Danville, Ky. • Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan quarreled aggressively on Thursday night over the administration’s handling of foreign affairs and the nation’s economic recovery, using a debate here to highlight the sharp contrasts facing voters in November.
The two vice-presidential candidates not only picked up where President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney left off at their debate last week, they also expanded the arguments into a combative and wide-ranging discussion ranging from Iran’s ability to obtain nuclear weapons to the unemployment rate.
Within a single minute of the debate’s first 25 minutes, Biden worked in three attacks that Democrats were disappointed Obama did not level against Romney, referring to Romney’s opposition to the bailout of the auto industry, his statement that the nation’s foreclosure crisis would have to “run its course” and his comment about the “47 percent” of Americans who he said were overreliant on government benefits.
“These guys bet against America all the time,” Biden said.
But Ryan offered a point-by-point rebuttal, showing fluency in foreign affairs. He said the administration had no “credibility” in its international approach to Iran, because it had sent mixed signals, and that the tough sanctions that are in place came about only because of the fortitude of Congress, as the administration sought to “water down” the sanctions.
He assailed the administration’s handling of the terrorist strike in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador, saying: “It took the president two weeks to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack. Look, if we’re hit by terrorists, we’re going to call it what it is, a terrorist attack.”
Ryan chastised Obama, questioning why the United States did not have protection for the diplomatic compound. He declared, “This is becoming more troubling by the day.”
But as Biden reminded Ryan that he and House Republicans cut the budget for the security, he sought to use the question about the attack on Libya to immediately begin the attack on Romney’s positioning. He contrasted Obama’s overall foreign policy record with Romney’s, ranging from Iraq to the killing of Osama bin Laden.
“The president has led with a steady hand and clear vision: Gov. Romney hasn’t,” Biden said. “The last thing we need is another war.”
The men repeatedly talked over each other, with Biden growing visibly agitated at Ryan’s remarks, which at one point he called “malarkey.”