United States Vice-President Joe Biden and Republican vice-presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), late Thursday squabbled over the economy, taxes, Medicare and other issues in a contentious, interruption-filled debate.
“That is a bunch of malarkey,” the vice-president retorted after a particularly tough Ryan attack on the administration’s foreign policy, the Associated Press reports.
“Not a single thing he said is accurate,” Democrat Biden declared after Ryan said U.S Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, had been denied sufficient security by administration officials.
Stevens died in a terrorist attack on the U.S Consulate in Benghazi on September 11. Both men seemed primed for a showdown from their opening moments on stage, and neither seemed willing to let the other one have the final word.
“I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think people would be better served if we don’t interrupt each other,” Ryan said to his older rival at one point. But both continued to do so – and interrupted moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC as well.
The debate took place a little more than a week after President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney met in the first of their three debates – an encounter that has fuelled a Republican comeback in opinion polls. With Democrats eager for Biden to show the spark the president lacked, he did so.
Unprompted, he brought up the video in which Romney had said 47 per cent of Americans pay no federal income tax, view themselves as victims and do not take responsibility for their own lives.
“It’s about time they take responsibility” instead of signing pledges to avoid raising taxes, Biden said – of Romney, Ryan and the Republicans.
But Ryan quickly turned to dreary economic statistics – 23 million are struggling to work, he said, and 15 per cent of the country is living in poverty. “This is not what a real recovery looks like.”
Medicare was a flashpoint, as well. Ryan said Obama’s health care plan had diverted $716 billion from the programme for seniors and created a new board that could deny care to patients who need it.
Democrats “haven’t put a credible solution on the table,” he said. “They’ll tell you about vouchers. They’ll say all these things to try to scare people.” Biden also hit Ryan for requesting money from the 2009 economic stimulus bill he has criticized.
Biden brought up two letters that he said the GOP vice presidential nominee wrote to him that requested funds from the stimulus for companies in Wisconsin, The Hill reports.
“I am not allowed to show letters, but go on our website. He sent me two letters saying ‘by the way, can you send me some stimulus money for companies in Wisconsin?’
“I love that, ‘this is such a bad programme’ and he writes me a letter, writes the Department of Energy a letter saying we want money because it will create growth and jobs, in his words,” Biden said.
In 2009, Ryan wrote to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis asking for money to cover costs on two energy conservation projects in Wisconsin.
Ryan acknowledged asking for the money but countered that millions had been spent on green energy programs in Finland and China, using money borrowed from China.
“Was it a good idea to borrow all this money from places like China to give the money to these special interests?” Ryan asked.
Biden said that there was no cronyism involved in the $840 billion 2009 stimulus bill, and he added that GOP congressional investigations had found no evidence.
Ryan argues that the stimulus added to the budget deficit, but did little to help the economy, noting high unemployment. The discussion ended with Biden jabbing, “Any letter you send me, I’ll entertain.” Ryan retorted, “I appreciate that Joe.”