The VP Debate: What They Didn’t Talk About
The moderator didn’t question the right of US to project global power; no
discussion about the cause of the crash or the the power of the big banks
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.
And on Thursday night, Vice President Biden and candidate Ryan squared off. And joining us now to give their views on how the debate went is, first of all, Jennifer Taub. She’s an associate law professor at the Vermont Law School. Before joining VLS, she taught at the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachesetts. And she researches and writes in the area of corporate governance, shareholder rights, and financial market regulation. Thanks for joining us, Jennifer.
JENNIFER TAUB, ASSOC. PROF. VERMONT LAW SCHOOL: Thanks for having me, Paul.
JAY: And I should say you join us from Northampton, Massachesetts.
And also joining us now, from New York City, is Margaret Kimberly. She’s a editor and a senior columnist for Black Agenda Report. She’s also a writer and activist on social justice and peace issues. Thanks for joining us, Margaret.
MARGARET KIMBERLY, EDITOR AND SENIOR COLUMNIST, BLACK AGENDA REPORT: Thank you.
JAY: So, before we get into a little bit more substantive take on what was said, and maybe even more importantly what wasn’t said, for the sake of the discussion and the horse race, ’cause everyone’s going to be talking about it, who won the debate, in your eyes?
KIMBERLY: Oh, I think the vice president won, but not by a lot. It wasn’t as glaring as last week, where Romney, I think, very clearly bested the president.
I think he won on presentation points. He was very assertive, kept his points very simple, made clear distinctions. I don’t think those distinctions are always so accurate. There’s that much of a difference. But he made it appear that there were very big differences between the two, and he stuck to that script, he was on message about the Democratic Party and how [incompr.]
JAY: Okay. Let’s start, then. Give us your take on the foreign policy issues in terms of what was said and what wasn’t said.
KIMBERLY: Well, what was not said was any notion that the United States does not have the right to throw its weight around in the world. The moderator in this debate and other debates in the past accepts that the United States has the right to determine who should lead Syria. There was no question that the United States should be in Afghanistan. The only question was for how long.
The moderator did not ask, did the United States have the right to tell Iran it can’t enrich uranium. The only question she asked was, well, what’s the best way to tell Iran what to do, what’s the best way to interfere in their affairs. And Vice President Biden gave a very clear opening when he said that Iran doesn’t have a bomb, isn’t going to have one any time soon, can’t do it. Then the question should be: well, then, what’s the problem? Why are we imposing these terrible sanctions on Iran? He went on and on about how the sanctions are terrible. And they are. People in Iran are starving. Their currency has been devalued. They can’t import food, can’t import medicine. People in this country are being crushed by the United States, and all because of a nuclear weapon that the vice president admits they don’t have.
JAY: And did you see any significant differences between Biden and Ryan on foreignâ€”and by extracting that, Romney/Obama, on foreign policy issues?
KIMBERLY: No. The problem I think the Republicans have is that the Democrats sound very much like them and Obama has asserted the rights that previously presidents did, that we are an imperial power and are able to act like one. So, no, there isn’t much difference. So the Romney people, all they can do is argue about Benghazi and what did we know and was it a terror attack, and not the fact that the people who attacked the consulate in Benghazi were the same people who were funded and armed by the United States when the United States decided to overthrow Gaddafi. And [incompr.] they are the same kind of people, the jihadists, that the United States is backing now in Syria in an effort to unseat Assad.
But there doesn’t seem to be any question that the United States shouldâ€”not only can, but should do these things and should ignore countries like Russia. It repeatedly came up that we can’t go to the UN and do what Russia wants us to do, and nobody mentioned the fact that the Russians and the Chinese were made fools of in Libya by going along with the UN resolution allowing a no-fly zone, only to see the United States kill Gaddafi and take over that government. And that is something a good moderator could have asked: why won’t the Russians go along with the United States in Syria? And the answer is that they’reâ€”you know, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
JAY: Right. Jennifer, what was your take on domestic economic issues in terms of what was said and what wasn’t said?
TAUB: I was disappointed that so little attention was paid to why we are in the situation we’re in and howâ€”why the economy is being held back right now. In particular I’m thinking about the more than 11 million households who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. These are the underwater homeowners. And this is holding back the economic recovery, because people who owe more on their homes than they’re worth can’t move to take a new job, they can’t sell their home to monetize the savings for retirement. And this is a very serious issue. In addition, there has been moreâ€”approximately 5Â million people who have lost their homes since the collapse of the housing bubble. And this housing bubble inflated due to years of deregulation and desupervision and predatory lending.
And the folks who brought this about, who engaged in this predatory and fraudulent lending, including the banks and Wall Street, have not beenâ€”have had years of record profits and bonuses and are now thriving. Meanwhile, the poor and the middle class are still suffering. And so it is troubling to me that that was not discussed.
Also I thought that it was clear that Joe Biden did win the debate. But he was greatly assisted by the moderator tonight, who was able to try to really pin down Paul Ryan on the gaps of the details. He’s made a number of proposals on the domestic front, but refuses to [incompr.] the details. I mean, when he does provide details, Senator Biden was able to call him out, because they were oftenâ€”he often provides false data to back up his plans.
JAY: I was a little surprised, too, that given that Ryan is for and Romney are for such deregulation of Wall Street, that Biden didn’t play to that. It’s not that the Obama administration record is so great on this, but I doubt Ryan would have critiqued them for being too weak regulators. But Biden didn’t go after Ryan on the need for financial regulation and such, just completely ignored, as you say, one of the major factors that led to the crisis.
TAUB: You know, I do think it’s the view of this administration andâ€”that the job’s been done. It’s also the view of Wall Street, right? We just heard recently from the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, who was interviewed on NPR, saying, you know, let’s just give it time and see if Doddâ€“Frank can work, when it’s really clear that that legislation did not go far enough and that the implementation through regulation has been diluted and delayed. And so more needs to be done. But I don’t think it’s a strong point for the current administration and, you know, for the Obama and Biden campaign to really try to bring that off, because I don’t think they can draw as much of a sharp contrast with Ryan and Romney on that point.
JAY: Okay. Well, Margaret, let me go back to you, because both of you have said, you know, at least on those issues, not that much difference between the two candidates. So let me ask you the question, Margaret, first, and then Jennifer. So does it matterâ€”do you think it matters which one wins, Obama or Romney? What’s your attitude on that question? ‘Cause it’s being hotly debated in many sectors.
KIMBERLY: Well, I’ve reached the conclusion that it matters less and less. I don’t think it matters very much.
JAY: Let me pin you down. If you were in a swing state where your vote really mattered, what would you do?
KIMBERLY: Well, I’d vote forâ€”I’m still a registered Democrat, but I no longer vote for presidentialâ€”Democratic presidential candidates anymore. And if Iâ€”I live in a blue state, but if I lived in the state where I was born, Ohio, I would do the same thing. I can no longer justify going along with the empire building, the, in fact, criminality of the United States abroad, because of the smaller and smaller number of issues that do in fact matter. She asked about abortion, where there’s a very clear difference. But the only differences left are in the issue of personal freedom. I call it personal liberalism on gay marriage or abortion, and I’m not going to say those issues aren’t important, but I no longer feel that they are worth giving up principles on the many other issues of foreign policy, the bailing out of the banks, which has continued under Obama. So for me it does not matter any longer, and I think it’s time for people on the left to stop allowing themselves to be so frightened of those few issues where there are differences that we keep supporting the same terrible policies.
JAY: Jennifer, what’s your answer? If you’re in a swing stateâ€”I don’t think you are, but if you were, what would you do?
TAUB: I think it really does matter who you vote for, even though there may be a whole list of things that one is disappointed about. To elect a Republican president right now who would put Roe v. Wade in jeopardy. A woman’s right to choose isâ€”if that’s important to you, I think that’s really at risk right now.
But I want to make clear that we tend to overemphasize just the election of presidents. Obviously, the Congress is really important, and votingâ€”you know, the Senate right now isâ€”there is not a filibuster-proof Senate for Democrats, ad right now there’s a possibility the Senate could also turn over to the Republican Party. And as you know, important confirmation, including judicial confirmation, depend upon getting those through the Senate.
And so theâ€”it would be by far easier to push a Democratic administration for more progressive goals than it would be to be a progressive on the outside when there’s a Republican administration in office. It would only give the impression that what the president has been trying to do didn’tâ€”you know, was too far to the left, as opposed to, you know, something else.
And, you know, as one example, you know, you hear someone like, today, Paul Ryan saying, you know, something incredible like the Affordable Care Act was a government takeover of health care, which is crazy. Obviously, it wasn’t a single-payer plan. But, you know, if there is a Republican president and Republicans take control of the Congress, it’s not that we’re going to get single-payer; it’s that things will be rolled back more. I think there’ll be more deregulation of Wall Street, not less. And so I think that the idea is to accept imperfection, then keep pushing toward those issues we support, not to sit out the electionâ€”I think that’s a mistake.
JAY: Margaret, quickly, a response.
KIMBERLY: I don’t think [incompr.] is merely to sit out the election. I think between elections, progressives need to stop just laying down. There’s been a complete stand-down to Barack Obama. There has been not even any effort to fight back within the party. And that gives him carte blanche to do whatever he wants, to go along with austerity measures, to go along with the drone attacks, to come up with the National Defense Authorization Act, then go further than Bush did and say that he has the right to imprison anybody he wants, even to kill anyone he wants with a kill list, and to leak that information to the media, for example. And all of those things get worse and worse when Democrats refrain from fighting within the party.
I think ifâ€”you know, sometimes if there’s a Republican, progressives are more active, and when there’s a Democrat, we give them too much, we give them a pass. And that’s unfortunate, because we end up repeating so many of the problems that we see. And it’s beyond being disappointed, as it’s often framed; it’s about the principles that we have that are supposed to make us Democrats in the first place [crosstalk] ignoring them.
JAY: Thank you both for joining us on The Real News Network. And we’ll continue this discussion next week, when we do a show about the presidential debate. So thank you, Jennifer. Thank you, Margaret.
And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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