Joe Biden, Opposition Researcher

Joe Biden, Opposition Researcher

Under the tutelage of David Axelrod, the president’s chief strategist who is personally overseeing the preparations, Mr. Biden will be counseled on how to avoid Mr. Obama’s mistakes and even correct them with a more aggressive prosecution of the Republican ticket. Mr. Axelrod’s involvement highlights the stakes the Obama campaign places on the debate, and Mr. Biden has been reading “Young Guns,” the book co-written by Mr. Ryan, and practicing attack lines that Mr. Obama avoided. New York Times, Oct. 7

It’s amusing to learn that David Axelrod has assigned Vice President Joe Biden to read Paul Ryan’s Young Guns–the book he co-wrote with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Eric McCarthy. It is also a telling sign of the Obama campaign’s key strategy in the Vice Presidential debate: to make Ryan defend Mitt Romney’s remarks in May about the “47 percent” of Americans who are “victims” and depend on government.

In the book, Ryan begins with an attack on Obamacare–an attack that starts with the process of passing the bill before getting to the substance. He also warns about the explosion of our national debt, and the need for entitlement reform to save programs such as Medicare and Social Security, describing his “Roadmap for America’s Future” that would become the focus of Republican reform proposals in the 112th Congress.

Crucially, Ryan also describes the “tipping point,” a more elegant formulation than MItt Romney’s off-the-cuff “47 percent.” Ryan warns that America is at risk of developing 

a culture in which self-reliance becomes a vice and dependency a virtue; a place where so many Americans are dependent on government that our country comes to reject individual initiative, entrepreneurship, and opportunity that made us great….

What exactly do I mean when I say America is approaching a “tipping point”? In terms of the American political economy, I mean the point at which a critical mass of Americans receives more in government benefits than they pay in taxes. Today, America is perilously close to this point.

Ryan emphasizes that the cultural implications of that tipping point are more important than the exact numeric proportion or percentage.

No doubt Biden will focus on that passage and others like it, in order to make the “47 percent” remark stick to Ryan in a way that President Barack Obama refused to make it stick to Romney in their debate last week. 

But as Ryan points out in Young Guns, the difference between the two parties is that Democrats “want to see America hurtle past the point of no return.” That is an insight that has been confirmed, lately, by the Obama campaign’s “Life of Julia,” describing a cradle-to-grave state as its paternalistic ideal.

Ryan adds: 

This isn’t just a narrow political ploy on their part, although an ever-growing population dependent on government is good for the party of government….They truly believe the best course for America is to abandon the American idea for a model much like the European Union.

And that, Ryan wrote in 2010, is the choice America faces.

The points Ryan makes are inescapably true–both that a tipping point exists (see California and Illinois), and that Democrats want to take us there (who could forget Nancy Pelosi crowing that Obamacare meant artists could quit their jobs?). But Biden will try to use Ryan’s own words to stamp him, and Romney, as uncaring plutocrats. 

That is why Axelrod has Biden doing opposition research–and that is why Ryan must come to the stage prepared to defend his ideas–and with a little opposition research of his own. 

Biden has also written a book, Promises to Keep–aimed at his unsuccessful 2008 presidential run–and in it he describes his vision for the Democratic Party in 1988: 

That was my argument at its heart. It was so simple. That’s what the Democratic Party should be doing for all citizens, providing ‘a platform upon which they could stand. People weren’t asking for a free handout from government or a promise of fabulous outcomes. They just wanted a little support to raise them higher. (184) 

That might have been true once, but today’s Democratic Party is one that embraces the culture of dependence. And Biden knows it. That attack is Ryan’s best defense tomorrow night.