Vice President Joe Biden and Paul Ryan had their chance to trade barbs last night in the only vice presidential debate of the 2012 election season. The debate came one week after their running-mates, President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney, squared off.
The focus of Thursday’s debate ranged from the domestic — budgets and defense cuts — to foreign affairs — including the attacks on the consulate in Libya and the timetable for troop withdrawals in Afghanistan.
The following are highlights taken from a transcript of the debate.
On the budget:
Ryan: Leaders run to problem to fix problems. President Obama has not even put a credible plan on the table in any of his four years to deal with this debt crisis. I passed two budgets to deal with this. Mitt Romney’s put ideas on the table.
We’ve got to tackle this debt crisis before it tackles us. The president likes to say he has a plan. He gave a speech. We asked his budget office, “Can we see the plan?” They sent us to the press secretary. He gave us a copy of the speech. We asked the Congressional Budget Office, “Tell us what President Obama’s plan is to prevent a debt crisis.” They said, “It’s a speech, we can’t estimate speeches.”
You see, that’s what we get in this administration — speeches — but we’re not getting leadership.
Mitt Romney is uniquely qualified to fix these problems. His lifetime of experience, his proven track record of bipartisanship.
Biden: The two budgets the congressman introduced have eviscerated all the things that the middle class cares about. It is (inaudible) he will knock 19 million people off of Medicare. It will kick 200,000 children off of early education. It will eliminate the tax credit people have to be able to send their children to college. It cuts education by $450 billion. …
It does virtually nothing except continue to increase the tax cuts for the very wealthy. And, you know, we’ve had enough of this.
Ryan: We’re not just going to cut the defense budget like … they’re proposing… You don’t cut defense by a trillion dollars. That’s what we’re talking about. … We’re going to cut 80,000 soldiers, 20,000 Marines, 120 cargo planes. We’re going to push the Joint Strike Fighter out. …
If these cuts go through, our Navy will be … the smallest it has been since before World War I.
This invites weakness. Look, do we believe in peace through strength? You bet we do. And that means you don’t impose these devastating cuts on our military.
So we’re saying don’t cut the military by a trillion dollars. Not increase it by a trillion, don’t cut it by a trillion dollars.
Biden: Look, we don’t cut it. And I might add, this so-called, I know we don’t want to use the fancy word “sequester,” this automatic cut, that was part of a debt deal that they asked for. …
So the bipartisanship is what he voted for, the automatic cuts in defense if they didn’t act. …
The military says we need a smaller, leaner Army, we need more special forces, we need, we don’t need more M1 tanks, what we need is more UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles).
Biden: With regard to Afghanistan, (President Obama) said he will end the war in 2014. Governor Romney said we should not set a date.
Ryan: With respect to Afghanistan, the 2014 deadline, we agree with a 2014 transition. But what we also want it do is make sure that we’re not projecting weakness abroad, and that’s what’s happening here.
On the attack of the Libyan consulate and death of Ambassador Chris Stevens:
Biden: I can make absolutely two commitments to you and all the American people tonight. One, we will find and bring to justice the men who did this. And secondly, we will get to the bottom of it, and whatever — wherever the facts lead us, wherever they lead us, we will make clear to the American public, because whatever mistakes were made will not be made again. …
This lecture on embassy security, the congressman (Ryan) here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for, number one. So much for the embassy security piece.
Number two, Governor Romney, before he knew the facts, before he even knew that our ambassador was killed, he was out making a political statement which was panned by the media around the world.
Ryan: If we’re hit by terrorists we’re going to call it for what it is, a terrorist attack. Our ambassador in Paris has a Marine detachment guarding him. Shouldn’t we have a Marine detachment guarding our ambassador in Benghazi, a place where we knew that there was an Al Qaida cell with arms?
This is becoming more troubling by the day. They first blamed the YouTube video. Now they’re trying to blame the Romney-Ryan ticket for making this an issue. …
This Benghazi issue would be a tragedy in and of itself, but unfortunately it’s indicative of a broader problem. And that is what we are watching on our TV screens is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy, which is making the (inaudible) more chaotic us less safe.