Much has been made of the facts that President Obama appeared quiet and uninterested in his first debate and that Joe Biden smiled and laughed during his debate. I don’t believe this has anything much to do with their relative preparations for their debates or necessarily even with their deliberate plans. I would suggest these are two different means of coping with the same problem, namely, trying to have conversations with individuals who present virtually insurmountable problems with ordinary communications.
Having had years of experience trying to communicate with those who do not speak my language, nor I theirs, or with mentally retarded individuals, or people known to be schizophrenic or otherwise mentally ill, I recognize what is involved in such situations. I believe this holds true for conversations with those known to be chronic, even pathological liars, whether it be in ordinary daily conversation or in debates. When trying to engage in conversation with such people there are basically only two things you can do, other than avoiding such situations entirely. You can do as President Obama did in his first debate with Romney, simply remain mostly silent, avoiding argumentation you know is doomed to be unproductive and may prove to be disastrous. Obama himself recognized this when he said something to the effect that you cannot just accuse someone of lying after everything they say without creating an even worse situation.
In Biden’s case he employed a different strategy for the same problem. When he smiled or laughed, or rolled his eyes, or whatever, he basically signaled that he knew the person was lying but was humoring him rather than being deliberately and rudely insulting. Rather like humoring the crazy uncle who gets his news only from Rush Limbaugh and threatens the dinner conversation with his utter nonsense. You cannot completely ignore such people as they will not tolerate being ignored no matter how offensive they are.
It must have become apparent to Obama and the Democrats during the past few years there is no point in trying to have meaningful exchanges with Republicans. After all, when they have announced they are determined to do everything in their power to destroy you and your Presidency, what is the point of trying to reason with them, or even trying to communicate with them at all. I think Obama’s greatest mistake has been his insistence, in spite of evidence to the contrary, that it would be possible to work in a bipartisan manner with such people, a kind of perennial and optimistic assumption that has proven to be wrong. I think I understand this because I, too, would have thought the same thing, although I realized it was not true apparently before Obama gave up trying. It simply never occurred to me, or Obama, or I suspect to most other people, there were individuals in the United States that would put Party before the national interest. I’m not at all sure the Founding Fathers believed this either. It could not have occurred to them that one of two political parties would simply refuse to participate in governing, that the “loyal opposition” would become the “disloyal opposition.” But that is what has come to pass. It began in earnest, I think, when they found they could not defeat Clinton by ordinary political means and turned to more unprecedented and criminal-like behavior to do so, when Karl Rove and his not very jolly and destructive band of near gangsters came into prominence, when it was apparently decided by Republicans that the ends justified the means, when greed became good and “community” an anachronism. This has been an absolutely shameful period in our history in more ways than one.
It appears to be shaping up to a brutal contest between global warming and human inactivity, a seemingly insignificant matter when compared with the titanic struggle between two would-be leaders over who will come away with the most loot.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate,
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies?
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise.