October 12, 2012 by David K. Sutton
Smiling Joe’s VP Debate Performance and His Brilliant Pro-Choice Defense
I have two thoughts about Vice President Joe Biden’s debate performance, and then a closing thought on who I think won the first and only vice presidential debate.
First, Biden didn’t do himself or President Obama any favors with the pearly whites. I think he smiled in both amusement and disgust way too often, especially early in the debate. Obviously this is a knock on style, but as I’ve said in past articles, style usually defines these debates.
Second, Biden’s response to the abortion question was brilliant. Martha Raddatz asked:
This debate is, indeed, historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion. Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that. And, please, this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country… – Martha Raddatz (moderator)
Paul Ryan made it clear that a Romney administration would oppose abortion. Ultimately this could mean appointing Supreme Court justices that would help overturn Roe v. Wade. Vice President Joe Biden answered this question in about the best way I think it could be answered. Ryan talked about how the Obama administration has infringed on religious freedom and Biden flipped that argument on its head. Biden’s defense of his pro-choice stance basically makes Ryan look like the one who is against religious freedom. Here is the first part of Biden’s response where he argues that pro-choice is pro-religious freedom:
My religion defines who I am, and I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And has particularly informed my social doctrine. The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who — who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help. With regard to — with regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a — what we call a (inaudible) doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.
But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the — the congressman. I — I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that — women they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor. In my view and the Supreme Court, I’m not going to interfere with that. – Vice President Joe Biden
I think this was an absolutely brilliant response, and I’ve never heard it framed like this. Biden is correct, Ryan’s opposition on abortion and a woman’s right to choose is based on his religion. When it comes to government policy, Ryan will impose his religious beliefs, leading to a government that takes away a woman’s right to choose. It is not the place of government to tell a woman what she can do with her body, and it is forbidden by the constitution for government to endorse any religion. Therefore, the only position on abortion that is compatible with freedom, liberty (including religious freedom) is a pro-choice position. You can be against abortion personally, but that’s where it ends. You cannot impose your views on others.
As for who won the debate, that is less clear to me. I have my own liberal bias that tells me Biden won this debate, but I also know how conservatives and moderates might view this debate. Therefore I think this debate was mostly a draw. I know MSNBC hosts think it was a clear win for Biden, and I’m sure Fox News hosts think it was a clear win for Ryan. But I don’t think there was a clear winner.
Quotes obtained from ABC News — Vice Presidential Debate Transcript