Ruth Marcus: Wanted, a kitchen debate

BY RUTH MARCUS Published: October 14, 2012

As I looked over the transcript of the vice presidential debate, the first thing that came to mind was David Mamet. The second was “Cupcake Wars.”

If the first presidential debate featured staid, soporific set pieces, each candidate ponderously reciting talking points, the vice presidential matchup was vintage Mamet, marked by choppy dialogue and characters sharing the same stage yet fated never to fully connect.

Indulge me with a telling excerpt, on Mitt Romney's plan for a 20 percent cut in marginal tax rates:

Moderator Martha Raddatz: Well, let's talk about this 20 percent. You have refused — and, again — to offer specifics on how you pay for that 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. Do you actually have the specifics? Or are you still working on it, and that's why you won't tell voters?

Paul Ryan: Different than this administration, we actually want to have big bipartisan agreements. You see, I understand the …

Raddatz: Do you have the specifics? Do you have the …

(Crosstalk)

Joe Biden: That would — that would be a first for the Republican Congress.

Raddatz: Do you know exactly what you're doing?

Ryan: Look — look at what Mitt Romney — look at what Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill did. They worked together out of a framework to lower tax rates and broaden the base, and they worked together to fix that … (paragraph deleted for space).

Biden: Can I translate?

Ryan: … so we can lower tax rates across the board. Now, here's why I'm saying this. What we're saying is, here's the framework.

Biden: I hope I'm going to get time to respond to this.

Raddatz: You'll get time.

Ryan: We want to work with Congress — we want to work with the Congress on how best to achieve this. That means successful. Look …

Raddatz: No specifics, again.

Ryan: Mitt — what we're saying is, lower tax rates 20 percent, start with the wealthy, work with Congress to do it …

Raddatz: And you guarantee this math will add up?

Ryan: Absolutely. Six studies have guaranteed — six studies have verified that this math adds up. But here's …

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