Biden, Ryan clash in US vice presidential debate | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 12.10.2012
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Biden, Ryan clash in US vice presidential debate

Both vice presidential nominees met expectations during their only campaign debate. Democrat Joe Biden worked to make up ground lost by the president while Republican Paul Ryan presented himself as a competent candidate.

Everyone was pleased with the result of one and only debate between the candidates for US vice president, including President Barack Obama.

"I thought Joe Biden was terrific tonight," Obama said. "I could not be prouder of him. I thought he made a very strong case. I really think that his passion for making sure that the economy grows for the middle class came through."

Republican politicians were equally pleased with the performance of their candidate, Paul Ryan. The speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner, said "The choice for Americans in November is a big one, and Paul Ryan detailed a clear vision for a prosperous, thriving economy that fosters private sector job creation and opportunity for all."

US Vice President Joe Biden gestures towards moderator Martha Raddatz as he debates Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan during the US vice presidential debate in Danville, Kentucky, October 11, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The debate was divided into nine 10-minute sections

Viewers of the 90-minute debate, which was broadcast on television as well as YouTube, had split opinions on the debate's results. A poll conducted by CNN showed 48 percent of those surveyed saw Ryan as the winner of the debate while 44 percent said Biden put in the better showing.

The candidates discussed domestic and foreign policy, but it was differences in the men's style that overarched the topics on the table. Biden attempted to make up ground lost after Obama's poor performance in the first presidential debate with Republican candidate Mitt Romney, which saw Romney narrow the president's lead in key swing states.

A bunch of malarkey

Biden took a more aggressive tack than his boss during the debate in Center College in Danville, Kentucky, often interrupting and correcting Ryan and seemingly enjoying the exchange with his rival.

Ryan, who had previously only received national attention during his nomination speech at the Republican convention, responded with an equally solid grasp of facts and statistics to support his positions and pointed out that Biden was under pressure to make up for Obama's shaky start to the debates.

Flames in front of the US consulate in Benghazi REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori

Candidates disagreed on what lessons should be learned from the consulate attack

In response to the first issue regarding the attack of the US consulate in Benghazi, which led to the deaths of four Americans including the ambassador to Libya, Ryan said the incident represented "the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy." Biden called Ryan's response "a bunch of malarkey" and added that Romney's decision to hold a press conference the day after the attack rather than waiting for the facts of an investigation to reveal what happened was "not presidential leadership."

Ryan accused the Obama administration of several foreign policy failures, saying that Iran had moved closer to building nuclear weapons and that in dealing with Syria, Obama's chose to rely on the United Nations Security Council, where Russia holds veto power, rather than deciding independently on how to deal with Damascus and Syrian President Bashar Assad. Ryan added that an attack on a foreign country should only occur when it is in the United States' national interest.

Ryan also criticized the government's timeline for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan to which Biden replied that the position had been agreed to by 49 allied nations and that the Afghan government would only take over responsibility for the country when US and other international troops had left.

47 percent or 100 percent?

In terms of domestic policy, the debate dealt with how the candidates would improve the economy.

Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. gives a campaign speech on Sept. 7, 2012. Photo:Cathleen Allison/AP/dapd

Ryan said his running partner was a good man who would take care of all Americans

"We are going in the wrong direction," Ryan said, adding that a Romney-Ryan White House would create 12 million jobs, cut taxes by 20 percent and reduce the national deficit in the next four years. Ryan, however, gave few details on exactly what programs would be eliminated or see funding reductions.

Unlike Obama, Biden referred several times to statements by Romney that 47 percent of the US population was happy to rely on government aid and not take responsibility for their own lives and that he did not feel he needed to take care of them.

Ryan replied, "Mitt Romney's a good man. He cares about 100 percent of Americans in this country."

Differences across political spectrum

The candidates also disagreed on abortion. Both Roman Catholics, Ryan and Biden said life begins at conception. Ryan, however, said a Romney administration would oppose abortions with exceptions for rape, incest and when life of the mother was in danger.

File photo from March 21, 2012 of Vice President Joe Biden speaking at Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Photo:Carolyn Kaster, File/AP/dapd

Biden said he dedicated his life to helping the middle class

Biden said he accepted the Church's view on abortion but added that he would not impose his views on others. "I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people, women, they can't control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor."

In his final statement, Biden said he and the president wanted to ensure the middle class had an opportunity to get out of the economic crisis and that he had spent his life working on " leveling the playing field for middle-class people, giving them an even break, treating Main Street and Wall Street the same, hold them to the same responsibility."

Ryan concluded the past four years had not brought about "a real recovery" and that America deserved better. "The choice is clear: a stagnant economy that promotes more government dependency or a dynamic, growing economy that promotes opportunity and jobs. Mitt Romney and I will not duck the tough issues," Ryan said.

In the end, both candidates delivered what was expected of them and now the public's attention will turn to what Obama and Romney have to say in their second debate on Tuesday and a final encounter on October 22.

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