Biden, Ryan Square Off on Economy, Middle East

Posted October 12th, 2012 at 3:00 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Vice Presdient Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan disagreed early and often on foreign and economic policy during a feisty, interruption-filled debate in (the state of ) Kentucky Thursday.

From the outset of the 90-minute nationally televised debate, both candidates engaged in animated back-and-forth exchanges.

Looking to regain momentum following President Barack Obama's poor debate performance last week, Vice President Biden launched an aggressive defense of White House policies. He called on Representative Ryan and other Republican lawmakers to “get out of the way” and let the Obama administration fix the slow economy.

“They talk about this great recession that fell out of the sky, like, 'Oh my goodness, where did it come from?' It came from this man [Ryan] voting to put two wars on a credit card.”

But Ryan countered that after nearly four years, President Obama and Congressional Democrats bear full responsibility for an economy that he said has left 15 percent of the country living in poverty.

The candidates also opposed each other's foreign policy views, with Biden declaring that U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan in 2014 and Ryan saying that such an announcement amounts to weakness.

“We don't want to broadcast to our enemies, 'Put a date on your calendar. Wait us out and then come back.'”

On Syria, Biden praised the Obama administration's careful work with America's allies in pressuring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

“We are doing it exactly like we need to do to identify those forces who, in fact, will provide for a stable government and not cause a regional Sunni-Shia (Shi'ite) war when Bashar Assad falls.”

Ryan accused the Obama administration of inaction on Syria, saying it has allowed tens of thousands to die in the conflict despite mounting international pressure to act.

On Libya, Ryan slammed the White House for not providing enough security in Benghazi, where an attack last month killed the U.S. ambassador. He said the administration was too slow in recognizing that it was a terrorist attack.

“Our ambassador in Paris has a marine detachment guarding him. Shouldn't we have a marine detachment guarding our ambassador in Benghazi, a place where we knew that there was an al-Qaida cell with arms?”

Biden called the attack against the U.S. ambassador “a tragedy,” promising that whatever “mistakes” were made “will not be made again.”

Regarding Iran, Ryan said the Islamic Republic has become “brazen” because the Obama administration has “no credibility” on the issue of Iran's nuclear program. Biden countered this claim, asserting that the U.S. has placed “the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions” on Iran.

The candidates also clashed over healthcare, with Biden accusing Ryan of being out of touch with working Americans for supporting a plan to slash government spending and create a “voucher” system for the popular Medicare program for seniors.

Ryan shot back, saying Obama's health care plan had diverted $716 billion from Medicare and created a board that could deny coverage to patients who need it.

The 69-year-old Biden is widely regarded as an experienced debater and skilled politician, based on his 36 years in the Senate before becoming vice president in 2009. Ryan, a 42-year-old congressman from Wisconsin, is considered a rising star among conservative Republicans.

It was the only scheduled vice presidential debate of the campaign season. But Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama get two more chances to debate each other before the November 6 election.