Biden, Ryan clash at vice presidential debate


Win McNamee

DANVILLE, KY – OCTOBER 11: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Republican vice presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) participate in the vice presidential debate as moderator Martha Raddatz looks on at Centre College October 11, 2012 in Danville, Kentucky. This is the second of four debates during the presidential election season and the only debate between the vice presidential candidates before the closely-contested election November 6. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Becky Spaulding

Though the banter between Congressman Paul Ryan (R- Wisc.) and Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday night was stronger than that of the first presidential debate, the back-and-forth had many, like Grand Valley State University’s Danielle Leek, crowning the moderator as the champion.

“If there was a clear victor tonight, it was [Martha] Raddatz,” said Leek, who is associate professor of communications at GVSU. “She was confident, poised and didn’t hesitate to challenge either candidate when they skirted an issue or offered vague responses. I won’t be surprised when she is asked to moderate another debate in 2016.”

Leek said the vice presidential debates, though important, don’t necessarily sway voters, especially if they’re undecided.

“Voters vote for a president, not a vice president,” Leek said. “Both men spoke with a passion and assertiveness that will rally their bases, but it’s almost impossible to imagine an undecided voter watching the VP debate and thinking ‘I’m going to vote for X candidate because of what that guy said.’”

Raddatz, who is affiliated with ABC News, doled out questions to the candidates on foreign and domestic policy issues, including national security, the economy and abortion rights.

“While some viewers might have been surprised at the number of questions about foreign policy, it was natural territory for Martha Raddatz,” Leek said. “Foreign policy is her area of expertise.”

Last month’s terrorist attack in Benghazi, which killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, was up first for discussion. The Benghazi event originally was reported as a protest gone wrong, a “massive intelligence failure,” and Biden called the event “a tragedy.”

“Whatever mistakes were made will not be made again,” Biden said, citing President Barack Obama’s past when it came to handling national security as support.

“The president of the United States has – has lead with a steady hand and clear vision,” he said.
In contrast, Ryan called the incident, while admittedly tragic, “indicative of a broader problem.”

“What we are watching on our TV screens is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy,” he said.
Biden and Ryan disagreed on issues surrounding Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons Biden said Iran is far from creating a nuclear weapon, and Ryan insisted that they are very close.

Both candidates said the problem should be solved as peacefully as possible, however.

Raddatz, after gaining their attention – something she had to do numerous times throughout the debate – turned focus toward the unemployment rate, which recently fell below eight percent for the first time in 43 months.

Biden said despite the fact that they haven’t yet, they would eventually get the rate below 6 percent as they claimed when Obama was elected.

At this point, Biden also brought up Romney’s now infamous “47 percent” statements.
“Those people are my mom and dad – the people I grew up with, my neighbors,” Biden said.
Ryan mentioned that Biden’s hometown of Scranton, Pa., is up from 8.5 percent unemployment four years ago to 10 percent now.

“This is not what real recovery looks like,” Ryan said as he laid out his five-point plan for “real reforms and real recovery in America.”

In response to Biden’s mention of Romney’s remarks, Ryan painted a picture of Romney the philanthropist, who gives to charity and helped out a family that went to church with him.

“With respect to that quote, I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way,” Ryan said.

Biden responded that he always says what he means, “and so does Romney.”

The abortion issue, which was not touched on at last week’s presidential debate, was one of the final topics discussed.

“What was interesting about the abortion question was the way Raddatz framed the question,” Leek said. “Rather than asking the contenders to talk about Roe v. Wade, she called for them to discuss how their religious faith would impact women’s rights following the election. This approach made both contenders pause while they worked to think through an unprepared response.”

The next presidential debate will be held on Oct. 16 at 9 p.m. at Hofstra University in New York.

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