What Happened at the Vice-Presidential Debate

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Jeff Haynes / Reuters

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden makes a point in front of Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan and moderator Martha Raddatz during the vice-presidential debate in Danville, Ky., on Thursday, Oct. 11

2 minutes. They lock eyes from across the room, and neither man can look away. Big flag pin and little flag pin. Bulky suit and fitted suit. Lots of hair and little hair. A match is made, a connection struck. Their whitened smiles blind under the TV lights. Paul Ryan and Joe Biden, son and father, downright delighted to see each other. They rush to shake hands at the center of the stage. They take their seats. They prepare to destroy each other.

3 minutes. Debate moderator Martha Raddatz begins with a direct question for the Vice President. Wasn’t last month’s attack in Libya that killed a U.S. ambassador a massive intelligence failure? “It was a tragedy,” says Biden. He promises to bring perpetrators to justice and figure out what went wrong. Than he settles into the matter at hand: what President Obama failed to do a week ago. “The President of the United States has led with a steady hand and clear vision. Governor Romney, the opposite,” Biden says. He notes shaky hands and poor eyesight by the Republican nominee on Iraq, Afghanistan and the killing of Osama bin Laden.

5 minutes. Ryan has a memorized response for this topic. He knocks Obama on Libya, rebuts Biden point by point on Iraq and Afghanistan and then launches into a broad riff on the “unraveling of the Obama foreign policy.” He says Obama didn’t speak out for democracy in Iran and then attacks Obama for supporting a bipartisan deal in 2011 that threatens future Pentagon cuts if Congress can’t agree on deficit reduction. Of course, Ryan supported that same deal, but he doesn’t mention that. Biden, in the split screen, finds all of this hilarious. His teeth are blinding.

8 minutes. “With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey,” Biden says when Ryan is done. “Why is that so?” asks Raddatz. “Because not a single thing he said is accurate,” Biden shoots back. He tries to respond to everything Ryan just said, ending with, “Look, I, I, just, I mean, these guys bet against America all the time.” He is not talking about China or Iran. He is talking about the Republican Party.

11 minutes. Raddatz presses on Libya. Biden says the White House never tried to hide information about the attack, then pivots again. “Even before we knew what happened to the ambassador, the governor was holding a press conference … That’s not presidential leadership,” he says, getting the timeline wrong. The Romney press conference came after it was clear the ambassador had died.

12 minutes. Raddatz has another zinger of a question, trying to tweak Ryan on Romney’s “No Apology” foreign policy mantra. “Should the U.S. have apologized for Americans burning Korans in Afghanistan? Should the U.S. apologize for U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses?” “Oh, gosh, yes,” says Ryan, dodging the trap. Then he starts attacking Obama again.

13 minutes. Biden just can’t get enough of Ryan when he talks. It’s as if Ryan is playing footsie with him under the table. He smirks, he grins, he sticks up his chin. But for now, he does not interrupt. He lets Ryan go on to answer another question about what Romney would do regarding Iran. The answer: pretty much exactly what Obama is doing regarding Iran, though Romney would have started in 2007, two years before Obama took office.

15 minutes. Biden finally gets a chance to release his disbelief. “It’s incredible,” he says about everything Ryan just said. On Iran specifically, Biden charges that Romney is edging the country toward a careless war. “All this bluster I keep hearing, all this loose talk. What are they talking about?”

17 minutes. Raddatz starts to lose control. The candidates talk over each other. Biden seems overwrought at everything Ryan says and keeps zinging out facts. Ryan steadily lays down his campaign’s talking points. Eventually Biden can’t take it anymore, so he swears with a euphemism. “This is a bunch of stuff,” he says. “What does that mean?” Raddatz asks. “It’s Irish,” says Ryan, helpfully.

19 minutes. It keeps going. Ryan with talking points. Biden with factual rebuttals and disbelief. “I don’t know what world this guy’s living in,” Biden says at one point. “Facts matter,” he repeats a couple of times. The exchange ends with Ryan criticizing former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, a Republican who served in the same position under George W. Bush, for saying a war with Iran could be catastrophic. “He is right,” says Biden. “It undermines our credibility,”Ryan responds.

22 minutes. After many more minutes of the same, Biden gets the final word on Iran. “We’ve made it clear, big nations can’t bluff,” he says. “This President doesn’t bluff.” In other words, you can vote Democratic or Republican in November. But both of them say they are dead serious about their willingness to go to war with Iran.

23 minutes. New topic: unemployment. Biden has a speech prepared, and it’s a good one. It says Romney is looking out for the wealthy and talking down about the 47% of the country that includes Biden’s late mom and dad, who pay more effective tax than Romney pays federal tax. “It’s about time they take some responsibility,” Biden says about the rich.

25 minutes. Ryan has a rejoinder prepared. “You know what the unemployment rate in Scranton is today?” he asks Biden of his Pennsylvania hometown. “I sure do,” says Biden. “It’s 10%,” Ryan continues. “You know what it was the day you guys came in — 8.5%. That’s how it’s going all around America.” Biden can’t take this. “You don’t read the statistics,” he shoots back. “That’s not how it’s going. It’s going down.” Both men are right. The rate is generally higher than when Obama took office. But it is not going up anymore. It is going down.

27 minutes. Ryan works to humanize Romney: “I was talking to a family in Northborough, Massachusetts, the other day, Sheryl and Mark Nixon. Their kids were hit in a car crash, four of them. Two of them, Rob and Reed, were paralyzed. The Romneys didn’t know them. They went to the same church. They never met before. Mitt asked if he could come over on Christmas. He brought his boys, his wife and gifts. Later on, he said, ‘I know you’re struggling, Mark. Don’t worry about their college. I’ll pay for it.’ When Mark told me this story, because, you know what, Mitt Romney doesn’t tell these stories.” Something suspicious here. How did Ryan end up talking to them? Just campaigning in Northborough one day?

29 minutes. Biden isn’t buying Ryan’s claim that Romney misspoke about the 47%. “If you heard that little soliloquy on 47% and you think he just made a mistake, then I think — I got a bridge to sell you,” he says. Then to Ryan: “Stop talking about how you care about people. Show me something. Show me a policy. Show me a policy where you take responsibility.”

32 minutes. Ryan charges the Obama Administration with “crony capitalism and corporate welfare” in the 2009 stimulus bill. Biden responds by pointing out that Ryan sought stimulus funds to create jobs in his district. “I love my friend here,” Biden says, which is also Irish.

33 minutes. Medicare and entitlements come next. Ryan speaks about the old people in his own family and talks about honoring promises and reforming programs without offering any specifics. Then he says Obama took $700 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. Ryan wants to take the same $700 billion away from Medicare to finance other things, including deficit reduction.

34 minutes. Biden looks straight into the camera for the first time tonight. He wants an ally in calling Romney out on the claim that Obama “cut” Medicare. “Any senior out there, ask yourself: Do you have more benefits today?” Biden asks. “You do. If you’re near the doughnut hole, you have $800 — $600 more to help your prescription-drug costs. You get wellness visits without copays. They wipe all of this out, and Medicare goes, becomes insolvent in 2016.” Then Biden lays into the Ryan plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program.

39 minutes. This goes on for a while and keeps getting hung up on the fact that these two men do not share a common reality, which is normally required for a debate. “It would deny seniors,” Ryan says. “Seniors are not denied,” Biden says. “Absolutely,” Ryan says. “They are not denied,” Biden says, before turning back to the camera. “Look, folks, all you seniors out there, have you been denied choices?” It goes on like this for a while. The two men squabble. Then Biden asks old people at home to talk back to their televisions.

43 minutes. Biden is clearly more amped up than his campaign needs him to be. But he seems to be scoring points. Ryan at times looks uncomfortable. In his oversize suit, with his young face and all the rosy makeup on his cheeks, he kind of resembles a marionette. The two work their way through vouchers and privatizing Social Security and then start in on taxes.

51 minutes. “Not mathematically possible,” Biden says about the Romney promise to lower income-tax rates by 20% without decreasing total revenue or increasing the share paid by the middle class. “It is mathematically possible. It’s been done before,” says Ryan. “It has never been done before,” says Biden. They are arguing over whether lower taxes can produce higher revenue. “Jack Kennedy lowered tax rates, increased growth,” says Ryan. “Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy?” says Biden.

53 minutes. Raddatz points out that Romney also supports massive increases in defense spending, which would add to the U.S. debt. But Ryan won’t engage the question. He keeps talking about the possibility of Pentagon cuts, the ones he voted for but now wants to blame on Obama.

56 minutes. On to Afghanistan. The discussion seems to center on which candidate has had more personal experiences talking with troops on the ground. “First time I was there, in 2002, it was amazing to me,” says Ryan. “I’ve been in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq 20 times,” shoots back Biden. Both tickets have basically the same plan for the country: withdrawal by 2014. Ryan endorses the date but says calling it a deadline would “broadcast to our enemies, ‘Put a date on your calendar, wait us out, and then come back.’ ” So it’s not a deadline, just a timeline for withdrawing troops. Don’t overthink it.

68 minutes. Next up is Syria, another foreign war in which the differences between Biden and Ryan are both fierce and hard to identify. “What would my friend do differently?” Biden asks of Ryan, who is still not his friend. “If you notice, he never answers the question.” Ryan says President Romney would not “be going through the U.N. in all of these things.” But Biden points out that there are a lot of things Obama is doing on Syria that do not go through the U.N. So Ryan says, “What we should have done earlier is work with those freedom fighters, those dissidents in Syria. We should not have called Bashar Assad a reformer.” Biden wonders aloud who in the White House ever called Assad a reformer.

74 minutes. Raddatz asks each candidate to reflect on his Catholic faith and the issue of abortion. Ryan says he and his wife nicknamed their firstborn child Bean because of his appearance in his seven-week ultrasound. He says he is pro-life and that Obama is “assaulting religious liberties.” Biden says he is personally pro-life, “but I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here.” Biden points out that Ryan has not supported rape and incest exemptions in the past. Ryan says, “The policy of a Romney Administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.
”

80 minutes. Raddatz zeroes in: “If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?
” she asks Ryan. As a political matter, there is no right answer to this question for Ryan. So he says, “We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision — that people through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination.”

81 minutes. Raddatz ends with a softball question about the nastiness of the race and how it looks to men in uniform. So both candidates praise the men in uniform and express disappointment with the tone of the race, the previous 81 minutes notwithstanding. Then Ryan reverts to his stump speech, laying into Obama’s “string of broken promises.” And Biden lays into Ryan’s budget that “eviscerated all the things that the middle class cares about.”

87 minutes. Another odd question: Raddatz asks both men what they can give to the country that no one else can. Ryan says he will offer solutions to the country’s problems. Biden says, “I never say anything I don’t mean. Everybody knows, whatever I say, I do.”

89 minutes. Closing statements. Biden doesn’t look directly into the camera or thank Ryan for the spirited debate. Ryan does both.

92 minutes. It’s over. Kids and families for both men mob the stage. The warm fuzzy smiles return. But somehow, that initial love has faded. At least they will never have to debate again. Next up, Tuesday, Oct. 16, in New York, Romney and Obama return to the ring.

370 comments
Leopold_Stotch
Leopold_Stotch

Biden acted as if he were mentally ill. Maybe people are correct when they say that liberalism is a mental disease.

George Perkins
George Perkins

what about the upc there not the people you see the nomad is a person if im not wrong.the man in side but hopefulie there cons does not get the wrong showing

so I my say Iv hear ryan four case have been shut .But not this one relly a nuther car cuold scair ,,,,,,,,Pet the guy dog oh

Abraham Yeshuratnam
Abraham Yeshuratnam

The fact of

the matter is Biden didn’t win the debate at all. It’s all the work of bribed

liberal media that was interpreting Biden;s clownish behavior as his ‘victory.‘

Millions of viewers appreciated Ryan for not budging a single inch despite

Biden’s boorish interruption and Raddatz partiality. ‘That’s the mark of

success. If Ryan had yielded to the loathsome blasts of Biden, then we can say

Biden has won. Millions of viewers applauded Ryan for remaining cool when Biden

like a buffoon was stretching his hands above shoulders (like a clown in

circus) and interrupting in an irritable manner. What is more, Ryan had to face

two opponents, not one, because Raddatz also interrupted Ryan and played second

fiddle to Biden. But Ryan didn’t yield. He won the admiration of millions of

viewers for remaining unflappable, imperturbable, nonchalant despite Biden’s loathsome

gaffe and Raddatz one sided attitude. Ryan became a hero overnight among

University boys and girs. That’s why Romney is leading even after the VP

debate.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Biden said “there’s not one Democrat who endorses” the Republican proposal to fundamentally restructure Medicare.

That hasn’t always been the case. Last year, Wyden and Ryan put their

heads together and offered a compromise proposal for the future of

Medicare. But that bipartisan bond began to crack months ago when the

Wisconsin congressman put forth a second budget with provisions Wyden

opposed. Their partnership dissolved in August, after Ryan joined the

Romney ticket, and Wyden made a point of talking up the differences

between his and the Republicans’ ideas for Medicare, not the

similarities.

Wyden was the only Democrat to endorse Ryan’s idea of premium

support in Medicare, and his approval has clearly been revoked. We rate

Biden’s statement True.

Benevolent_Lawyer
Benevolent_Lawyer

And who can think about LyinRyan without giving a thought or two to his good buddy, Toad Akin.  

Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) has had trouble with facts about reproduction. He said

in August that women cannot get pregnant from "legitimate rape" because

“the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.” And in 2008,

Akin claimed that it is "common practice" for women “who are not

actually pregnant” to get abortions.  

Now, the GOP Senate candidate who’s running against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said Thursday at a Tea Party meeting in Jefferson City, Missouri, that

there’s no science behind evolution:  

AKIN: "I don’t see it as even a matter of science because I don’t know that you can prove one or the other. That’s one of those things. We can talk about theology and all of those other things but I’m basically concerned about, you’ve got a choice between Claire McCaskill and myself. My job is to make the thing there. If we want to do theoretical stuff, we can do that, but I

think I better stay on topic."  

Ah, Missouri...where Troglodytes, Religious Fundamentalists and RepubliKKKrappers go to cross-breed.

Bill Pearlman
Bill Pearlman

So, has  I understand it from our crack vice president the "intelligence community" was Abbot  and Costello in Libya, but when it comes to Iran they're going to turn into James Bond. Interesting.

MrObvious
MrObvious

Tells you something about righties; to them the president is everything dumb, evil conniving, brutal, manipulative, bumbling etc.

He's a clown, super villian, dumbarse and a mastermind of everything bad.

sacredh
sacredh

By any chance did you check out 538 late last night? Silver had Obama down to 276 electoral votes. He's back up to 283 this morning but the "Now cast" is down to 276. He's increased the chances for dems keeping the senate now and even says there's a slight possibility that we pick up seats.

outsider2011
outsider2011

I agree though i blame the media a bit here; everywhere i am reading that they both held their own, but Biden hit Ryan with facts.

Yet it is left there. yay - Ryan did not fall on his face, what a relief.

But Biden called him on all his lies. And the campaigns for that matter.

Yet the story was, they tied.

I do think the media, while praising Biden, are not playing up how well he did, because of the idea of the horse race.

Looking calm (as Ryan did) does NOT equal actually talking about facts.

It is that false equivalency again, so as not to appear bias.

Why is it that the right wing does not care about bias, but every other sane outlet is scared of it..

sacredh
sacredh

I expected the race to tighten up but Romney's bounce from the 1st debate was larger than I thought it would be and it is impressive. It's a real horserace now. Obama really needs to bring his "A" game to Tuesday's debate. I'm still angry at Obama for mailing it in the first time they debated. He could have slammed the door shut but he blew it. I think Joe at least stopped the bleeding. It's going to be a couple of days before we can get a good indication from the polls if Joe energized the base again. I'm still not very worried, but I am a little concerned.

theoldkathy
theoldkathy

 I hadn't noticed that change this morning, sacred.  Still needing to be talked down.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 You may as well ask Ryan why he didn't know about Libya, since Congress has the same visibility into the State Department as the President does.

Jlinaa
Jlinaa

Paul Ryan smirked as well, perhaps he is always smirking so no one noticed as much? He always appears to believe he's a legend, in his own mind.  He also has misbehaved children - he high fived?! his child for sitting in the debate chair, instead of instilling a respect for the adults and the privilege that comes with sitting in the chair. 

The really horrifying, hit you in the gut thing he said is not being highlighted much - on abortion....

Please don't be naive here - Romney/Ryan could and would OVERTURN Roe vs. Wade! It actually took me some time to process the fact that he meant "unelected judges" should not make these decisions - in retrospect. What Paul Ryan just said was EXACTLY that they would do everything in their power to overturn a law that I basically presumed could not be overturned. It scared the living heck out of me; not just the statement but the way it was worded making it hard to understand he was talking about "FORTY YEARS AGO," unelected judges shouldn't have done this. This is extremist to the 9th degree AND he basically also said life begins at conception no matter if you are raped or not. I wouldn't trust the ticket to make ANY exceptions if they can get the law overturned.It's interesting he didn't just say, "Wade vs. Roe" was not a case for the Supreme Court to decide - and then let people say what they really thought of his inane pompous arrogance!

SAJ2995
SAJ2995

Please put your tin foil hat back on and take your contraception pills.  You'll feel better in the morning.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Rusty, Rusty, Rusty. Why must you continue to behave like  a bad stereo type of a condescending Right Wing Troll?

billnz
billnz

In the Vice-Presidential debate we should not forget that one of the candidates, Joe Biden, is a plagiariser.  Examples include a speech during his campaign for President and from his law school days.  People who keep illegal activities uncover until discovered by others should not be trusted.