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Ryan slips up on ‘Bashar reformer’ remark in 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: The Republican candidate for vice president, Paul Ryan, misspoke during his debate with Vice President Joe Biden when he described the Obama administration’s stance on the Syrian uprising. During the Thursday night event in Danville, Kentucky, Ryan criticized the White House for its reaction to a popular uprising in Iran in 2009, as well as two years later when Syrian protesters began to take to the streets, demanding change.

“We should have spoken out right away when the Green Revolution was up and starting, when the mullahs in Iran were attacking their people,” Ryan said. “We should not have called Bashar Assad a reformer when he was turning his Russian-provided guns on his own people.

According to a fact-checking process carried out by the Associated Press, neither President Barack Obama nor anyone else in his administration ever considered the Syrian leader a “reformer.”

The oft-repeated charge stems from an interview Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave in March 2011 noting that “many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.” She did not endorse that view.

The comment was widely perceived to be a knock at senators such as John Kerry of Massachusetts, who maintained cordial relations with Assad in the months leading up to his crackdown on protesters.

During the debate, Ryan also said that no one was proposing sending U.S. troops to Syria.

Ryan accused Biden and Obama of outsourcing U.S. foreign policy to the United Nations.

He said Obama gave Russia veto power.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 13, 2012, on page 10.

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