A testy Vice President Joseph Biden wrangled with House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan on Thursday night in their only debate, which focused mostly on foreign policy.
Biden accused the Republican vice presidential nominee of “malarkey” and “loose talk,” frequently laughing in disbelief at Ryan from the start of their only faceoff, which began with a discussion of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya. Ryan, meanwhile, remained composed yet unanimated.
“What we are watching on our TV screens is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy, which is making the world more chaotic and us less safe,” Ryan said.
“With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey,” Biden responded. “The Congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for — No. 1 — so much for the embassy security piece. No. 2: Gov. Romney, before he knew the facts — before he even knew our ambassador was killed — he was out making a political statement, which was panned by the media around the world.”
The vice presidential debate in Danville, Ky., came one week after President Barack Obama turned in a lackluster performance against Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in their first debate. The president halted his party’s momentum with his showing, putting pressure on Biden to be more aggressive.
ABC News senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz moderated the debate at Centre College, controlling the conversation between the two men, who often interrupted her and each other during the 90-minute session.
“Mr. Vice President, I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up lost ground, but I think people would be better served if we don’t keep interrupting each other,” Ryan snapped.
“Don’t take all the four minutes then!” Biden responded.
In addition to arguing and attacking on behalf of the top of the ticket, the two Congressional veterans attacked each other’s records on Capitol Hill. Biden, a former six-term Delaware Senator, took strides to emphasize his experience over Ryan, a seven-term House Member from Wisconsin.
Nowhere was this more prevalent than their exchange over Iran’s nuclear capabilities, during which Biden called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “my friend for 39 years.”
“Facts matter,” Biden said. “All this loose talk about them — all they have to do is enrich uranium to a certain amount and they have a weapon — not true, not true. … And if we ever have to take action, unlike when we took office, we will have the world behind us and that matters. That matters.”
More than halfway through the debate, the discussion moved to the struggling economy. Although Biden often mentions his humble roots in Scranton, Pa., it was Ryan who first brought up the northeastern Pennsylvania city’s climbing unemployment rate under the Obama administration.
“Did they come in and inherit a tough situation? Absolutely,” Ryan said. “But we’re going in the wrong direction. Look at where we are. The economy is barely limping along.”
Biden also took at shot at Romney’s comments revealed on five-month-old hidden video of him speaking at a private fundraiser that “47 percent” of the country’s citizens see themselves as “victims” dependent on the government. It was an attack line Democrats had hoped Obama would use in his first meeting with Romney but didn’t.
Ryan defended Romney by telling Biden, who is occasionally gaffe-prone, that sometimes, politicians don’t say exactly what they mean. “I think the vice president very well knows that words don’t always come out of your mouth the right way,” he said.
Biden smiled knowingly.