Ryan, Biden start debate on offense over foreign policy

October 12, 2012
By Michael Finnegan and Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times

Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin tangled over the Middle East, the economy, taxes and more in a scrappy back-and-forth Thursday night at their only debate.

It was a remarkably lively exchange of scoffing, eye-rolling, smirking and mocking chuckles as the vice presidential rivals argued at a table in the 90-minute faceoff at Centre College in Danville, Ky.

A spat over income taxes captured the tone, toggling between combative and jocular. Ryan sought to explain how Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would cut tax rates across the board by 20%, but make up for the lost revenue by getting rid of loopholes and deductions.

“Can I translate?” Biden interrupted.

“We want to work with Congress on how best to achieve this,” Ryan resumed.

Moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News asked the Wisconsin congressman whether he could “guarantee this math will add up.”

“Absolutely,” Ryan responded.

Not so, Biden stated. Romney’s plan, according to the Democratic vice president, would inevitably require pain for the middle class, such as the loss of tax breaks on mortgage interest and college tuition.

“Is he wrong about that?” Raddatz asked.

“He is wrong about that,” Ryan replied.

After trying to explain why, Ryan added, “Jack Kennedylowered tax rates, increased growth.”

“Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy,” Biden interjected.

So it went for the full hour and a half as Biden and Ryan fought at a steady rat-a-tat pace over almost every topic raised.

It started right at the top when Raddatz, a veteran foreign correspondent, asked Biden whether there had been a “massive intelligence failure” in the fatal assault last month on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi.

“Whatever mistakes were made will not be made again,” Biden said of the attack in Libya before pivoting to criticizing Romney on a gamut of national security matters.

Biden credited President Obama for ending the Iraq war, saying Romney thought “we should have left 30,000 troops there.” He faulted Romney for objecting early on to Obama’s setting a 2014 deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and for saying he “wouldn’t move heaven and earth” to capture Osama bin Laden.

To read more, visit: http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-vp-debate-10122012,0,1224444.story

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