There were times during the vice presidential debate last week when we wondered if this was a debate or what passes for discussion of issues on the nation's news channels. Everyone has seen these shouting matches - proponents of opposite sides of a question are given a chance to talk side-by-side, but the real focus seems to be on interrupting and shouting over one's opponent so no one can hear their side.
Vice President Joe Biden seems to have been schooled in that form of debate. Time after time, while Republican candidate Rep. Paul Ryan was speaking, Biden interjected a "No, it's not," or "He's wrong," or started giving his side of the argument while Ryan was still talking. When he wasn't interrupting, he was smirking and laughing derisively at whatever Ryan had to say.
It was Biden's job to be forceful and assertive in this debate, to make up for President Barack Obama's lackluster effort in the first presidential debate. Biden was given good marks for doing so and for stating the president's case. We're sure he pleased Obama supporters. But he doubtless energized the Republican base as well, and no doubt turned off some undecideds.
While Martha Raddatz, Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent, ABC News, seemed to exercise more control over the candidates than Jim Lehrer did in the first presidential debate, we think moderators could use one more tool - a switch to turn off the microphone of whoever is not speaking at the moment.