Vice Presidential Debate Transcript

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Hillary Clinton went to Russia to try and convince them not to do so. They thwarted her efforts. She said they were on the wrong side of history. She was right about that. This is just one more example of how the Russia reset's not working.

And so where are we? After international pressure mounted, the President Obama said Bashar Assad should go. It's been over a year. The man has slaughtered tens of thousands of his own people. And more foreign fighters are spilling into this country.

So the longer this has gone on, the more people, groups like Al Qaida are going in. We could have more easily identified the free Syrian army, the freedom fighters, working with our allies, the Turks, the Qataris, the Saudis, had we had a better plan in place to begin with working through our allies. But, no, we waited for Kofi Annan to try and come up with an agreement through the U.N. That bought Bashar Assad time.

We gave Russia veto power over our efforts through the U.N. And meanwhile about 30,000 Syrians are dead.

BIDEN: What would my friend do differently? If you notice, he never answers the question.

RYAN: No, I would -- I -- we would not be going through the U.N. in all of these things.

BIDEN: Let me -- you don't go through the U.N. We are in the process now -- and have been for months -- in making sure that help, humanitarian aid, as well as other aid and training is getting to those forces that we believe, the Turks believe, the Jordanians believe, the Saudis believe are the free forces inside of Syria. That is underway.

Our allies were all on the same page, NATO, as well as our Arab allies, in terms of trying to get a settlement. That was their idea. We're the ones that said, "Enough." With regard to the reset not working, the fact of the matter is that Russia has a different interest in Syria than we do, and that's not in our interest.

RADDATZ: What happens if Assad does not fall, Congressman Ryan? What happens to the region? What happens if he hangs on? What happens if he does?

RYAN: Then Iran keeps their greatest ally in the region. He's a sponsor of terrorism. He'll probably continue slaughtering his people. We and the world community will lose our credibility on this. Look, he mentioned the reset...

RADDATZ: So what would Romney-Ryan do about that credibility?

RYAN: Well, we agree with the same red line, actually, they do on chemical weapons, but not putting American troops in, other than to secure those chemical weapons. They're right about that.

But what we should have done earlier is work with those freedom fighters, those dissidents in Syria. We should not have called Bashar Assad a reformer. And...

RADDATZ: What's your criteria...

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: ... we should not have -- we should not have waited to Russia...

RADDATZ: What's your criteria...

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: ... should not have waited for Russia to give us the green light at the U.N. to do something about it.

BIDEN: Russia...

RYAN: They're -- they're still arming the man. Iran is flying flights over Iraq...

BIDEN: And the opposition is being armed.

RYAN: ... to help Bashar Assad. And, by the way, if we had the status-of-forces agreement that the vice president said he would bet his vice presidency on in Iraq, we probably would have been able to prevent that. But he failed to achieve that, as well, again.

RADDATZ: Let me ask you a quick question.

BIDEN: I don't...

RADDATZ: What's your criteria for intervention?

BIDEN: Yeah. RYAN: In Syria?

RADDATZ: Worldwide.

RYAN: What is in the national interests of the American people.

RADDATZ: How about humanitarian interests?

RYAN: What is in the national security of the American people. It's got to be in the strategic national interests of our country.

RADDATZ: No humanitarian?

RYAN: Each situation will -- will come up with its own set of circumstances, but putting American troops on the ground? That's got to be within the national security interests of the American people.

RADDATZ: I want to -- we're -- we're almost out of time here.

RYAN: That means like embargoes and sanctions and overflights, those are things that don't put American troops on the ground. But if you're talking about putting American troops on the ground, only in our national security interests.

RADDATZ: I want to move on, and I want to return home for these last few questions. This debate is, indeed, historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.

Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that. And, please, this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country...

RYAN: Sure.

RADDATZ: ... please talk personally about this, if you could.

Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: I don't see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. 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 in life.

RYAN: Now, you want to ask basically why I'm pro-life? It's not simply because of my Catholic faith. That's a factor, of course. But it's also because of reason and science.

You know, I think about 10 1/2 years ago, my wife Janna and I went to Mercy Hospital in Janesville where I was born, for our seven week ultrasound for our firstborn child, and we saw that heartbeat. A little baby was in the shape of a bean. And to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child Liza, "Bean." Now I believe that life begins at conception.

That's why -- those are the reasons why I'm pro-life. Now I understand this is a difficult issue, and I respect people who don't agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. What troubles me more is how this administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they're doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They're infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.

Our church should not have to sue our federal government to maintain their religious liberties. And with respect to abortion, the Democratic Party used to say they wanted it to be safe, legal and rare. Now they support it without restriction and with taxpayer funding. Taxpayer funding in Obamacare, taxpayer funding with foreign aid. The vice president himself went to China and said that he sympathized and wouldn't second guess their one child policy of forced abortions and sterilizations. That to me is pretty extreme.

RADDATZ: Vice President Biden?

BIDEN: My religion defines who I am, and I've been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And has particularly informed my social doctrine. The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who -- who can't take care of themselves, people who need help. With regard to -- with regard to abortion, I accept my church's position on abortion as a -- what we call a (inaudible) doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church's judgment. I accept it in my personal life.

But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the -- the congressman. I -- I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that -- women they can't control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor. In my view and the Supreme Court, I'm not going to interfere with that. With regard to the assault on the Catholic church, let me make it absolutely clear, no religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact.

That is a fact. Now with regard to the way in which the -- we differ, my friend says that he -- well I guess he accepts Governor Romney's position now, because in the past he has argued that there was -- there's rape and forcible rape. He's argued that in the case of rape or incest, it was still -- it would be a crime to engage in having an abortion. I just fundamentally disagree with my friend.

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan.

RYAN: All I'm saying is, if you believe that life begins at conception, that, therefore, doesn't change the definition of life. That's a principle. The policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.

Now, I've got to take issue with the Catholic church and religious liberty.

BIDEN: You have on the issue...

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: ... why would they keep -- why would they keep suing you? It's a distinction without a difference.

RADDATZ: I want to go back to the abortion question here. If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?

RYAN: We don't think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination.

BIDEN: The court -- the next president will get one or two Supreme Court nominees. That's how close Roe v. Wade is. Just ask yourself, with Robert Bork being the chief adviser on the court for -- for Mr. Romney, who do you think he's likely to appoint? Do you think he's likely to appoint someone like Scalia or someone else on the court far right that would outlaw (inaudible) -- outlaw abortion? I suspect that would happen.

I guarantee you, that will not happen. We picked two people. We pick people who are open-minded. They've been good justices. So keep an eye on the Supreme Court...

RYAN: Was there a litmus test on them?

BIDEN: There was no litmus test. We picked people who had an open mind; did not come with an agenda.

RADDATZ: I'm -- I'm going to move on to this closing question because we are running out of time.

Certainly (inaudible) and you've said it here tonight, that the two of you respect our troops enormously. Your son has served and perhaps someday your children will serve as well.

I recently spoke to a highly decorated soldier who said that this presidential campaign has left him dismayed. He told me, quote, "the ads are so negative and they are all tearing down each other rather than building up the country."

What would you say to that American hero about this campaign? And at the end of the day, are you ever embarrassed by the tone?

Vice President Biden?

BIDEN: I would say to him the same thing I say to my son who did serve a year in Iraq, that we only have one truly sacred obligation as a government. That's to equip those we send into harm's way and care for those who come home. That's the only sacred obligation we have. Everything else falls behind that.

I would also tell him that the fact that he, this decorated soldier you talked about, fought for his country, that that should be honored. He should not be thrown into a category of a 47 percent who don't pay their taxes while he was out there fighting and not having to pay taxes, and somehow not taking responsibility.

I would also tell him that there are things that have occurred in this campaign and occur in every campaign that I'm sure both of us regret anyone having said, particularly in these -- these special new groups that can go out there, raise all the money they want, not have to identify themselves, who say the most scurrilous things about the other candidate. It's -- it's an abomination.

But the bottom line here is I'd ask that hero you referenced to take a look at whether or not Governor Romney or President Obama has the conviction to help lift up the middle class, restore them to where they were before this great recession hit and they got wiped out. Or whether or not he's going to continue to focus on taking care of only the very wealthy, not asking them to make -- pay any part of the deal to bring -- bring back the middle class and the economy of this country.

I'd ask him to take a look at whether the president of the United States has acted wisely in the use of force and whether or not the slipshod comments being made by my -- my -- or by Governor Romney serve -- serve our interests very well.

But there are things that have been said in campaigns that I -- I find not very appealing.

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: First of all, I'd thank him to his service to our country.

Second of all, I'd say we are not going to impose these devastating cuts on our military which compromises their mission and their safety.

And then I would say, you have a president who ran for president four years ago promising hope and change, who has now turned his campaign into attack, blame and defame.

You see, if you don't have a good record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone to run from. That was what President Obama said in 2008. It's what he's doing right now.

Look at all the string of broken promises. If you like your health care plan, you can keep it. Try telling that to the 20 million people who are projected to lose their health insurance if Obamacare goes through or the 7-point million -- 7.4 million seniors who are going to lose it.

Or remember when he said this: I guarantee if you make less than $250,000, your taxes won't go up. Of the 21 tax increases in Obamacare, 12 of them hit the middle class.

Or remember when he said health insurance premiums will go down $2,500 per family, per year? They've gone up $3,000, and they're expected to go up another $2,400.

Or remember when he said, "I promise by the end of my first term I'll cut the deficit in half in four years"? We've had four budgets, four trillion-dollar deficits.

A debt crisis is coming. We can't keep spending and borrowing like this. We can't keep spending money we don't have.

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.

And what do we have from the president? He broke his big promise to bring people together to solve the country's biggest problems.

And what I would tell him is we don't have to settle for this.

BIDEN: Martha?

RYAN: We can do better than this.

BIDEN: I hope I'll get equal time.

RADDATZ: You will get just a few minutes here. A few seconds, really.

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 -- it does virtually nothing except continue to increase the tax cuts for the very wealthy. And, you know, we've had enough of this.

The idea that he's so concerned about these deficits, I've pointed out he voted to put two wars on a credit card. He did...

RADDATZ: We're going to -- we're going to the closing statements in a minute.

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: You're going to have your closing statement.

RYAN: Not raising taxes is not cutting taxes. And by the way, our budget...

BIDEN: We have not raised...

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: ... by 3 percent a year instead of 4.5 percent like they propose. Not spending more money as much as they say is not a spending cut.

RADDATZ: Let me -- let me calm down things here just for a minute. And I want to talk to you very briefly before we go to closing statements about your own personal character. If you are elected, what could you both give to this country as a man, as a human being, that no one else could?

RYAN: Honesty, no one else could? There are plenty of fine people who could lead this country. But what you need are people who, when they say they're going to do something, they go do it. What you need are, when people see problems, they offer solutions to fix those problems. We're not getting that.

Look, we can grow this economy faster. That's what our five- point plan for a stronger middle class is all about. It's about getting 12 million jobs, higher take-home pay, getting people out of poverty into the middle class. That means going with proven, pro- growth policies that we know works to get people back to work. Putting ideas on the table, working with Democrats -- that actually works sometimes -- and then...

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: Vice President, can we get to that -- to that issue of what you could bring as a man, a human being? And I really -- I'm going to keep you to about 15 seconds here.

BIDEN: Well, he gets 40, I get 15, that's OK.

RADDATZ: He didn't have 40. He didn't have 40.

BIDEN: That's all right.

Let me tell you. I -- my -- my record stands for itself. I never say anything I don't mean. Everybody knows, whatever I say, I do. And my whole life has been devoted to leveling the playing field for middle-class people, giving them an even break, treating Main Street and Wall Street the same, hold them to the same responsibility.

Look at my record. It's been all about the middle class. They're the people who grow this country. We think you grow this country from the middle out, not from the top down.

RADDATZ: OK, we now turn to the candidates for their closing statements. Thank you, gentlemen. And that coin toss, again, has Vice President Biden starting with the closing statement.

BIDEN: Well, let -- let me say at the outset that I want to thank you, Martha, for doing this, and Centre College. The fact is that we're in a situation where we inherited a god-awful circumstance. People are in real trouble. We acted to move to bring relief to the people who need the most help now.

And -- and in the process, we -- in case you haven't noticed, we have strong disagreements, but I -- you probably detected my frustration with their attitude about the American people. My friend says that 30 percent of the American people are takers. Romney points out 47 percent of the people won't take responsibility.

He's talking about my mother and father. He's talking about the places I grew up in, my neighbors in Scranton and Claymont, and he's talking about -- he's talking about the people that have built this country. All they're looking for, Martha, all they're looking for is an even shot. Whenever you give them the shot, they've done it. They've done it. Whenever you've leveled the playing field, they've been able to move. And they want a little bit of peace of mind.

And the president and I are not going to rest until that playing field is leveled, they, in fact, have a clear shot, and they have peace of mind, until they can turn to their kid and say with a degree of confidence, "Honey, it's going to be OK. It's going to be OK." That's what this is all about. RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: I want to thank you, as well, Martha, Danville, Kentucky, Centre College, and I want to thank you, Joe. It's been an honor to engage in this critical debate.

We face a very big choice. What kind of country are we going to be? What kind of country are we going to give our kids? President Obama, he had his chance. He made his choices. His economic agenda, more spending, more borrowing, higher taxes, a government takeover of health care. It's not working. It's failed to create the jobs we need.

Twenty-three million Americans are struggling for work today. Fifteen percent of Americans are in poverty. This is not what a real recovery looks like. You deserve better. Mitt Romney and I want to earn your support. We're offering real reforms for a real recovery for every American.

Mitt Romney -- his experience, his ideas, his solutions -- is uniquely qualified to get this job done. At a time when we have a jobs crisis in America, wouldn't it be nice to have a job-creator in the White House?

The choice is clear: a stagnant economy that promotes more government dependency or a dynamic, growing economy that promotes opportunity and jobs. Mitt Romney and I will not duck the tough issues, and we will not blame others for the next four years. We will take responsibility. And we will not try to replace our founding principles. We will reapply our founding principles.

The choice is clear, and the choice rests with you. And we ask you for your vote. Thank you.

RADDATZ: And thank you both again. Thank you very much.

BIDEN: Thank you.

RADDATZ: This concludes the vice presidential debate. Please tune in next Tuesday for the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in New York. I'm Martha Raddatz of ABC News. I do hope all of you go to the polls. Have a good evening.

(APPLAUSE)

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