Biden and Ryan clash in debate
Both sides claimed victory in the spirited debate between vice-president Joe Biden and the Republican nominee Paul Ryan last night.
The two candidates crossed swords regarding the September 11th attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, how to stop the Iranian nuclear programme, the economy, Medicare, taxation, defence spending, Afghanistan, Syria and abortion.
For Democrats, Mr Biden performed as president Barack Obama should have in Denver. “Joe Biden had a mission,” said the media consultant Alex Castellanos, referring to the next presidential debate in Long Island. “He bought Barack Obama another week.”
“Anyone who watched that debate knows we won,” Jim Messina, Mr Obama’s campaign advisor, said in the ‘spin room’ after the debate. “Joe Biden was a fierce advocate for the middle class… He looked right at Paul Ryan and asked ‘How are you going to deal with the $5 trillion (shortfall created by a 20 per cent tax cut), and he couldn’t do it.”
Dan Senor, foreign policy advisor to the Romney campaign, claimed Mr Ryan, who is a foreign policy novice, won on foreign policy questions because “we have not got to a clear understanding of what happened (in Benghazi) on the anniversary of 9/11. This administration has blamed everything and everybody. Now they are blaming Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. The Vice President contradicted the State Department (by saying the White House had not received a request for better protection for the consulate, where four US diplomats were murdered).”
Notwithstanding continuing questions over the attack in Libya, Mr Biden had an edge over Mr Ryan on substance. He pointed out that Mr Romney said it “was a tragic mistake” to have withdrawn from Iraq. Mr Romney had said he “wouldn’t move heaven and earth to get bin Laden”.
Mr Ryan reproached Mr Obama for having mentioned a video about the Prophet Mohamed six times in his speech to the UN General Assembly.
Mr Ryan repeatedly said the world was watching “the unravelling of the Obama foreign policy”. Defence cuts – which were agreed by Democrats and Republicans during the 2011 debt ceiling crisis – “project weakness,” he claimed.
“With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey,” Mr Biden replied. A ripple of laughter went through the auditorium, and Google reported a record number of searches for “malarkey”.
Mr Ryan alluded to Mr Biden’s reputation for making gaffes, in reference to Mr Romney’s now infamous "47 per cent" video. “The Vice President very well knows sometimes words don’t come out of your mouth quite the right way.”
Mr Ryan seemed to falter when he said he agreed with Mr Biden that the time line for an Iranian nuclear weapon was “probably longer”. But when he reproached the president for recording a television talk show rather than meet Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, and for failing to dissuade Iran from pursuing its nuclear programme, Mr Biden accused him of speaking “a bunch of stuff”.