Friday, October 12, 2012


    Last night's vice-presidential debate may have provided great political theater, but it also served up a wonderful lesson on the importance of the art of listening on a silver platter, especially for law professors, and mock trial and debate coaches everywhere. 
   To be clear, this blog is NOT about partisan politics. I enjoyed every second of the 90-minute debate. It was engaging, thought-provoking, and terrific public speaking.  And at its conclusion, at least one thing was crystal clear: Paul Ryan is a dead-ringer for Eddie Munster.
  But it was also an hour-and-a-half of cringe-worthy live television.  Reportedly both sides had been prepping meticulously in the days leading up to the debate. But surely NO ONE coached vice president Biden on the type of behavior he couldn't seem to keep a lid on last night.
   At times, dismissive and condescending, his inability to listen to congressman Ryan in silence without rolling his eyeballs, giggling or smirking became this circus' side-show. Even first-year lawyers with no trial experience know not to react the way Biden did when opposing counsel is up at bat!
   At first, the bad form could be chalked up to the vice president being, well, very Biden-esque. His reputation precedes him.  But it wasn't long before his reactions when the congressman was responding were just  plain rude. I for one, was embarassed for him.
    By the end of the boxing match, the substance the two sparred over was overshadowed by the way the vice president conducted himself on the national stage. 
   The. Vice. President! 
   Effective communication, conversation and civilized disagreement hinge not just on the words spoken, but on how they are absorbed as well. The art of being a good, polite, and gracious listener is waning these days. We see it across all media platforms. 
  But a passionate and lively debate is one thing. Habitually interrupting, mocking and laughing as the other person is speaking is really bad manners. It is juvenile and unbecoming, especially from someone a heart beat away from the highest office in the land. Too bad Mr. Biden didn't extend Paul Ryan the courtesy of being a polite listener as the congressman had.  
     Today, all sides are claiming victory, with the exception of social graces, which sadly, came out the biggest loser in last night's fiery display of bad form. Memo to Mr. Vice-President:  It really DOES 'Manner' A lot!

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