Well, maybe the title should be one Catholic guy talks about these issues while the other Catholic guy interrupts, mumbles, mugs for the camera, and manages to worry anyone who recalls that he’s one heartbeat away from the Presidency. That’s hard to fit into a headline, though, so we’ll just have to make do. Paul Ryan and Joe Biden got this question from Martha Raddatz on faith and abortion almost at the end of the debate, as she noted that this was the first time two Catholics have squared off in these forums. Ryan gives a personal defense of his opposition to abortion and ties it explicitly to his faith, while Biden, er … compartmentalizes:
Sorry, but speaking as a Catholic, Biden’s answer was nonsense, as was his attempt to interrupt Ryan with some scolding on “social justice.” That’s not to say that Catholics have no objections to Ryan on that score — they certainly do, although Ryan’s bishop defended at least Ryan’s intent and spirit on his budget proposals. But the entire Catholic mission of social justice rests on the sacredness of individual human life, beginning at conception — as Biden himself acknowledges in this debate.
The point of social justice is to recognize the sanctity of each human life and act to protect it, be that through shelter, healing, food, and a number of other ways. However, the most defenseless of all human life is that of the unborn. Furthermore, while one can argue to what extent government should be involved in charitable efforts, the basic function of government is to protect the lives of its people. Social justice cannot begin without protecting unborn human life (and it can’t end there, either). That, as Catholics know, is one of the major aspects of the “seamless garment” of Catholic social teaching.
It’s nonsense to say as a government official that you believe that human life starts at conception but that you can’t act to protect it. Certainly many people believe that human life does not start at conception, but that’s less science- and reason-based than the Catholic doctrine that opposes it. At least, though, that belief doesn’t have that inherent contradiction that Biden expressed last night.
Kirsten Powers wasn’t impressed with this line of argument, either:
Biden's 'i accept the church's teaching that abortion is murder" but people shld be able to do it is 1 of the most specious args ever made
— Kirsten Powers (@KirstenPowers) October 12, 2012
Chuck Woolery broke out a big case of snark on the entirety of Biden’s answer, which was good enough to impress a priest on Twitter:
Biden, my strong catholic belief has driven me to support gay marriage, abortion forced birth control on the church and blatant lying. Amen
— Chuck Woolery (@chuckwoolery) October 12, 2012
— Fr. Josh Miller (@FrJoshMiller) October 12, 2012
Overall, I thought the night was more or less a push in the debate sense. Ryan remained calm and measured, stuck to his agenda, and talked up his running mate all night long in the face of some gale-force headwinds from both Biden and Raddatz, both of whom continually interrupted him.
Biden probably fired up his base, but he gave one of the weirdest debate performances ever — and one of the most inconsistent. In the first 30 minutes, he was tough, if annoying, and seemed to momentarily push Ryan off his game. In the second thirty minutes, Biden went totally out of control, yelling at both Ryan and Raddatz, a few times leaning forward, bug-eyed at her, while Ryan scored some points. In the final thirty minutes, Biden utterly deflated, without any energy left to do more than mutter during Ryan’s responses. It was one of the strangest public performances by a major politician I’ve ever seen.
Furthermore, Biden barely mentioned Barack Obama at all during the debate. All Biden wanted to talk about was himself, Romney, and “my friend” Ryan, while gesticulated and mugging wildly for the camera whenever Ryan spoke. That may have played well with his base, but for those in the middle, they have to wonder which man they’d prefer to have one heartbeat away from the Presidency. Many of them are probably praying this morning for the continued health of President Obama.
Meanwhile, James Lileks and I gave our analysis of the VP debate last night on the Hugh Hewitt show. Or at least I tried to do so; as it turns out, Hugh’s kind of a Martha Raddatz as a moderator:
Actually, I had a blast — as I tweeted afterward:
— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) October 12, 2012