Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan touched on everything from foreign policy to the economy to religious freedom in one of the most heated debates in memory Tuesday night.
Coming off the heels of President Barack Obama’s lackluster debate performance, the pressure was on Biden to provide a hard-hitting response to Ryan in the only vice presidential debate of the year.
While Obama seemed defensive against Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and appears to have paid for it in the polls, Biden went on the attack defending his boss’ response to the deaths of four Americans in Libya to start the debate.
“With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey,” Biden said in response to Ryan’s claim that defense cuts the Obama administration has proposed would make the U.S. weaker.
Ryan, who appeared calm but often put-off by Biden’s aggressive debating style, said the Obama administration was too slow to respond to the crisis.
“Look, if we’re hit by terrorists, we’re going to call it for what it is: A terrorist attack,” Ryan said.
The debate hit on all aspects of American foreign policy, including what course the U.S. should take against Iran as it develops its nuclear capabilities.
Biden defended the Obama administration’s sanctions against the country, saying that they are leaving Iran more “isolated” than when they found them.
“These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions. Period,” Biden said.
Ryan said the recent developments in the Middle East, from Iran to Libya to the Arab Spring, are the results of failed Obama administration policies.
“What we are watching on our TV screens is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy, which is making … us less safe,” Ryan said.
Biden, irked by his comments, said Obama has kept his promises with regards to the Middle East and the country is better off for it.
“This is a president who’s gone out and done everything he has said he was going to do,” Biden said. “This is a guy who’s repaired our alliances so the rest of the world follows us again.”
While roughly half of the debate focused on foreign policy, the rest of it centered on domestic policy, with special emphasis on the economy, taxes and entitlements.
Biden promised the Obama administration would help get the unemployment rate below 6 percent.
“I don’t know how long it will take,” Biden said. “We can and we will get it under 6 percent.”
Biden took issue with Romney’s initial opposition to the 2009 bailouts of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler when highlighting the differences between his economic vision and his opponent’s.
“We knew we had to act for the middle class,” Biden said. “We immediately went out and rescued General Motors. What did Romney do? Romney said, “No, let Detroit go bankrupt.’”
Ryan said the Obama administration spends too much time placing blame on the Bush administration for the nation’s problems.
“Look, did they come in and inherit a tough situation? Absolutely. But we’re going in the wrong direction,” the Wisconsin congressman said.
Though Ryan failed to bring up many specifics, he promised the tax cuts he and his running mate have proposed would be revenue neutral, and that they would work with Democrats to find ways to pay down the deficit if elected.
“Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, where 87 percent of the legislators he served … were Democrats,” Ryan said. “He found common ground, and he balanced the budget.”
Biden again emphasized that the Obama administration plans to let the Bush tax cuts for the top income bracket to expire and to make the rest permanent to help pay down the deficit while stimulating economic growth.
“We want to extend the middle-class tax cut permanently. (Congressional Republicans are) holding hostage the middle-class tax cut to the super wealthy,” Biden said.
Biden offered a strong defense of the administration’s stances on Medicare and Social Security and promised to “not rest” until middle class families fully recover from the debate.
“My record stands for itself,” Biden said. “My whole life has been about leveling the playing field for the middle class.”
Ryan emphasized the choice voters face on Nov. 6, framing it as a choice between more or less government.
“We’re offering real reforms for a real recovery for every American,” Ryan said. “The choice is clear.”