Joe Biden’s histrionic performance last night, consisting of mugging, smirking, sneering, laughing, muttering No!, interrupting, and continually visually manifesting condescension, contempt, and his disagreement with, and dissent from, Paul Ryan’s statements and position in the debate has provoked much criticism and, most interestingly, comparison with another Vice President, Al Gore’s, disastrous debate performance in 2000.
Toby Harnden, of Britain’s Daily Mail, was one of many viewers who detected the presence of a ghost.
[The] Ghost of an over-confident Al Gore will haunt smirking Vice President Joe Biden who tried too hard to make up for his boss’ weakness . . . and was caught fibbing about the U.S. intelligence community.
Joe Biden came out swinging at Paul Ryan, flailing wildly and landing a few punches on his own jaw as well as his opponent’s.
He showed the kind of spirit and populist anger that President Barack Obama was so conspicuously lacking and has cheered up many demoralised Democrats.
But Biden’s performance here in Danville, Kentucky was both comical and self-defeating. Just as Al Gore sighed and rolled his eyes in 2000, so Biden smirked and guffawed.
His brief was to show the aggression that Obama so obviously lacked when the President went up against Mitt Romney last week. But as the dust settles today many will be left feeling that he went too far, tried too hard.
Many women and swing voters will have hated his condescending, swaggering display.
Perhaps the even bigger problem the Obama campaign will have in the coming days is that Biden, again just like Gore in 2000, repeatedly exaggerated and mischaracterised for effect.
And worse than Gore – who was caught in a series of small lies in 2000 – Biden was demonstrably untruthful in some big respects.
The RNC has already produced a campaign ad devoted to Biden’s derisive laughing. But the Daily Mail video clip was longer:
The comparison with Al Gore’s smirking in the 2000 presidential debate with George W. Bush occurred to me as well, and I was sitting here wondering why it is that experienced professional politicians would make such an obvious blunder as to over-act so much during a debate that they injured their own performances and credibility. How could they both be so naive? I asked myself. Where does this impulse to so much dramaturgy come from?
And, as I thought about it, it came to me. They are lying. They know that they are lying, and they are internally ill-at-ease because they know that they have nothing to offer but hot air. They are overacting because they are trying so hard to pretend, to pretend that it is all for real, that they believe in what they are saying. But they don’t actually, in their heart of hearts, really believe in the lines of guff that they are spinning, so they huff and they puff and they make faces at their opponents, desperately trying to persuade the audience of viewers to share their contemptuous dismissal of their miserable and unworthy opponents who dare to challenge the great and magnificent Oz!
To pull this kind of thing off, you have to be incredibly talented at dissimulation, at pure acting, Gore and Biden are just not that talented, and as a result, they come across as over-acting hams. They cannot really conceal their own insincerity. To succeed at this kind of thing on this level of stage, you need to be Bill Clinton, and only one Bill Clinton comes along every century or two.