Vice President Joe Biden rolled his eyes, held his hands up to the sky and snickered while his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, struggled to make a presence during the vice presidential debate that took place Oct. 11 on the campus of Centre College in Danville, Ky. The occasion marked the only time the two vice presidential candidates will meet during the campaign.
Biden, 69, showed his mastery of foreign policy which should be of no surprise. Before he became vice president, Biden served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and, when the Republicans were in charge of that chamber, he was its ranking member.
By the way, it's no secret in Washington that Biden would love to be secretary of state.
So when Ryan, 42, took the Obama administration to task for not properly responding to an attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya and the death of the American ambassador last month, Biden had enough. Ryan towed the line of his running mate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) when he said that "it took two weeks [for the Obama administration] to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack."
In his now-famous line, Biden responded, "with all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey."
Political analysts and observers understand that the vice presidential debates are, as in the words of Fox News journalist Chris Wallace, "fun, informative and they don't mean anything."
While the first presidential debate took place in 1960 with then-Vice President Richard Nixon and Sen. John F. Kennedy, the first vice presidential face-off did not occur until 16 years later, with Republican Sen. Robert Dole and Democrat Sen. Walter Mondale fighting it out.
Mondale, in reference to his opponent, said that Dole "earned his reputation as a hatchet man." That characterization of Dole stayed with him throughout his successful career in the U.S. Senate and when he lost his bid for the presidency to Bill Clinton in 1996.
Eight years later, then Republican Vice President George H.W. Bush debated Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in na historic contest in which the first woman on a major party ticket took on a sitting vice president. Most political analysts considered the debate a draw, but Bush got flak from some in the media when he told an aide after the debate that, "we kicked a little ass."
The most famous vice presidential debate took place in 1988, when seasoned Democratic U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen said to then-Republican Sen. Dan Quayle, "senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
Biden may have been aggressive in the debate with Ryan because of Obama's mediocre performance with Romney a week earlier. It is likely that Biden, a well-tested politician, wanted to rattle the young congressman who has only been on the national scene for a few years.
Biden's strategy must have worked, for Ryan said that things like "the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don't come out of your mouth the right way."
Biden coolly, but firmly said, "but I always say what I mean."
Ryan, who seemed weary of interruptions and corrections by the vice president said, in a desperate, yet polite tone, "Mr. Vice President, I know that you are under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think the people would be better served if we don't keep interrupting each other."
HBO recently had a show, "Veep," that is about a vice president who is marginalized by the president and is never consulted on even minor policy decisions. John Nance Garner of Texas, who served as vice president under Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933-1941, said that the vice presidency "is not worth a warm bucket of spit."
Still, one of these men will become president if the leader of their ticket dies or becomes incapacitated. Along those lines, the Biden-Ryan contest was worth watching.
Otherwise, it was pure entertainment.