It was the debate Vice President Joe Biden wanted.
He had fun. He pounced when Republican challenger Paul Ryan tossed out numbers that could not be backed up. He interrupted and interjected Ryan. Over and over he called out the Congressman on issues ranging from the bailout of Detroit to the Obama Administration’s handling of the Libyan attack.
“That’s a bunch of malarkey,” he told Ryan at one point. The word quickly caught on. On Twitter it was a trending topic almost immediately after it was said. (Mashable reported Thursday night the Obama campaign rushed out and bought Malarkey ads.)
At the same time, Republicans were pleased with Paul Ryan’s debate. He stuck to his guns on Medicare, Social Security and other campaign themes. He stuck to the Romney script of reducing national spending, lowering taxes, and threatening Iran.
As the conservative blogger Erick Erickson noted on Red State: “This debate changed nothing. I think Paul Ryan did a great job. But many Democrats will think Joe Biden did a great job. And I think most undecideds will have thrown their hands up in frustration half way through.”
Ryan did, however, mention American Indians, he cited a Wisconsin Menominee who’s serving in Afghanistan.
“When I went to the Arghandab Valley in Kandahar before the surge, I sat down with a young private in the 82nd from the Menominee Indian Reservation who would tell me what he did every day, and I was in awe,” Ryan said. “And to see what they had in front of them — and then to go back there in December, to go throughout Helmand with the Marines to see what they had accomplished — it’s nothing short of amazing.”
Indian Country Today Media Network live tweeted the debate and there was significant participation, as 120,357 accounts were “reached” by the hashtag #ICTMNDebate (save it, we’ll use it again on Tuesday).
On Twitter, @JustinLepscier posted: “Thank you @PaulRyanVP for supporting our troops and taking time to talk with a Menominee in Afghanistan! #ProudMenominee.” However @Astronomommy wrote, “Menominee County (which is also a reservation) always votes Democratic. #funfact.
Others immediately asked how Ryan could talk about Menominee while cutting programs critical to Indian country.
But while Native American issues were not a direct part of the debate there were many issues that popped up that are significant to Indian country.
Biden said the next president could appoint as many as four or five judges to the Supreme Court. His context was the abortion issue and the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade. But I immediately thought of a federal court system that has no representation from Indian country at any level.
Perhaps the most relevant part of the discussion was about the 30 percent. Recently Ryan talked about the country being split by “takers” and “makers.” About thirty percent, he said, are takers.
Biden talked about Ryan’s 30 percent takers twice. “He’s talking about my mother and father. And he’s talking about the places I grew up in, my neighbors in Scranton and Claymont,” Biden said. “He’s talking about — he’s talking about the people that have built this country.”
Ryan, too, talked about the choice ahead. “What kind of country are we going to be? What kind of country are we going to give our kids? President Obama — he had his chance. He made his choices. His economic agenda, more spending, more borrowing, higher taxes, a government takeover of health care — it’s not working. It’s failed to create the jobs we need. Twenty-three million Americans are struggling for work today. Fifteen percent of Americans are in poverty,” Ryan said. “This is not what a real recovery looks like. You deserve better.”
The two presidential candidates debate again on Tuesday. Look for Indian Country Today Media Network again on Twitter, hashtag, #ICTMNDebate.
Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. He has been writing about Indian Country for more than three decades. His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org.