Dean Obeidallah: Joe Biden displayed full range of emotions, expressions in debate
He says Biden is one of the few authentic personalities in our political world
Obeidallah: We should encourage candidates to show us who they really are
Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog “The Dean’s Report” and co-director of the upcoming documentary “The Muslims Are Coming!” Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy.
In a world of politicians who memorize sound bites and regurgitate them like robots, Joe Biden is different. Biden says it as he sees it. And, yes, that philosophy can lead to a few gaffes. OK, in Biden’s case, a lot of gaffes. But that’s the risk with being real.
Maybe Joe Biden isn’t always “presidential” as that word has come to be defined, but isn’t it about time we revised the definition of that word? Sadly, it has come to mean a staid, reserved person who shows almost no emotion – almost like Spock from “Star Trek.” But presidents and vice presidents are still human beings and should be allowed and encouraged to act like it.
Look at Biden at Thursday night’s vice-presidential debate: He laughed, he almost cried, he got angry, he looked to the heavens, he laughed some more. Joe Biden gave us a veritable one-man show. It was a tour de force. After Biden retires from politics, he should seriously consider touring the nation with a show: “Being Biden” or “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”
Mitt Romney may now be finally learning how to “let Mitt be Mitt,” but that has never been Biden’s problem. Joe Biden wears Joe Biden on his sleeve.
Biden is a mix of Bill Clinton and Clint Eastwood. He’s warm and relatable like Clinton, but also you get a sense of unpredictability as we did when watching Eastwood at the Republican National Convention. (My dream debate is Joe Biden versus Clint Eastwood. Add the empty chair and you have the makings of a hit reality show.)
There has been a lot written about whether Biden went too far at the debate. Did he laugh too much? Was he too impassioned? Too animated? (One of my favorite moments occurred early in the debate when Ryan was answering a question and Biden turned to the camera a la “Ferris Bueller” and gave us a look of: “You’ve got to be kidding me.”)
But does anyone doubt that those were organic reactions by Biden? People can debate all day whether Biden should have reined in his feelings, but those were his true emotions.
Instead of media pundits and the public attacking people like Biden when they show honest emotion, we should applaud it. In fact, we should demand it from all of our presidential candidates.
There should be one presidential debate that is not about the dry figures of deficit reduction or oil company subsidies, etc., but about heart.
We need a debate that that reveals who they really are beneath their expensive suits with the American flag pins on their lapels. Questions that raise issues that aren’t black and white, but hundreds of shades of gray.
Such as, what would you to say to the parents of a child who was killed in a war that you pushed for?
What do you tell a family that is scraping by to make ends meet about why you think millionaires shouldn’t have to pay slightly higher taxes? What would you say to a young woman who doesn’t want to have an abortion, but you are advocating cutting the government funding that she needs to raise her child?
How would Mitt Romney or President Obama do in response to those type of questions? Probably OK. Obama would be law professoresque but trying to fake some emotion. Romney would give us a memorized answer that has been sanitized by consultants after a gaggle of focus groups. Neither horrible, yet neither compelling. But there is no doubt that Biden would be the big winner.
Look, if you want “Candidate-enstein” or “Franken-tician,” a creature designed by high-priced political consultants from the spare parts of past political campaigns, be my guest. There are boatloads of them. But there’s only one Joe Biden. And that is truly a shame.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.