By Ruth Conniff on October 12, 2012

Joe Biden's debate performance thrilled Democrats and progressives, fulfilling all their unmet needs after the disappointing first Presidential debate last week.

"It was a man against a boy!" Ed Schultz crowed on MSNBC.

Throughout the debate, Ryan appeared out of his depth, as Biden, openly laughing at the Republican vice presidential candidate, scored points.

"Oh, now you're Jack Kennedy," Biden interrupted, as Ryan compared his budget plan's tax cuts to Kennedy's.

"He's talking about my mom and dad," Biden said of Ryan and Romney's contemptuous references to Americans who are "dependent" on government.

Stepping up where Obama feared to tread, Biden flagged both the infamous "47 percent " quote by Romney and lesser-known statements by Ryan on the dependent "30 percent" for whom, Ryan says, the safety net has become a "hammock."

"The people who built this country" are not dependent layabouts, Biden hit back--and "they pay more effective tax" than Romney.

It was a gratifying statement by a politician who does, in fact, come out of the working class.

Despite Paul Ryan's effort to depict his background in Janesville as similar to Biden's in Scranton, it is clear that the two men come from very different worlds.

Most of all, Biden addressed himself directly to working-class voters. At one point, he literally turned to the camera to talk to seniors and asked, "Who do you trust?" to preserve Medicare.

He gave a succinct description of how Republicans in Congress, including Ryan, are holding middle-class tax cuts "hostage" because they won't separate them from tax cuts for the rich.

"Look at how sincere they are," he said, pointing out that the Republicans include hedge funds in their definition of "small businesses" that need tax relief. And Romney thinks the 14 percent tax rate he pays on his $20 million a year is "fair," Biden added.

"All of a sudden these guys are so seized with concern about the debt they created," he said of Republican budget hawks.

It was a powerful performance, and seemed to thoroughly unnerve Ryan.

On issues from the war in Afghanistan and embassy security to taxes and stimulus and protecting the safety net, Biden aggressively exposed the Republicans' lack of substance behind their attacks.

And Ryan failed to answer.

Moderator Martha Raddatz pressed: "Do you know what you're doing?" "Can you guarantee the math will add up?" when Ryan denied that Republican tax cuts will cost $5 trillion.

He had no good answer for that, or for Biden's aggressive push on what he'd do differently from the Administration in Iran.

Progressives and Democrats had plenty to cheer for.

Too bad Biden can't show up again next week.

If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Why Do Women Suddenly Like Mitt Romney?"

Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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