VP candidates clash over issues

The first and only vice presidential debate between Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan occurred on Thursday Oct. 11 at Centre College in Danville, Ky.

ABC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Martha Raddatz moderated the faceoff, which focused on both foreign and domestic policy throughout nine timed segments.

Raddatz opened the conversation by questioning the quality of secret intelligence behind the terrorist attacks against Americans in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012 that resulted in the death of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

Biden began by promising that the Obama administration will “find” and “bring to justice” the parties responsible for the attacks and that “we will get to the bottom of it … whatever mistakes were made will not be made again.”

Ryan responded by condemning the Obama administration for not immediately acknowledging that the attack was by terrorists rather than angry protestors.

“What we also want to do is make sure that we’re not projecting weakness abroad,” he said. He added that the attacks were indicative of the “unraveling of the Obama foreign policy.”

The discussion moved to Iran, where the candidates discussed the effectiveness of a military strike against the aspiring nuclear power.

Ryan advocated imposing tough sanctions against Iran, as opposed to Obama’s “watered-down sanctions,” in an attempt to “have the ayatollahs change their minds.”

“The key is to do this peacefully, is to make sure that we have credibility,” he said.

Biden responded by insisting that Iran is no closer to getting nuclear weapons than they were four years ago and that “Iran is more isolated now than when we took office.” Biden also asserted that Iran does not have the materials necessary to make a nuclear weapon and that the Obama administration’s sanctions against Iran have been effective.

The conversation then turned to the candidates’ domestic plans to decrease unemployment.

Biden restated the Obama administration’s support for the middle class, saying that it will not have a “different set of rules for Wall Street and Main Street” and that they planned to stop tax cuts for the “super wealthy.”

Ryan responded by briefly outlining the Romney campaign’s “Five-Point Plan,” which includes the pushing the U.S. toward complete energy independence, helping people acquire valuable job skills, getting the deficit and debt under control, increasing production within the U.S. to improve trade and championing small businesses.

The candidates then discussed changes to Medicare and Social Security.

Ryan advocated reforming entitlement benefits for citizens 54 years and younger while also plugging his voucher system for health insurance and calling to drastically reform Social Security.

Biden rebutted Ryan’s voucher system, saying, “They eliminate the guarantee of Medicare.” He also said he supports Obama’s universal health insurance program.

“We cut the cost of Medicare. We stopped overpaying insurance companies, doctors and hospitals,” he said.

In regards to their respective tax policies, Biden said that the middle class will pay less and “people making over $1 million or more will begin to contribute slightly more,” effectively allowing for the Bush tax cuts to expire.

Ryan called for fundamental tax reform including not increasing taxes on small businesses and the middle class while also not lowering the share of income borne by high-income earners.

“There aren’t enough rich people and small businesses to tax to pay for all their spending,” Ryan said.

In regards to U.S. presence in Afghanistan, both candidates agreed that U.S. troops should leave by the promised 2014 date, though Ryan said that he felt that the schedule was unrealistically inflexible to any changes and the date gave al-Quaida a time after which they would have a “safe haven.”

The conversation turned to the civil war in Syria, and Raddatz asked Biden to justify the lack of U.S. intervention.

“The last thing America needs is to get in another ground war in the Middle East,” Biden said.

Ryan agreed that war is not a viable option and that his requirement for intervention is that it is “in the national interest of the American people.”

The candidates, both Catholics, touched briefly on their policies towards abortion, with Ryan advocating the amended anti-abortion viewpoint and Biden advocating pro-abortion rights.

The debate concluded with closing remarks from each candidate reiterating their arguments in favor of themselves and their respective campaigns.