After a presidential debate last week that was widely seen as a loss for the Democratic ticket, Joe Biden started off the vice presidential debate by aggressively dismissing his Republican rival, Paul Ryan, with laughs, incredulous glances, head shaking and his choice phrase, “malarkey.”
Mr. Biden first used the term to describe Mr. Ryan’s critique that the Obama administration’s responses to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya last month, to the Iranian government’s attacks on protesters in 2009 and 2010 and to the ongoing violence in Syria.
“We should have spoken out right away when the green revolution was up and starting; when the mullahs in Iran were attacking their people. We should not have called Bashar Assad a reformer when he was turning his Russian-provided guns on his own people. We should always stand up for peace, for democracy, for individual rights,” Mr. Ryan said. “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.”
Mr. Ryan attempted to continue, but Mr. Biden cut him off.
“With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey,” the vice president said.
Mr. Biden used the phrase again while addressing the criticism from the Republican ticket that President Barack Obama didn’t have an in-person meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu when the Israeli prime minister was in the United States last month for the U.N. General Assembly.
“With regard to Bibi, he’s been my friend for 39 years. The president has met with Bibi a dozen times. He’s spoken to Bibi Netanyahu as much as he’s spoken to anybody,” Mr. Biden said. “The idea that we’re not–I was in a–just before he went to the UN, i was in a conference call with the president with him talking to Bibi for well over an hour in stark relief and detail of what was going on. This is a bunch of stuff, look here’s the deal–“
The debate moderator, ABC News Senior Foreign Correspondent interrupted Mr. Biden to ask what he meant by “a bunch of stuff.”
“Well, it means it’s simply inaccurate,” said Mr. Biden.
“It’s Irish,” Mr. Ryan interjected.
“It’s Irish, it is,” Mr. Biden agreed. “We Irish call it malarkey.”
Thanks to the colorful phrase, Mr. Biden’s repeated dismissals of Mr. Ryan gained strong traction online. It was an effective, and clearly viral, way to articulate and execute the Obama campaign’s strategy of casting Mr. Ryan and Mr. Romney as dishonest. With his aggressive attacks on Mr. Ryan, Mr. Biden ensured he wouldn’t face the criticism of being too low energy that plagued President Obama in the first presidential debate. The vice president also put himself in a position to avoid the impression of a loss that President Obama earned very quickly in his debate against Mr. Romney.