Vice Presidential Debate Transcript

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Look, I -- I just -- I mean, these guys bet against America all the time.

RADDATZ: Can we talk -- let me go back to Libya.

BIDEN: Yeah, sure.

RADDATZ: What were you first told about the attack? Why -- why were people talking about protests? When people in the consulate first saw armed men attacking with guns, there were no protesters. Why did that go on (inaudible)?

BIDEN: Because that was exactly what we were told by the intelligence community. The intelligence community told us that. As they learned more facts about exactly what happened, they changed their assessment. That's why there's also an investigation headed by Tom Pickering, a leading diplomat from the Reagan years, who is doing an investigation as to whether or not there are any lapses, what the lapses were, so that they will never happen again.

RADDATZ: And they wanted more security there.

BIDEN: Well, we weren't told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again. And by the way, at the time we were told exactly -- we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew. That was the assessment. And as the intelligence community changed their view, we made it clear they changed their view.

That's why I said we will get to the bottom of this. You know, usually when there's a crisis, we pull together. We pull together as a nation. But as I said, even before we knew what happened to the ambassador, the governor was holding a press conference -- was holding a press conference. That's not presidential leadership.

RADDATZ: Mr. Ryan, I want to ask you about -- the Romney campaign talks a lot about no apologies. He has a book called called "No Apologies." Should the U.S. have apologized for Americans burning Korans in Afghanistan? Should the U.S. apologize for U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses?

RYAN: Oh, gosh, yes. Urinating on Taliban corpses? What we should not apologize for...

RADDATZ: Burning Korans, immediately?

RYAN: What -- what we should not be apologizing for are standing up for our values. What we should not be doing is saying to the Egyptian people, while Mubarak is cracking down on them, that he's a good guy and, in the next week, say he ought to go.

What we should not be doing is rejecting claims for -- for calls for more security in our barracks, in our Marine -- we need Marines in Benghazi when the commander on the ground says we need more forces for security. There were requests for extra security; those requests were not honored.

Look, this was the anniversary of 9/11. It was Libya, a country we knew we had Al Qaida cells there, as we know Al Qaida and its affiliates are on the rise in Northern Africa. And we did not give our ambassador in Benghazi a Marine detachment?

Of course there's an investigation, so we can make sure that this never happens again, but when it comes to speaking up for our values, we should not apologize for those. Here's the problem. Look at all the various issues out there, and it's unraveling before our eyes. The vice president talks about sanctions on Iran. They got -- we've had four...

RADDATZ: Let's move to Iran. I'd actually like to move to Iran, because there's really no bigger national security...

RYAN: Absolutely.

RADDATZ: ... this country is facing. Both President Obama and Governor Romney have said they will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, even if that means military action. Last week, former Defense Secretary Bob Gates said a strike on Iran's facilities would not work and, quote, "could prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations." Can the two of you be absolutely clear and specific to the American people how effective would a military strike be? Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: We cannot allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapons capability. Now, let's take a look at where we've gone -- come from. When Barack Obama was elected, they had enough fissile material -- nuclear material to make one bomb. Now they have enough for five. They're racing toward a nuclear weapon. They're four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability.

We've had four different sanctions, the U.N. on Iran, three from the Bush administration, one here. And the only reason we got it is because Russia watered it down and prevented the -- the sanctions from hitting the central bank.

Mitt Romney proposed these sanctions in 2007. In Congress, I've been fighting for these sanctions since 2009. The administration was blocking us every step of the way. Only because we had strong bipartisan support for these tough sanctions were we able to overrule their objections and put them in spite of the administration.

Imagine what would have happened if we had these sanctions in place earlier. You think Iran's not brazen? Look at what they're doing. They're stepping up their terrorist attacks. They tried a terrorist attack in the United States last year when they tried to blow up the Saudi ambassador at a restaurant in Washington, D.C.

And talk about credibility? When this administration says that all options are on the table, they send out senior administration officials that send all these mixed signals.

And so, in order to solve this peacefully -- which is everybody's goal -- you have to have the ayatollahs change their minds. Look at where they are. They're moving faster toward a nuclear weapon. It's because this administration has no credibility on this issue. It's because this administration watered down sanctions, delayed sanctions, tried to stop us for putting the tough sanctions in place.

Now we have them in place because of Congress. They say the military option's on the table, but it's not being viewed as credible. And the key is to do this peacefully, is to make sure that we have credibility. Under a Romney administration, we will have credibility on this issue.

RADDATZ: Vice President Biden?

BIDEN: It's incredible. Look, imagine had we let the Republican Congress work out the sanctions. You think there's any possibility the entire world would have joined us, Russia and China, all of our allies? These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions, period. Period.

When Governor Romney's asked about it, he said, "We gotta keep these sanctions." When he said, "Well, you're talking about doing more," what are you -- you're going to go to war? Is that what you want to do?

RYAN: We want to prevent war.

BIDEN: And the interesting thing is, how are they going to prevent war? How are they going to prevent war if they say there's nothing more that we -- that they say we should do than what we've already done, number one.

And number two, with regard to the ability of the United States to take action militarily, it is -- it is not in my purview to talk about classified information. But we feel quite confident we could deal a serious blow to the Iranians.

But number two, the Iranians are -- the Israelis and the United States, our military and intelligence communities are absolutely the same exact place in terms of how close -- how close the Iranians are to getting a nuclear weapon. They are a good way away. There is no difference between our view and theirs.

When my friend talks about fissile material, they have to take this highly enriched uranium, get it from 20 percent up, then they have to be able to have something to put it in. There is no weapon that the Iranians have at this point. Both the Israelis and we know -- we'll know if they start the process of building a weapon.

So all this bluster I keep hearing, all this loose talk, what are they talking about? Are you talking about, to be more credible -- what more can the president do, stand before the United Nations, tell the whole world, directly communicate to the ayatollah, we will not let them acquire a nuclear weapon, period, unless he's talking about going to war.

RYAN: Martha? Let's...

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan? RYAN: Let's look at this from the view of the ayatollahs. What do they see? They see this administration trying to water down sanctions in Congress for over two years. They're moving faster toward a nuclear weapon. They're spinning the centrifuges faster.

They see us saying when we come into the administration, when they're sworn in, we need more space with our ally, Israel. They see President Obama in New York City the same day Bibi Netanyahu is and he, instead of meeting with him, goes on a -- on a daily talk show.

They see, when we say that these options are on the table, the secretary of defense walked them back.

They are not changing their mind. That's what we have to do, is change their mind so they stop pursuing nuclear weapons, and they're going faster.

RADDATZ: How do you do it so quickly? Look, you -- you both saw Benjamin Netanyahu hold up that picture of a bomb with a red line and talking about the red line being in spring. So can you solve this, if the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, can you solve this in two months before spring and avoid nuclear -- nuclear...

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: We can debate a time line. We can debate the time line, whether there's -- it's that short a time or longer. I agree that it's probably longer.

Number two, it's all about...

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: You don't agree with that bomb and whether the Israelis...

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: I don't want to go into classified stuff. But we both agree that to do this peacefully you've got to get them to change their minds. They're not changing their minds. And look at what this administration...

RADDATZ: But what -- what do...

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: Let me tell you what the ayatollah sees.

RYAN: You have to have credibility.

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