Vice Presidential Debate Transcript

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BIDEN: The ayatollah sees his economy being crippled. The ayatollah sees that there are 50 percent fewer exports of oil. He sees the currency going into the tank. He sees the economy going into freefall. And he sees the world for the first time totally united in opposition to him getting a nuclear weapon.

Now, with regard to Bibi, who's been my friend 39 years, the president has met with Bibi a dozen times. He's spoken to Bibi Netanyahu as much as he's spoken to anybody. The idea that we're not -- I was in a, just before he went to the U.N., I was in a conference call with the -- with the president, with him talking to Bibi for well over an hour, in -- in -- in stark relief and detail of what was going on.

This is a bunch of stuff. Look, here's the deal.

RADDATZ: What does that mean, a bunch of stuff?

BIDEN: Well, it means it's simply inaccurate.

RYAN: It's Irish.

BIDEN: It -- it is.

(LAUGHTER)

We Irish call it malarkey.

RADDATZ: Thanks for the translation. OK.

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: We Irish call it malarkey. But last thing. The secretary of defense has made it absolutely clear, we didn't walk anything back. We will not allow the Iranians to get a nuclear weapon. What Bibi held up there was when they get to the point where they can enrich uranium enough to put into a weapon. They don't have a weapon to put it into.

Let's all calm down a little bit here. Iran is more isolated today than when we took office. It was on the ascendancy when we took office. It is totally isolated.

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan?

BIDEN: I don't know what world this guy's living in. RYAN: Thank heavens we had these sanctions in place. It's in spite of their opposition.

BIDEN: Oh, god.

RYAN: They've given 20 waivers to this sanction. And all I have to point to are the results. They're four years closer toward a nuclear weapon. I think that case speaks for itself.

RADDATZ: Can you tell the American people...

BIDEN: By the way, they...

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: What's worse, another war in the Middle East...

BIDEN: ... they are not four years closer to a nuclear weapon.

RYAN: Of course they are.

BIDEN: They're -- they're closer to being able to get enough fissile material to put in a weapon if they had a weapon.

RADDATZ: You are acting a little bit like they don't want one.

BIDEN: Oh, I didn't say -- no, I'm not saying that. But facts matter, Martha. You're a foreign policy expert. Facts matter. All this loose talk about them, "All they have to do is get to enrich uranium in a certain amount and they have a weapon," not true. Not true.

They are more -- and if we ever have to take action, unlike when we took office, we will have the world behind us, and that matters. That matters.

RADDATZ: What about Bob Gates' statement? Let me read that again, "could prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations."

BIDEN: He is right. It could prove catastrophic, if we didn't do it with precision.

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: And what it does is it undermines our credibility by backing up the point when we make it that all options are on the table. That's the point. The ayatollahs see these kinds of statements and they think, "I'm going to get a nuclear weapon."

When -- when we see the kind of equivocation that took place because this administration wanted a precondition policy, so when the Green Revolution started up, they were silent for nine days. When they see us putting -- when they see us putting daylight between ourselves and our allies in Israel, that gives them encouragement. When they see Russia watering down any further sanctions, the only reason we got a U.N. sanction is because Russia watered it down and prevented these central bank sanctions in the first place. So when they see this kind of activity, they are encouraged to continue, and that's the problem.

BIDEN: Martha, let me tell you what Russia...

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: Well, let me ask you what's worse, war in the Middle East, another war in the Middle East, or a nuclear-armed Iran?

RYAN: I'll tell you what's worse. I'll tell you what's worse.

RADDATZ: Quickly.

RYAN: A nuclear-armed Iran which triggers a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. This is the world's largest sponsor of -- of terrorism. They've dedicated themselves...

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: ... to wiping an entire country off the map. They call us the Great Satan. And if they get nuclear weapons, other people in the neighborhood will pursue their nuclear weapons, as well.

RADDATZ: Vice President Biden?

RYAN: We can't live with that.

BIDEN: War should always be the absolute last resort. That's why these crippling sanctions, which Bibi Netanyahu says we should continue, which -- if I'm not mistaken -- Governor Romney says we -- we should continue. I may be mistaken. He changes his mind so often, I could be wrong.

But the fact of the matter is, he says they're working. And the fact is that they are being crippled by them. And we've made it clear, big nations can't bluff. This president doesn't bluff.

RADDATZ: Gentlemen, I want to bring the conversation to a different kind of national security issue, the state of our economy. The number-one issue here at home is jobs. The percentage of unemployed just fell below 8 percent for the first time in 43 months. The Obama administration had projected that it would fall below 6 percent now after the addition of close to a trillion dollars in stimulus money.

So will both of you level with the American people: Can you get unemployment to under 6 percent and how long will it take?

BIDEN: I don't know how long it will take. We can and we will get it under 6 percent. Let's look at -- let's take a look at the facts. Let's look at where we were when we came to office. The economy was in free fall. We had -- the great recession hit; 9 million people lost their job; $1.7 -- $1.6 trillion in wealth lost in equity in your homes, in retirement accounts for the middle class.

We knew we had to act for the middle class. We immediately went out and rescued General Motors. We went ahead and made sure that we cut taxes for the middle class. And in addition to that, when that -- when that occurred, what did Romney do? Romney said, "No, let Detroit go bankrupt." We moved in and helped people refinance their homes. Governor Romney said, "No, let foreclosures hit the bottom."

But it shouldn't be surprising for a guy who says 47 percent of the American people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives. My friend recently in a speech in Washington said "30 percent of the American people are takers."

These people are my mom and dad -- the people I grew up with, my neighbors. They pay more effective tax than Governor Romney pays in his federal income tax. They are elderly people who in fact are living off of Social Security. They are veterans and people fighting in Afghanistan right now who are, quote, "not paying any tax."

I've had it up to here with this notion that 47 percent -- it's about time they take some responsibility here. And instead of signing pledges to Grover Norquist not to ask the wealthiest among us to contribute to bring back the middle class, they should be signing a pledge saying to the middle class we're going to level the playing field; we're going to give you a fair shot again; we are going to not repeat the mistakes we made in the past by having a different set of rules for Wall Street and Main Street, making sure that we continue to hemorrhage these tax cuts for the super wealthy.

BIDEN: They're pushing the continuation of a tax cut that will give an additional $500 billion in tax cuts to 120,000 families. And they're holding hostage the middle class tax cut because they say we won't pass -- we won't continue the middle class tax cut unless you give the tax cut for the super wealthy.

It's about time they take some responsibility.

RADDATZ: Mr. Ryan?

RYAN: Joe and I are from similar towns. He's from Scranton, Pennsylvania. I'm from Janesville, Wisconsin. You know what the unemployment rate in Scranton is today?

BIDEN: I sure do.

RYAN: It's 10 percent.

BIDEN: Yeah.

RYAN: You know what it was the day you guys came in -- 8.5 percent.

BIDEN: Yeah.

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