And that won't do, not when there's an election to win - to use a phrase epitomized by the Obama Administration, "By any means necessary."
Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.