Notes of a Reporter at Large • 10-18-12 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
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Thursday, 18 October 2012 16:37

The Veep Debate

By Mel Lavine

Special to the Times

Martha Raddatz of ABC News asked Paul Ryan in last Thursday’s debate if people who believe abortion should remain legal would have cause for concern  if  he and Mitt Romney were elected.

In so many mincing words Ryan said yes. In the past, Romney’s running mate has said he opposed abortion even in cases of rape and incest. This time he parted ways with the Spanish Inquisition, saying, “The policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortion with the exception for rape, incest and life of the mother.”

Maureen Dowd pointed out in Sunday’s New York Times, that Ryan “and other Republicans for decades have pined for a Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade.” In the exchange with Raddatz, the congressman said, “We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision. People, through their elected representatives and reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process, should make this determination.”

Echoes of Theodore Roosevelt. He believed some questions of vital interest were too important left to a handful of unelected souls answerable to no one, or even to Congress. In such cases T.R. advocated a direct vote by the people in a plebiscite. I do not mean to imply that Ryan is another Theodore Roosevelt. I’ve read enough history to believe otherwise.

As for Roe v. Wade, it would not take much to overturn the 1973  Supreme Court ruling that acknowledged  a woman’s constitutional right to legalized abortion. As noted here and elsewhere, the next president may have a vacancy or two to fill before his term is up. Four justices are over 70. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the oldest at 77. Justice Antonin Scalia is 74.

The vice president who is 69, and the Wisconsin congressman, 42,  quarreled aggressively, offering sharp contrasts on foreign and fiscal affairs, and the economic recovery. Joe Biden may have smiled too much but he lifted the spirits of Democrats disillusioned with the president’s performance in the Oct. 3 encounter with a forceful Romney.

Biden attacked on topics Obama did not mention – the bailout of the auto industry which Romney opposed, the Republican nominee’s assertion that the foreclosure crisis would have to “run its course,” and Romney’s remark about the “47 percent” of Americans overly dependent upon government benefits, as the Times reported.

Still, Ryan performed well, showing himself at home with the issues, foreign as well as domestic, rebutting Biden’s arguments skillfully. After Biden focused on Romney’s libel about the “47 percent,” Ryan reminded the vice president that he, too, sometimes has slipped on a loose tongue.

The moderator, Martha Raddatz, asked solid questions with sharp follow-ups, increasing a viewers’ knowledge of the stakes in the election. By contrast, Jim Lehrer of PBS was criticized by members of both party for his performance. He sat through the 90 minutes as if he had wandered into the hall by mistake.

Mel Lavine was a television producer for many years with NBC News and CBS News in New York. Contact him at his e-mail address: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .



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