Eastern Michigan University’s Student Center Auditorium was filled with about 20 students Oct. 11 for the first and only vice presidential debate between current Vice President Joe Biden and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
The debate was divided into nine segments focused on foreign and domestic policy. Martha Raddatz moderated the event at Centre College in Danville Kentucky.
“I thought the debate was a lot testier, a lot more personal [and] a lot more informational,” EMU Student Body President Matthew Norfleet said. “It was a lot of what I expected the presidential debate to be. I thought that this was the best debate yet.”
Biden began the night’s discussion by questioning the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Raddatz asked if the attack was an intelligence failure.
Biden called the events a tragedy and promised to find the men who committed the attacks against the Ambassador and other Americans. Biden promised to get justice for the lives that were taken.
“Chris Stevens was one of our best, and we lost three other brave
Americans,” he said.
According to Biden, the president’s highest priority four years ago was to get Osama Bin Laden.
“If you do harm to America, we will track you to the gates of hell
if need be, and lastly the president of the United States has led with a steady hand and clear vision … The last thing we need now is another war,” Biden said.
Ryan took a different approach to the question. After offering condolences for the lives lost in the terrorist attack, Ryan questioned President Barack Obama’s response time. He said it should have been called a terrorist attack from the beginning and there should have been a Marine detachment guarding the American Ambassador in Benghazi, “A place that we knew that there was an al-Qaida cell with arms.”
Ryan’s argument was the American ambassador in Paris has a Marine detachment guard, and then went on to thank Biden for his son Bo’s service in the armed forces.
The debate went on to discuss nuclear warfare, and Biden took the chance to poke fun at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for flip-flopping on issues.
According to Ryan, both he and Romney are afraid they are four years closer to a nuclear weapon in the Middle East and the current administration is not taking it seriously. Biden didn’t seem to buy into Ryan’s theory. Ryan wouldn’t go into the issue of the Middle East either, dismissing it as “classified stuff.”
Raddatz then brought the focus to the economy. The question was whether each administration would be able to get the unemployment rate to under 6 percent, and each candidate was asked how long he thought it would take.
Biden said it was possible, but wouldn’t give a time frame. He went on to explain the middle class was his family, friends, neighbors and people he grew up with.
Ryan said he and Biden were from similar towns and backgrounds. According to Ryan, Romney donated 30 percent of his income to a family that went to his church after two of the children were paralyzed in a car crash. He went to visit them one Christmas and paid for their college. Ryan was trying to make a point about the automobile industry, but the story didn’t support his point.
The next question regarded taking the troops out of Afghanistan.
The Democrats have a plan to move troops out in 2014, but the Republicans think giving a specific date, as Ryan argued, would give the Taliban and al-Qaida a safe haven to come out once American tropps are gone. Biden believes giving the Afghanis the tools to have their own armed forces is the right thing to do.
According to Biden, it is Afghanistan’s responsibility now.
“We will leave in 2014,” he said.
The last question was about religion. Both candidates are Catholic, which is a historic first. The last question was what role each candidate’s personal religious background plays in his own personal views on abortion.
Ryan, who is pro-life, answered the question first. He talked about his wife Janna and the ultrasound with their first-born.
“I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith,” he said. “Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, of how to make sure that people have a chance at life. Now, you basically want to ask why I’m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course. It is also because of reason and science.”
He said he believes life begins at conception.
Biden said he is also very faithful to his Catholic beliefs, but would not want to push his religious beliefs about abortion on others who do not share the same faith he does.
Both men said they are the right man for the job. Biden said his record stands for itself, and whatever he says he will do he does.
Ryan said he and Romney will not duck the tough issues. They will not blame others for the next four years and they will not try to replace their founding principles but reapply them.
Biden’s facial expressions while his opponent answered questions was telling. He called Ryan’s answers “malarkey” many times. Biden was quick to jump in when he did not agree with his opponent.
When it came to taxes, Ryan didn’t have a mathematical formula to explain his process on Medicare and Social Security, and he accused Biden of trying to make up for Obama’s pitfall in the last presidential debate.
At the end of the debate, EMU students had different takes.
Senior Andrew Mullenax said the most interesting part was the way the two parties communicated, the arrogance they portrayed and both parties seemed fake.
Senior Jo’El Williams simply said, “I heart Joe Biden.”
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