In what can only be described as a complete and utter devastation, Joe Biden wiped the floor with Paul Ryan in their only vice presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky on Thursday night. After Barack Obama turned in a lackluster performance last week in his first debate against Mitt Romney, Democrats were looking for some consolation in this match-up.
They got it.
Biden ran roughshod over the young congressman and GOP budget guru, whose demeanor throughout the debate was much like that of Obama’s last week. Ryan wasn’t so much calm and deliberate, but blasé. From the opening, it was clear that Biden was fired up, and even though he’s 27 years older than his Republican counterpart, Ryan was either unwilling or unable to match his energy.
The debate began when moderator and ABC Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz asked about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya last month. Ryan defended the administration’s handling of intelligence and preparation in the lead up to the attack. Ryan question the administration’s judgment not to have a Marine detachment accompanying the murdered ambassador Chris Stevens in such a volatile country, where just last year the U.S. and allies provided air support to help oust Muammar Gaddafi from power. In this early part of the debate, Ryan spoke in an odd, halting tone of voice that made his remarks seem disjointed. When Ryan tried to criticize the Obama administration on its handling of the Iranian nuclear program, Biden observed that there is no difference the approach of the Obama administration and that of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Several times Biden referred to him endearingly as “Bibi.”
But it wasn’t until domestic policy when Biden really began to put serious distance between himself and Ryan. The vice president gave a tour de force on the Bush tax cuts, Medicare, and Social Security. He slammed Ryan and Romney for opposing the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the bottom 98% of income earners because the extension did not include the top 2%. Biden noted that Ryan’s Medicare plan would effectively end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system. Ryan denied that it would become a voucher program under his “Path to Prosperity” budget, but for all intents and purposes it is. Under it, the government would provide seniors with subsidies so they can purchase private health insurance, and this scheme would be means-tested.
Biden also torched Ryan after the latter criticized Obama’s stimulus package that was passed in 2009. Biden replied by saying he had a letter from Ryan asking for stimulus money for his constituents in Wisconsin.