Our Opinion: Contentious debate becomes unintelligible

News Tribune editorial

We respectfully disagree with pundits who characterized Thursday’s vice presidential debate as fiery and spontaneous.

We found it progressively rude and quarrelsome, descending into a cacophony of two people speaking simultaneously.

Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate, engaged in what became more a school yard squabble than intelligent argument on the issues.

We also disagree with the glowing assessment of moderator Martha Raddatz, a foreign policy correspondent at ABC News.

Although her questions were sharp and she pressed for specifics, the candidates succeeded in ignoring her and talking over each other.

Biden simply was impolite. He continually laughed, rolled his eyes and gestured on those rare occasions when he was not interrupting his opponent.

Ryan was marginally more courteous, but not above unnecessary derision that detracted from salient points.

For example, his mature observation, “I think people would be better served if we don’t keep interrupting each other,” was prefaced with the gibe, “I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground.” The comment was a reference to the prevailing view that Biden’s superior, President Barack Obama, lost his initial debate with Romney.

Most disappointing was the obvious missed opportunity. During the infrequent glimpses of coherent debate, the two men voiced two very different visions of governing and were willing to challenge each other to identify specifics rather than vague platitudes. The ferocity of style, sadly, disintegrated into a verbal brawl that was too often incomprehensible. Political observers generally agree debates among vice presidential candidates have little influence on voters. In this case, that’s just as well.

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