NPR: Clearly the issue of contraception and abortion have become an important part of this campaign. Of course, women voters seem to be prized members of the electorate. How did you you see candidates' responses last night?
John Nichols: I thought the answers were a bit jarring. And instructive in many ways. I was intrigued to hear Joe Biden's answer because I thought it went much deeper than I've heard him --usually in public settings -- talk about the issue. There was some nuance there. And the same is true of Paul Ryan.
Although I think it's very important to understand that -- again -- this is Paul Ryan forcing himself into the strait-jacket of the campaign. Paul Ryan is a passionate opponent of abortion rights -- a passionate opponent of reproductive rights. He is one of the great champions of a right-to-life amendment to the Constitution. And bold legislation to radically restrict access to abortion. He talked about it in relatively gentle terms last night, but I think it was still sufficient to do a bit of damage to their outreach to a lot of younger women especially.
I would say, though, where I thought Martha Raddatz fell down... I just wish ... If I could give moderators one power, it would be to [have the option of adding] a half hour to the debate. Just say to the TV networks, "We're deciding leaders of the free world here, powerful figures. This debate isn't finished. We need a half hour more!"
And just do it ...because she brought this up and there was sort of this rush at the end to try and finish things up. Each brought up Catholic social justice theory and teaching, which puts us right back into the heart and soul of these economic issues that are not about dollars and cents. They are moral issues. Every budget is a moral document. It tells us about priorities, ideals, and purposes. I wish Raddatz had followed up with both of them, saying, "Okay, you guys have both referenced Catholic social justice teaching. Let's get into that. Let's talk about what that means to you. Let's talk about morality and economics!"
Had they gone there -- had they given us a half hour of that -- I think it would have been some of the most riveting television in the history of modern political debate.
That clip comes from a highly recommended discussion of the debate this morning at Radio Times, WHYY, Philadelphia.
Note: John Nichols, a Wisconsin native, is a well-known journalist and liberal commentator who writes for The Nation, has become a frequent "talking head" on radio and TV. Nichols, an editor of the Madison, WI, Capital Times, is also a friend of Paul Ryan's, a man he respects and respectfully and firmly disagrees with politically.
Dana Milbank at the Washington Post points out that the Republicans had tried to get Martha Raddatz to address Ryan as "Mister" rather than "Congressman" -- the House being not too popular these days, even with many Republican voters. Raddatz, of course, refused. That opened the door up for several home runs from Biden.
When Ryan tried to blame Obama for the automatic defense spending cuts, Biden pointed out that Ryan had praised the agreement: “We’ve been looking for this moment for a long time.” When Ryan criticized inadequate security in last month’s attack on diplomats in Libya, Biden retorted: “The congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for.”
On Iran sanctions: “Imagine had we let the Republican Congress work out the sanctions. You think there’s any possibility the entire world would have joined us?”
On taxes: “Instead of signing pledges to Grover Norquist not to ask the wealthiest among us to contribute to bring back the middle class, they should be signing a pledge saying to the middle class ‘we’re going to level the playing field.’ ”
On homeowners: “Get out of the way and let us allow 14 million people who are struggling to stay in their homes because their mortgages are upside down.”
Biden, looking into the camera, warned viewers that a Ryan proposal would have increased Medicare recipients’ costs by $6,400. Ryan was compelled to assure viewers that his earlier push for partial privatization of Social Security is “not what Mitt Romney’s proposing.”
An indignant Biden accused Ryan and his fellow Republicans in Congress of tanking the economy. “They talk about this Great Recession as if it fell out of the sky, like, ‘oh my goodness, where did it come from?’ ” he said, then pointed at Ryan. “It came from this man, voting to put two wars on a credit card, [and] . . . a trillion-dollar taxcut for the very wealthy.”
Raddatz turned to the challenger for a response. “Congressman Ryan?” ...Dana Milbank, WaPo