The Field, The Economy, Biden’s Conscience Mandate Lie, Camille Paglia Unplugged, The Greatest Fake-Art Scam Ever, Hating Breitbart, Modern Rhetoric, C.S. Lewis
The Transom: News and Notes From Around the Web
THE FIELD:
 
Back in January of 2011, following the Tea Party sweep which vaulted Republicans back into leadership in the House, soon to be Budget Chairman Paul Ryan met with a group of about thirty policy wonks on Capitol Hill for several hours about his intentions for the upcoming budget battle. The aim was to share that he would not stand pat, he said, playing it safe as many pundits advised. Ryan understood that Republicans had won not by prevailing on their ideas but in response to Democratic overreach – so now he would aim to define the ideas. Leadership would back this – John Boehner had given his imprimatur to instead craft a budget which would provide a strong contrast to the White House’s dithering approach on debt and entitlements. Ryan anticipated that such a strong stand would lead to a real contrast, presenting the voters with a clear-cut choice in the 2012 elections on budget solvency, the size of government, entitlement reform and all the rest – a strategy Ryan said at the time he believed would “probably result in a better nominee.”
 
There were a host of questions, one about the political ramifications of this decision. Playing devil’s advocate and anticipating the Granny over the cliff ads, we asked: wouldn’t this give the Democrats a hammer to beat over the head of more vulnerable caucus members? Ryan was confident enough in his ideas, but what about the weaker partners? Were they prepared to deal with the onslaught? Ryan’s answer was instructive, and it was later one that he would share publicly: “Of course the pundits will say we are handing our opponents a political weapon. But they’re going to have to lie and demagogue to make it a weapon.”
 
It’s a courageous-sounding line, but it also struck me at the time as sounding more than a little naïve, turning Ryan into a Medicare-focused Joan de Arc. After all, many politicians lie and demagogue every day before they even get out of bed. And last night Ryan ran into one of the consummate liars and demagogues of our political age in Joe Biden, a blustering boisterous blowhard of a man who careens forward, capped teeth flashing in the sun, through inaccuracies and conflations of all shapes and sizes with reassuring emotional appeals and tough-sounding rhetoric. His entire career is built on his ability to tell blatant falsehoods and sound convincing while he does it. I actually enjoy Biden’s style – he is the ideal modern specimen of Senator qui absurdum est, his DNA strands traced to the very first braggadocios of Rome, clad in the toga candida, who so enjoyed interrupting the stammering Cicero. Joe, crazy uncle Joe, ended up as Vice President – can you believe it? Biden just thinks he’s lucky to be along for the ride, and he’s the best there is in politics at following the Costanza advice. http://vlt.tc/ich 
 
For Ryan, this is a difficult foil indeed, and last night, it showed. The transcript is here: http://vlt.tc/ics  For the bulk of this debate, Ryan was on the defensive, back on his heels, as if he was the incumbent rather than Biden. For much of the first foreign policy portion of the debate, I thought Ryan was worse for it. In the latter portion of the debate, Ryan performed better – he got his footing on taxes – the line that there “aren't enough rich people or small businesses to tax to pay for their spending. Watch out, middle class, the bill's coming to you” – was very good, and he parried the 47 percent attacks decently. He was at his best at the end: his rhetoric on abortion was solid and well-crafted, a ground of his own choosing given the question about Catholicism, and his closing statement was excellent.
 
But on the whole, Ryan was far too wonky. He seemed very much the Hill staffer, a youngster you’d see sitting behind Biden at the table. Instead of speaking in anecdotes and making clear moral arguments, Ryan argued in numbers, charts, and studies, citing policy minutiae as if the American people could understand it. Part of this was that so much of the debate was on foreign policy, where Ryan did fine but was still confined to ground he’s less used to fighting on. He seemed hesitant to land a punch or go on offense, speaking too often with deference; he had a golden opportunity to set up Biden on unemployment rates in his own town and missed it. Where Mitt Romney had largely quelled his technocratic approach to great effect in last week’s debate, Ryan seemed more interested in defending steps on wonky grounds rather than the moral ones that we know stick with voters longer. Biden doesn’t care about numbers as anything more than a pause between anecdotes, and he didn’t seem intimidated by Ryan in the way he was by Sarah Palin. He spent much of the debate shouting Ryan down, interrupting him (82 times), grimacing, laughing with skepticism at his arguments. http://vlt.tc/id8  There could be some fallout from the fact Biden blatantly lied about Benghazi. http://vlt.tc/idh  Even Andrea Mitchell called him on that. http://vlt.tc/ido  But he also reasserted and defended the policies of the administration forcefully, in ways President Obama failed to do last week.
 
In some ways, this debate parallels the 1984 debate between George H.W. Bush and Geraldine Ferraro. It too was on October 11th, coming the week after Ronald Reagan’s worst debate performance in his career. Bush spent much of the debate looking down his nose at Ferraro, and Ferraro resented it, leading to this exchange. http://vlt.tc/icr  Ferraro was questioned as being a lightweight on foreign policy and had to defend her abortion views (in conflict with her Catholicism), while Bush felt the need to be more aggressive in the aftermath of a bungled presidential debate. The media framed the debate as a draw, but men in particular responded well to Bush, and Reagan rebounded ten days later with his final smackdown of Mondale. I expect, like that debate, this one will not move the needle significantly in polls at all – not enough people watched given the conflicts of baseball and football, and Ryan had no one awful moment, nor any ad-worthy gaffes of any kind. Biden’s verbal soup covered his ability to advance his point or make the case for his ideas (with an assist from Martha Raddatz). The debate ultimately will do its job for left, contributing to a round of media comeback stories and getting Democratic base psyched up again that their team is full of piss and vinegar, ready and willing to fight. http://vlt.tc/idu  But it will do little to blunt the passion of Republican supporters. There is no game changer here.
 
One more word about the moderator, Raddatz, who was under fire before the debate for the fact that President Obama had attended her wedding, and under fire afterward for apparently believing the economy's doing so well that it deserved less time than questions about Catholicism and whether campaigns are too nasty. http://vlt.tc/idl  As Twitter criticism mounted, her friends in the media mounted a defense, exclaiming that she’d been a wonderful moderator. Good moderators can be active or disengaged: Lehrer was the latter, and most of the CNN cast is the former. One type essentially throws out a topic and lets the candidates duke it out according to their whim – the other tries to pry deeper, asking frequent followups to draw out answers as in an interview. But the important thing is to be consistent in your approach with both candidates. Raddatz was not. After her initial tough question about Libya to Biden, she spent the rest of the debate pressing Ryan on point after point without demanding the same specificity of Biden. She would let Biden run, allowing him to interrupt at whim, while interrupting Ryan to shift topics even within subject areas. What’s more, her apparent ignorance of domestic policy (she’s a foreign correspondent for ABC) led to a remarkable tilt toward international topics. The irony was that this ended up being a surprisingly parochial in focus, confined to the Middle East – she asked no questions about the EU, no questions about China, no questions about trade. For his part, Dan Drezner apologized on behalf of the five percent. http://vlt.tc/icp 
 
By my tabulation, Raddatz asked more questions about foreign policy, national security, and the Defense budget than all other subjects combined. She asked one question about Medicare but mushed it together with Social Security, the upshot being that most of the answers were focused on Social Security reforms neither candidate has endorsed or even brought up on the trail. She asked, effectively, just one question about the economy – one! – while asking separate questions on Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Koran burning, DOD and the sequester. And it wasn't for lack of time: Raddatz also found the time to ask such inane questions as “are you ever embarrassed by the tone” of negative campaign ads, and “what could you both give to this country as a man, as a human being, that no one else could?” (The proper answer, of course, is fire.) Raddatz will never be approved as a moderator again by any intelligent Republican campaign.
 
Twitter reax of note: PowerLine’s @jhinderaker: “That was extremely disappointing. I expected much more from Ryan. It was a bad night for the GOP.” @AceofSpadesHQ: “I did tell you in Point Number 5 in my pre-debate post that "Biden plays well to dummies." He speaks their language.  He speaks Dumbese.” Heartland’s @jlakely: “Raddatz was tagging into the ring like she & Biden were the British Bulldogs in the old WWF.” Weekly Standard’s @JVLast: “Other sports analogy: even Tim Donaghy thought Martha looked *really* crooked.” The Hill’s @CPHeinze: “Erin Burnett notes that in focus group women seemed to rate Ryan higher.”
 
RELATED: A good measure of how Ryan was playing defense the entire night: Romney was mentioned 53 times, Obama only 30. http://vlt.tc/id1  A Draw? http://vlt.tc/idp  Filibustering. http://vlt.tc/idd  I wish National Journal had gotten this depiction of Romney’s capital gains cut right, but they didn’t. http://vlt.tc/id4 Did Palin do better? http://vlt.tc/icm  Musk Ox. http://vlt.tc/idq  Pic that sums up debate. http://vlt.tc/idy  Latino voters in Arizona prefer Obama. http://vlt.tc/idi  Biden lies about AEI study. http://vlt.tc/idk  Does Biden’s style hurt him with indies? http://vlt.tc/idm  Toldja. http://vlt.tc/i6c  Working the refs worked with Gallup. http://vlt.tc/ie0  Great poll for Romney in Florida. http://vlt.tc/ief  More on how Romney’s tax cut would work. http://vlt.tc/ieg  Romney’s frontrunner moment. http://vlt.tc/iev  Economic case for Romney. http://vlt.tc/if6  Ryan in Time. http://vlt.tc/idt  Pump it up. http://vlt.tc/ibz  Peter Robinson agrees Biden took it, but it won’t matter. http://vlt.tc/idx  Stephanie Cutter did not have a good day. http://vlt.tc/idv  Bret Baier grills her. http://vlt.tc/ie3  Obama’s industry backers. http://vlt.tc/iem  Romney gets coveted LiLo endorsement. http://vlt.tc/id0  Biden’s debate in Gifs. http://vlt.tc/ids 
 
THE ECONOMY:
 
Germany won’t budge. http://vlt.tc/ifb  “Germany held firm on Friday in insisting it was too soon to say Greece deserved more time to meet its budget-cutting goals even as the head of the IMF laid out the case for leniency. Greece, Spain and the euro zone's slow progress toward debt reform was centre stage at International Monetary Fund meetings despite Europe's best effort to step out of the spotlight. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, sitting next to Germany's finance minister, said Athens needed more breathing space. "Given the... lack of growth, given the market pressure, given the efforts that have been undertaken, a bit more time is necessary," she said, amplifying on remarks made on Thursday. In a softening of earlier advice, the IMF has argued that forcing Greece and other debt-burdened countries in Europe to reduce their deficits too quickly is counter-productive because it hurts the economy.” Greek unemployment is now above 25% http://vlt.tc/if2  
 
Jobless claims fall to four year low! http://vlt.tc/iff  Wait, what? http://vlt.tc/iew  “A sharp drop in the number of weekly jobless claims filed last week was caused by the failure of one large state to report all of its claims, a Labor Department spokesman confirmed to FOX Business. Initial jobless claims, which are a measure of the number of people recently laid off, fell by 30,000 to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, the lowest level in more than four years. But the Labor Department spokesman said the numbers were skewed by one large state that underreported its data. The spokesman declined to identify the state, but economists believe California is the only state large enough to have such a significant impact on the overall numbers.” As ZeroHedge says, this is just getting stupid. http://vlt.tc/iex
 
Wal-Mart prepares to take on Amazon directly, realizing that e-commerce will hurt them significantly if they wait. http://vlt.tc/iey  “Walmart isn’t taking it lying down. The big-box giant announced this week that it too would be offering same-day delivery, using its extensive network of superstores as distribution centers, and shipping products to consumers via UPS.  According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the service will initially be available in the Northern Virginia, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, San Jose, and San Francisco areas. The service will cost $10 per delivery, with no minimum order. Amazon’s own same-day delivery service costs $8.99, with a $0.99 per-item shipping charge. How big of a deal is same-day delivery? The jury is still out. As evidenced by the high shipping costs, this is not a cheap thing to do. With a ten-dollar-per-order shipping charge, it’s unlikely that many customers will regularly take advantage of the service, unless they are really in a bind, need a product immediately and don’t have time to go to the store themselves to pick it up.”
 
Pimco local buying signals bigger bets on muni debt. http://vlt.tc/ieu  “Bets on the $3.7 trillion muni market are paying off as local borrowings are poised to out-earn Treasuries this year on an absolute basis and when adjusted for volatility. City and state debt has returned 3.7 percent in 2012 after accounting for price swings, compared with 0.6 percent for Treasuries, data compiled by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Bloomberg show. It would be the second straight year for tax-exempts to beat federal securities, the longest stretch since 2006.”
 
RELATED: Trade gap widens. http://vlt.tc/if7  Shell seeks to export U.S. oil. http://vlt.tc/id9  Larry Ellison wants to buy out Anschutz. http://vlt.tc/ifc  New Fed governor defends QE3. http://vlt.tc/ifd  Best Buy to match online pricing. http://vlt.tc/ida  Why Apple wants to shrink the iPad. http://vlt.tc/idc  Spring looks to Japan for help. http://vlt.tc/ide  Investors lap up India bonds. http://vlt.tc/idf  China steelmaker profits sink. http://vlt.tc/idw  Puerto Rico’s pain. http://vlt.tc/iet  Should Facebook have a Want button? http://vlt.tc/if3  JP Morgan profits rise. http://vlt.tc/if8  Oil prices could ease. http://vlt.tc/if9  How to stop rich people from fleeing California. http://vlt.tc/ifa  Banks view home loans as gateway to gains. http://vlt.tc/ife  Video of Cato discussion on subsidy policy. http://vlt.tc/idb 
 
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BIDEN’S CONSCIENCE MANDATE LIE:
 
From the debate last night, Biden advanced this claim: “Let me make it absolutely clear, no religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”
 
This is most certainly not a fact. I see where Biden was trying to draw the careful line, but he went too far (he should’ve just claimed that none has to *pay* for it and left it there). Ryan responded – before Raddatz interrupted – with “Why would they keep suing you? It’s a distinction without a difference.” Biden was instrumental in crafting that distinction without a difference. http://vlt.tc/icu  The conscience-violating requirement has merely been shifted from the religious entities to their insurers: they must provide contraception and abortifacients services without any out of pocket expense to students and employees covered by any plan. This means the cost of those services is merely built into the overall cost of the plan. But the accommodations the administration has offered are laughably insufficient – mere delays before compliance. http://vlt.tc/ict 
 
More details are here at the Becket Fund, which is essentially organizing the legal response to it. http://vlt.tc/icv  As I’ve argued before, the logical result of this policy, particularly for smaller institutions more exposed to rising premium costs, is that they will drop coverage altogether rather than compromise their religious views – which means more people will end up on the taxpayer subsidized rolls. Some universities are already announcing they will do this. http://vlt.tc/icw 
 
CAMILLE PAGLIA UNPLUGGED:
 
Emily Esfahani Smith and I interview with Camille Paglia for Ricochet and Acculturated. http://vlt.tc/ic4  The whole thing is fantastic, but I particularly liked her rant about Richard Dawkins and her response to my question at the 20 minute mark about Anne Marie Slaughter, feminism, and the “can women have it all” question. Wait til the end for her defense of George Lucas, though, which is as tough as it gets despite my disagreement. I feel like she needs to debate the Red Letter Media guy. More on Paglia’s book here. http://vlt.tc/ies 
 
FEATURES:
 
The greatest fake art scam in history. http://vlt.tc/idn 
   
BUILD ME UP, BUTTERCUP:
 
Hedgehogs and Halloween. http://vlt.tc/icz 
 
JOB POSTING:
 
Staff Writer, FreedomWorks. http://vlt.tc/39j
 
ITEMS OF INTEREST:
 
The EU wins the Nobel Peace Prize. http://vlt.tc/id3  I have no idea why. Did they learn to use deodorant this year or something?
 
Footage from Benghazi. http://vlt.tc/ifg
 
WRM on Syria. http://vlt.tc/if1 
 
Fouad Ajami on Turkey and Assad. http://vlt.tc/ie7 
 
Arab Spring prisoner releases have helped Jihadi cause. http://vlt.tc/ieh 
 
North Korean nuke progress. http://vlt.tc/if0 
 
South Africa unrest spreads. http://vlt.tc/id7 
 
Need for a better Vietnam relationship. http://vlt.tc/iez 
 
Cyber attacks on energy companies. http://vlt.tc/idj 
 
Extremely hard hitting Jeff Flake ad. http://vlt.tc/ien 
 
Ohio must count improperly cast ballots. http://vlt.tc/ie9 
 
“My flirtation with Christie was like running off with a biker. He was new and exciting.” http://vlt.tc/ieo
 
The five million green jobs that weren’t. http://vlt.tc/if4 
 
The overblown attacks on fracking. http://vlt.tc/iei 
 
The election will decide Obamacare’s future. http://vlt.tc/idg 
 
Did Obamacare slow the recovery? http://vlt.tc/ie4 
 
Obamacare’s Medicare penalties fail. http://vlt.tc/ie8 
 
The difference here between Medicaid and uninsurance is remarkable. http://vlt.tc/ic8 
 
Protestants in praise of Catholic Social Teaching. http://vlt.tc/ieb 
 
Build a charter school, get a green card. http://vlt.tc/ied 
 
How to do online education. http://vlt.tc/iee 
 
Does biology make us liars? http://vlt.tc/idr 
 
Morning after wedding photos. http://vlt.tc/iel 
 
The spot Caesar fell. http://vlt.tc/iec 
 
The women behind Team Armstrong. http://vlt.tc/id5 
 
Ole Miss tries a comeback. http://vlt.tc/id6
 
Preview of Iron Man #1. http://vlt.tc/ie1 
 
Fall TV season slumps. http://vlt.tc/ie6 
 
Publishers’ favorite president. http://vlt.tc/iea 
 
Trailer: I, Pencil. http://vlt.tc/iej
 
Trailer 2: Django Unchained. http://vlt.tc/iek 
 
The more Spielberg talks, the less likely I am to see Lincoln. http://vlt.tc/ie2 
 
Argo getting raves. http://vlt.tc/ie5 
 
“Adam Sandler is like, in love with some girl, but then it turns out that the girl is actually a golden retriever, or something.” http://vlt.tc/ier
 
Jurassic Park buzzkill. http://vlt.tc/ieq 
 
First World Problems. http://vlt.tc/ibp 
 
The Claire Danes cry face project. http://vlt.tc/iep 
 
PODCAST:
 
Hating Breitbart. http://vlt.tc/icx 
 
POEM:
 
“Because I like rodeos more than golf.” http://vlt.tc/icy
 
THE TRANSOM RECOMMENDS:
 
Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, Edward P.J. Corbett, $39. http://vlt.tc/i3y
   
QUOTE:
 
“Aravis also had many quarrels (and, I'm afraid even fights) with Cor, but they always made it up again: so that years later, when they were grown up they were so used to quarreling and making it up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently.” ― C.S. Lewis

This collection of news and notes from around the web is edited by Benjamin Domenech, research fellow at The Heartland Institute, co-host of Coffee & Markets, and editor in chief of The City. The views expressed within are his alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of his employers.
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