Well, the Vice Presidential debate certainly had more pizzazz than the first Presidential debate on the Democrat side, didn't it? Perhaps a bit more vice in it, too... Joe Biden's borderline personality disorder that shined throughout the debate was not something I found overly appealing. He started out openly mocking Ryan with his grins and giggles, then ventured into interruptions and a bit of anger... and then, when asked about religion he suddenly became very subdued and continued in that vein for the remainder of the debate.
With all that's going on in the world, I was fascinated by the foreign policy segments of the debate. I was thrilled that the debate opened with a question about the Benghazi scandal. But the debate became even more fascinating when the moderator (who did an excellent job, by the way) asked about the candidates' view on abortion and how they personally arrived at their stance.
Ryan's personal view on abortion appears to be strongly, strongly pro-life. He was clear that "the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother." I think he was also clear that his personal feelings differ on what the Romney administration's formal policy would be. Ryan is not personally in favor of exceptions for rape and incest. He explained himself in this way:
"All I'm saying is, if you believe that life begins at conception, that [rape and incest], therefore, doesn't change the definition of life. That's a principle. The policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother."
So Ryan's personal view on abortion is that he stands by the principle that life is sacred and should be respected. Terminating a life, at any stage, is murder and he opposes it. How that life is created does not change the principle that life is sacred. He is not willing to bend his logic to serve a political purpose. He is, however, willing to serve in an administration which does not see things the same way. Fair enough.
Biden answered the question with a few contortions. Here is his answer in its entirety:
"My religion defines who I am, and I've been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And has particularly informed my social doctrine. The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who - who can't take care of themselves, people who need help. With regard to - with regard to abortion, I accept my church's position on abortion as a - what we call a (inaudible) doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church's judgment. I accept it in my personal life.
"But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the - the congressman. I - I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that - women they can't control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor. In my view, and the Supreme Court, I'm not going to interfere with that. With regard to the assault on the Catholic church, 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.
"Now with regard to the way in which the - we differ, my friend says the he - well I guess he accepts Governor Romney's position now, because in the past he has argued that there was - there's rape and forcible rape. He's argued that in the case of rape or incest, it was still - it would be a crime to engage in having an abortion. I just fundamentally disagree with my friend."
This is fascinating to me. It sounds so politically acceptable. So beautiful. So complete. What a good man -- Biden hates abortion, he accepts the teaching of his church like a good Catholic boy should. However, he recognizes that he should not be imposing his beliefs and his views on others, unlike his opponent... except that he does impose his views on others. Just look at how the Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can't take care of themselves! In that respect, Biden feels completely justified in imposing the Catholic doctrine on others through income redistribution. No problem there.
Being a staunchly pro-life person myself, I'm perfectly fine with the position that Ryan has taken. I would have to answer the question in much the same way. If I were running for office alongside a person who was pro-life with exceptions, I would have to say that the administration's policy was going to be with exceptions but my personal belief is that abortion is wrong except when it's being done to prevent the imminent death of the mother.
I do think that Ryan dropped the ball just a little bit in his information about abortion later, though. When the moderator asked him, "If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried," he answered, "We don't think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination." This answer is great, but incomplete. Much of the American public is under the impression that if Roe vs. Wade were to be overturned by the Supreme Court, abortion would be outlawed throughout the land. This is just patently false. If Roe vs. Wade were to be overturned, this would only send us back to individual states legislating as they saw fit. If the federal government were to begin to enact legislation regarding abortion (which absolutely some would try), then the argument could be made that the federal government was overstepping its bounds.
All in all, the Vice Presidential debate was interesting to watch. I enjoyed, in my own twisted way, watching it. I really do find our political process wretchedly fascinating. Oftentimes the emphasis would be placed on wretchedly, but it's fascinating nonetheless.