Aside from the issues of rude interruptions, smiles, and body language, the vice presidential debate has revealed profound substantive differences between the two vice presidential candidates and, by proxy, their respective presidential running mates.
While Congressman Paul Ryan explained his commitment to “peace through strength” and “our founding principles,” Vice President Joe Biden never mentioned an American core value or a constitutional principle.
|A combination picture captures Biden's reactions during the vice presidential debate.
When debate moderator Martha Raddatz asked about the recent “pre-planned assault by heavily armed men” on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, and the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, Biden replied: “When you're looking at a president, Martha, it seems to me that you should take a look at his most important responsibility. That's caring for the national security of the country. And the best way to do that is take a look at how he's handled the issues of the day . . . When it came to Osama bin Laden, the president, the first day in office — I was sitting with him in the Oval Office. He called in the CIA and signed an order saying, my highest priority is to get bin Laden.”
Did the vice president really mean what he said? Was the President of the Unites States’ highest priority, above all other priorities, “to get bin Laden?” What about the presidential priorities underlying his oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States?
In response to the same question about the Benghazi assault, Congressman Ryan explained: “We mourn the loss of these four Americans who were murdered. When you take a look at what has happened just in the last few weeks, they sent the U.N. ambassador out to say that this was because of a protest and a YouTube video. It took the president two weeks to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack. He went to the U.N. and in his speech at the U.N. he said six times — he talked about the YouTube video. Look, if we're hit by terrorists we're going to call it for what it is, a terrorist attack.”
Congressman Ryan continued, “This Benghazi issue would be a tragedy in and of itself, but unfortunately it's indicative of a broader problem. And that is what we are watching on our TV screens is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy, which is making the [world] more chaotic [and] us less safe.”
Why is it that the Obama foreign policy is making the world more chaotic and us less safe?
The answer to this question is at least two-fold, is not complicated, and goes to a profound difference between the candidates. The first part of the answer is that peace through strength works. The second part is related to the first, and is a practical manifestation of the principle of first and second things.
First things are core values that define who we are. Second things, such as survival and money, are also very important. Getting Osama bin laden was a classic second thing.
If you only focus on second things, as important as they are, in the end you will fail to achieve those second things — and, in the process, you lose your first things.
In the words of C.S. Lewis, “You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.”
One of President Ronald Reagan’s enduring “first things” was the principle of “peace through strength.” This principle can also be found in sacred scripture. For example, Jesus Christ is reported to have admonished: “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace; but when one stronger than he assails him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoil.” (Luke 11: 21-22).
Paul Ryan obviously gets these overlapping principles, “peace through strength” and “first and second things.” He applied both of them together during the vice presidential debate.
For example, during the debate, he said: “We should always stand up for peace, for democracy, for individual rights. And we should not be imposing these devastating defense cuts, because what that does when we equivocate on our values, when we show that we're cutting down on defense, it makes us more weak. It projects weakness. And when we look weak, our adversaries are much more willing to test us. They're more brazen in their attacks . . .”
Biden does not deny the peace through strength principle, and apparently does not get “first and second things.”
He simply ignored peace through strength, and focused his debate comments exclusively on second things, such as the president’s “highest priority is to get bin Laden.” The vice president never mentioned a constitutional principle. His entire debate performance was void of any American value worth dying for.
To highlight this stark contrast between the candidates, the vice president opined towards the end of the debate that, “we only have one truly sacred obligation as a government. That's to equip those we send into harm's way and care for those who come home. That's the only sacred obligation we have. Everything else falls behind that.”
With all due respect, Mr. vice president, nobody takes an oath “to equip those we send into harm's way and care for those who come home.” As important as these priorities are — and they are very important — they are second things compared to the principles underlying our Declaration of Independence, to which our founders pledged their “sacred honor,” and our Constitution, which all office-holders today are bound by oath to support and defend.
Paul Ryan, in stark contrast to the vice president’s focus on second things, concluded his debate comments with the following appeal to American first things: “We will take responsibility. And we will not try to replace our founding principles; we will reapply our founding principles. The choice is clear, and the choice rests with you . . .”
Joseph E. Schmitz served as inspector general of the Dept. of Defense from 2002-2005 and is CEO of Joseph E. Schmitz, PLLC. Read more reports from Joseph E. Schmitz — Click Here Now.
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