Imagine if Joe Biden begins Thursday night's vice presidential debate in Danville, Kentucky as follows:
"I want to thank the moderator and the audience for making this possible tonight. That being said, I want to start the night off by asking Mr. Ryan about his budget proposal and how he and Mitt Romney actually intend to implement the health care plan Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan have been promoting throughout their campaign."
Imagine that Paul Ryan artfully dodges this question and turns it around to counterattack Obamacare. Picture Biden having none of this.
"I understand that you are upset with Obamacare, even though it has been the most effective overhaul of Medicare since Medicare was established, thus I am sure that the American people are eager to see you do away with it. But the question still stands, what do you propose to replace it with? Surely not the voucher system that you have been advocating, the one that Forbes called a ‘rhetorical bit of ideological hogwash’ not fit for ‘an adult conversation’."
I imagine that a long. wonkish justification would follow, but the opening salvo would have done its damage and opened the floodgates. Imagine Ryan without any means to keep afloat.
Perhaps I am letting my imagination get the better of me, but I’m willing to bet that on October 11 at 9pm eastern time the vice presidential sparring match at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky won’t be much of a sparring match at all. On display will be Ryan's and Biden's characters, as well as their own visions and that is precisely why Paul Ryan will fall flat on his face. Simply put, he does not have a vision; that is so long as he does not take his own fantasy budgets and fairytale reforms as things existing in the real world. Surely he does not buy into a budget that the Congressional Budget Office can’t even properly assess and the Washington Post declared ‘unrealistic.’
I imagine Biden might ask him why exactly Ayn Rand is his philosopher of choice, given that she is neither a philosopher, and he is not John Galt, having come from a wealthy and powerful family in Wisconsin. And if Biden really wants to make his opponent cower, I imagine he would point out that, while the John Galts of the world can afford access to prohibitively expensive health care, the rest of us mere humans still have health care needs that markets have failed to address.
Joe Biden, being Joe Biden, will obviously make a gaffe here or there, but a presidential election is not a personality contest, unless the candidate with the least substance can turn it into one. Regardless, Ryan, poised to regain the initiative, will pounce on each gaffe as if it were a gift from heaven. Unfazed, Biden won’t lose sight of the real issue at stake:
"I’m an old fart," Biden will say, "and I might not have the glitz or the flash of Mr. Ryan here, but I have something else that he is lacking, something else that is very important: sanity."