BEIRUT

World

VP candidates Biden, Ryan clash in feisty debate

US Vice President Joe Biden (R) and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan depart the stage following their vice presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, on October 11, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/Michael REYNOLDS/Pool)

WASHINGTON: Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan, the top surrogates for Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, clashed mightily in a bruising give-and-take, with both men ardently trying to break open one of the closest U.S. presidential contests in recent history.

With less than a month before the Nov. 6 election, analysts on both sides of the deep partisan divide gripping the country were touting victory Friday after the one and only vice presidential debate. The confrontation ranged across a multitude of domestic and foreign policy issues facing the United States as it battles back from the deepest economic downturn in decades and scrambles to find a way forward in a newly chaotic world - especially the Middle East.

Biden was intent on reviving Democrats who were knocked off balance after Obama's dismal showing last week in his first debate with Romney. In that regard, the 69-year-old vice president appeared to have succeeded. He swarmed over Ryan, a 42-year-old member of the House of Representatives. But many wondered if Biden's aggressive style had not harmed the Democratic ticket's standing with key undecided voters. Biden was relentless in bluntly suggesting that both Ryan and Romney were not telling voters the truth or were dead wrong in their policy prescriptions.

Ryan countered valiantly and scored points.

On television's split screens, Biden's body language - a montage of pained smiles, winces, head shakes and eye rolls - often screamed incredulity when Ryan was speaking.

"I know you're under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground," Ryan shot back at Biden at one point, "but I think people would be better served if we don't keep interrupting each other."

That was intended to jab Democrats who have seen Romney essentially pull even or slightly ahead of Obama in nationwide polling after their first debate. Obama, however, has managed to maintain his lead, if somewhat diminished, in some of the key swing states that are likely to decide the outcome of the election.

The U.S. president is not chosen according to the national popular vote but in state-by-state contests. That gives enormous importance to the states that are not locked in behind one or the other candidate. That's the case in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin. Ohio is perhaps the most important, a state that no Republican has lost but gone on to win the White House.

With time growing short, Romney is in Virginia on Friday before meeting up with Ryan in Ohio. Biden and wife Jill will be courting young voters at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Obama will spend a rare day in Washington, preparing for the next two debates and taking campaign contest winners to dinner.

Biden and Ryan went at each other seconds into their debate.

Ryan said the Sept. 11 death of the U.S. ambassador in an attack at the American consulate in Benghazi was evidence that the administration's foreign policy was unraveling. Biden accused Ryan and the Republicans of having cut funding for security at U.S. missions abroad and reminded that it was Obama who ordered the attack deep in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden. He also quoted Romney as having said he did not believe it would be worth moving "heaven and earth" in the search for the terrorist mastermind.

On Friday, Romney returned to the issue in campaign stop in Virginia.

"The vice president directly contradicted the sworn testimony of State Department officials," Romney said. "He's doubling down on denial. And we need to understand exactly what happened as opposed to just have people brush this aside. When the vice president of the United States directly contradicts the testimony, sworn testimony of State Department officials, American citizens have a right to know just what's going on. And we're going to find out."

The White House says Biden was speaking just for the White House, for himself and the president.

On Iran's suspected efforts to build a nuclear weapon, Biden defended current sanctions as the toughest in history. Ryan countered that Obama had allowed Iran to move four years closer to building a nuclear bomb and accused the White House of ignoring the warnings of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of not standing up for its chief ally.

The candidates disagreed on Syria, with Ryan accusing the administration of inaction and saying it was outsourcing foreign policy to the United Nations. Biden said the last thing the U.S. needed was another ground war in the Middle East, and that if Ryan and Romney want to send troops to Syria they should just say so. They have not.

Ryan agreed with Obama's plan to transition out of Afghanistan by 2014, but said that publicizing the date for withdrawal amounted to exposing weakness.

Unlike Biden, Ryan is not a foreign policy expert but stood his ground in territory that is more familiar to the veteran senator and former chairman of the Senate of Foreign Relations Committee. The two also argued over the poor state of the U.S. economy, with Biden saying Republicans must take responsibility for obstructing the economic recovery, the dominant issue in the campaign.

Twenty-three million are struggling to find work, he said, and 15 percent of the country is living in poverty. "This is not what a real recovery looks like," the congressman said.

In turn, the pressure was on for Biden to go where Obama did not in his own debate.

He quickly did so, citing Romney's opposition to the administration's successful auto industry bailout, and noting that it was not surprising given the Republican's recent videotaped comment in which he was heard saying that 47 percent of Americans view themselves as victims who depend on the government and refuse to take responsibility for their lives.

"These people are my mom and dad," Biden said, later reminding the audience that U.S. men and women fighting in Afghanistan also are exempt from income taxes and among that 47 percent.

Romney and Obama meet again Tuesday for a town hall-style debate in Hempstead, New York. Their third and last debate is scheduled Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Florida.

 

Recommended

Related Articles

Entities

Advertisement

Comments

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

comments powered by Disqus

Advertisement

FOLLOW THIS ARTICLE

Interested in knowing more about this story?

Click here