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May 5, 2015

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election 2012:

Biden and Ryan spar in quick-tempo, policy-filled debate


Mary Altaffer / AP

Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., right, greets Vice President Joe Biden at the beginning of the vice presidential debate, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012 at Centre College in Danville, Ky.

Updated Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012 | 11 p.m.

Vice Presidential Debate: Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012

Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Vice President Joe Biden pass each other after the vice presidential debate at Centre College, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, in Danville, Ky. Launch slideshow »

The fast-paced, content-rich brawl between Vice President Joe Biden and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan on Thursday stood in sharp contrast to last week’s contest between President Barack Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney in both style and substance.

The candidates raced through a roster of issues, orbiting chiefly around foreign policy, with breaks to discuss the tax code and health care, and the candidates’ personal reflections on abortion.

That focus appeared to give Biden, who focused on foreign policy for much of his 36-year Senate career, an advantage over Ryan.

But he got off on a bit of a false start.

The debate began on the question of Libya, with moderator Martha Raddatz directly challenging the length of time it took the Obama administration to admit that the embassy attack on the anniversary of Sept. 11 had been a terrorist attack.

The question gave Ryan a chance to take an early shot at the administration.

“It took the president two weeks to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack,” Ryan said, reminding Biden of how many times Obama had blamed the attack on an anti-Muslim video that was circulating online near the time of the attack.

“If we’re hit by terrorists,” Ryan said of a Romney administration, “we’re going to call it what it is: a terrorist attack.”

Ryan went on to criticize Obama for “projecting weakness abroad,” not just on Libya, but in his approach to other foreign challenges, especially Iran.

It would prove to be one of Ryan’s best punches of the night. But with a classically Bidenesque retort, the vice president moved quickly to steal Ryan’s thunder.

“With all due respect,” Biden said. “That’s a bunch of malarkey.”

Biden maintained a two-part style throughout the night. He stuck up for Obama’s policies when it was his turn to speak — whether on health care, Afghanistan, or the bailout of the auto industry. And when it was Ryan’s turn to present his case, Biden routinely interrupted him, accusing him of twisting facts and forcing Ryan off his course of criticizing Obama.

For example, when Ryan went after the Obama administration for driving the stimulus bill through Congress, Biden broke in to point out the two letters Ryan had written “saying by the way, can you send me some more stimulus money for the state of Wisconsin.”

Ryan had to stop mid-attack to address it.

“On two occasions we advocated for constituents applying for grants,” Ryan admitted. “That’s what we do. We do that for all constituents who are ...”

“I love that,” Biden interrupted. “I love that this was such a bad program he writes me a letter ... saying ‘the reason we need this stimulus, it will create growth and jobs.’”

“Take some responsibility,” “facts matter,” and “what would you do differently?” were Biden’s favored lines of the night as the elder politician needled the younger Ryan and tried to break the flow of his arguments.

Ryan remained cool under pressure, but was noticeably agitated by Biden’s tactic.

“I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think we would be better served if we didn’t keep interrupting each other,” Ryan shot at Biden during a discussion of Ryan’s Medicare reform plan, which has the odd distinction of being an issue Republicans consider to be one of their strongest, but most Democrats count as the GOP’s worst negative.

There too, the discussion ran aground in a lengthy spat in which Biden wouldn’t give an inch. For example, Ryan’s suggestion that his Medicare reform proposal was bipartisan resulted in the following volley:

“There’s not one Democrat who endorses it,” Biden cut in.

“Our partner is a Democrat from Oregon,” Ryan corrected Biden.

“Who no longer supports it,” Biden corrected back.

“We put it together with the former Clinton budget director,” Ryan protested.

“Who disavows it,” Biden cut in.

Thursday’s debate produced no new policy revelations, just a series of protracted bouts over well-trodden topics. Nonetheless, the raw energy of Biden and Ryan’s speedy, bare-knuckled exchange injected fresh emotion into even the most tired of campaign lines.

On taxes, their fight broke along the traditional party line, with Ryan warning that the Obama plan to let higher income tax rates rise was a ruse, and Biden charging Romney simply didn’t care about the middle class.

“There aren’t enough rich people and small businesses to tax to pay for all their spending,” Ryan said. “Watch out, middle class, the tax bill’s coming to you.”

Biden listed what he considers Romney’s worst sins against the middle class: his opposition to the auto industry bailout, his comments to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the housing market bottom out, and his comments to the donors about the willfully dependent 47 percent of Americans.

“I’ve had it up to here ... it’s about time they take some responsibility,” Biden said of his Republican rivals. “They’re holding hostage the middle class tax cut because they say ... we won’t continue the middle class tax cut unless you give a tax cut to the super-wealthy.”

Biden also accused Ryan of hypocrisy and distorting facts when it came to the administration’s efforts to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“In order to solve [Iran] peacefully — which is everybody's goal — you have to have the ayatollahs change their minds,” said Ryan, adding that a Romney administration would not rule out committing troops to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. “Look at where they are. They're moving faster toward a nuclear weapon. It’s  because this administration has no credibility on this issue. It's because this administration watered down sanctions, delayed sanctions, tried to stop us from putting the tough sanctions in place.”

Biden was quick to respond.

“The ayatollah sees his economy being crippled. The ayatollah sees that there are 50 percent fewer exports of oil. He sees the currency going into the tank. He sees the economy going into free-fall. And he sees the world for the first time totally united in opposition to him getting a nuclear weapon,” Biden said, arguing that sending ground forces to the region was off the table. “The interesting thing is there’s nothing more that they say they should do than what we’ve done.”

Within minutes of its close, most pundits were declaring Biden the clear winner of Thursday night’s debate. But vice presidential candidates aren’t traditionally known for moving polls — because they’re not the ones who are running for president.

The vote count is so tight in this particular race that this year could prove to be an exception. But that will depend more on how well Ryan and Biden represented their bosses at the top of the ticket than on who bested who in a contest of the two men who were onstage Thursday night.

Various reports noted that Romney called Ryan after the debate to offer his congratulations.

Obama chose to give a public statement instead.

"I'm going to make a special point of saying that I thought Joe Biden was terrific tonight,” Obama told reporters getting off Air Force One Thursday night. “I could not be prouder of him.”

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  1. The right is angry. They watched the ideological core of their party get eviscerated on national television.

    CBS News is reporting that 50% polled think Vice President Biden won the debate, with Congressman Ryan pulling only 30%.

    On point after point, Biden schooled the Congressman on foreign policy, domestic issues, and even the deficit and debt.

    Congressman Ryan tried to lecture the Vice President on the deficit and debt... until the Vice President reminded the Congressman that Paul Ryan voted over and over to debt-finance two wars, and Medicare expansion, and tax cuts.

    Paul Ryan attempted to criticize the stimulus, until the Vice President reminded America that Paul Ryan was begging the Obama administration for stimulus grants.

    Paul Ryan has been exposed as a complete fraud... and by Joe Biden, of all people!

    I understand why the right is so livid!

  2. This was a good debate, and the moderator was head and shoulders above Leher. I agree with the CNN talking heads, the debate was basically a draw with Ryan having a slight edge on style. The Biden chuckles and interruptions were a negative on what was otherwise a fine engagement by both participants.

  3. Ryan has no substance and his self righteous attitude bugs the hell out of me. That and he appears to be a complete liar.
    Biden and his demeanor shows just what is wrong with Washington.

    Its no wonder nothing ever gets done in government.

  4. Chaz -- Actually I think both sides are ridiculous
    that includes BO, Reid, Bush (especially bush), Romney, Paul Lyin, etc. etc.

  5. Every picture tells a story...

    and the one on the cover of the Sun right now, it's a real beauty!

    I know this really crushes the haters, but Joe did a number tonight on Ryan, the 'Lyin' King'.

  6. Ryan had me laughing too. Especially when he talked about how the Ayatollah felt as if he'd talked to him on the phone. He still had no specifics. There is no way I can trust either Romney or Ryan. Joe should have asked him how they were going to pay for 15 ships, in which 3 are submarines, that the Pentagon doesn't want.

  7. "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant." - Joe Biden

    I guess that means we can take what he said about the American people being crushed for the last four years at face value. :)

  8. I almost expected Biden to twist his ears and stick out his tongue when Ryan was speaking. It's
    scary to think that Biden is a heatbeat away from being President. What if Biden forgot to take
    his medication if he was President?

    Obama was out of it and Biden was a laughing hyena. Wow, what a team!

  9. You have to admit - Paul Ryan's "job interview" for 2016 has started. Next to Biden, he looked like he's still in high school!

    What troubles me: Doesn't it bother anyone that Romney/Ryan will drag our country into another war? A war in a country and an area where we have no business being? Didn't they learn ANYTHING from Iraq? And where is the money going to come from? The Iraq war help put the country in the financial mess it's in. I remember reading back 6-7 years ago, the country already spent $8 billion on Iraq!!! Do R&R really think America wants another war??

  10. Ryan's budget plan began as a senior project in high school. After being elected to Congress, he learned to add more footnotes and that's the finished project today.

  11. A lot of fact checking needs to be done by people that watched last nights debate. This is not the Miss America pageant here folks.

    There was some Truth, some half truths and some out and out lies told last night.

    You can see what the fact checkers have to say here:

    This is not about who we like, this is about who can do our country right.

  12. I enjoyed watching this debate. Biden basically sided with the American people and showed he clearly stands up for us. Ryan, however, showed he stands for money, war and on the wrong side of pretty much every social issue.

    I don't care who won what debate. All I know is that it helped me make a decision. I overlooked all the cheap shots and the posturing. It's political theater.

    One thing I do know is that I can understand why Ryan didn't spend too much time on stage after the debate shaking hands/hugging people. He seemed to want to exit stage left and find the nearest restroom. All that water he drank, I'm sure he had to pee like a racehorse.

    Obama/Biden 2012!

    Romney/Ryan 1040s please! Everything Senator Reid has said has STILL, after months and months, never been proven wrong about tax returns. Cough 'em up. Let the American voters out here see what you're hidin'.....

  13. Joe Biden came off VERY RUDE in my opinion.

  14. According to Cong Ryan who prefers to being called Mr. (can you blame him) "Life begins at conception" and "I respect people who disagree with me"
    My response to that statement is I respect your opinions regarding abortion and your religion. However this is my point This is the United States of America and I dont believe or agree that YOU SIR have a right to tell me how I have to live. I dont agree with your opinions and if I were a woman and I am not I would be absolutely livid that you have a lot of nerve to mandate or tell me how to believe or behave. My body belongs to me and my advice comes from a doctor.
    If you had any decency you would recognize the fact that your actions are not any different then the Ayatollahs and madrases that breed and perpetuate hate.
    Stay out of things that dont belong to you. Live your life the way you want to and good luck to you. Don't prescribe or mandate for me.
    Liberty or death thats my answer to you

  15. notacon states: "Romney will never provide the 1040's."

    Sadly, you are correct.

    But I think it's hilarious that every single attack against what Senator Reid has said all these months by the far right wingers...all of them have fell short of the mark.

    There is only deflection, trying to get people talk about something else, personal attacks on him, and even the most stupidest one I saw was there was a linkage between Romney's tax returns and President Obama's college transcripts. That last one leaves everyone scratching their heads.

    What you said in your comment is right on the mark: Whatever is in Romney's Federal Income Tax returns is so horrible, so devastating, so damaging..that it would render Romney unelectable not only now, but forever.

    I just hope the American voters out there see this.

    Obama/Biden 2012!

  16. Remember the quote from Newt Gingrich about Romney? "How can you debate someone who lies about everything?"

    If people want to know what I stand for, they can look at my record as governor." ~ Mitt Romney

    Let's see...
    Under Gov. Romney, Massachusetts fell to 47th out of 50 in job creation:
    Before Romney's time as governor, Massachusetts ranked 36th out of 50 in job creation, but over the course of his tenure the state ranked a dismal 47th out of 50--even as the national economy was growing. The Bay State only beat Michigan, Ohio, and Louisiana--which was still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

    Gov. Romney created or raised over 1,000 taxes and fees:
    Though he promised he wouldn't raise taxes as governor, he increased taxes and fees by as much as $750 million per year, leaving the average taxpayer to pay an extra $1,227 in state and local fees and taxes. During his first year in office, Romney raised fees on milk, driver's licenses, hospitals, nursing and barber licenses, and even on the blind.

    Gov. Romney left behind a huge budget deficit:
    Romney broke his pledge to balance the budget and left his successor, Gov. Deval Patrick, with a $1 billion budget deficit. Long-term debt increased by 16% over Romney's four-year term, and he left Massachusetts with the highest debt per person in
    the nation.

  17. Biden said he was against abortion but he didn't have right to force Jews or Muslims or any other religion to agree with his religous convictions..
    How things have changed..
    Remember the old movies where the heroes rescued the beautiful girl who was going to be tossed into the volcano to appease the gods?
    Give Joe Biden a pith helmet (aka Jim Backus as Thurston Howell III) turning to Martha saying "We don't do as the native do but we must let them do what they do."
    I can agree with need broad minded tolerance in the world..and of course, world peace..
    but governments do Do That
    An ethics question from the State Bar..If you were governor on an island and native were going to sacrifice a willing virgin..and threatened to destroy your small garrison if you interfered..what would you do?
    According to governor..he would not interfere with their religious ceremonies..
    The correct answer is...I know but Biden does not..Do you?

  18. teamster:

    The natives do not have a right to toss even willing virgins into volcanos.. much less unwilling ones.. It is murder..and Joe Biden is no hero
    Joe Biden was excommunicated..rightly so..