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2012 Vice-Presidential Debate Summary

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2012 Vice-Presidential Debate

Vice-President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Importance of Vice-Presidential Debate:

After the first Presidential debate on October 3, 2012, President Barack Obama started falling in the polls against Republican contender Governor Mitt Romney. For that reason, the Vice-Presidential debate held on October 11 in Danville, Kentucky was much anticipated.

It was also anticipated because it pitted two very strong debaters, Vice-President Joe Biden and and the Republican VP nominee, Congressman Paul Ryan. The moderator was Chief Foreign Correspondent Martha Raddatz of ABC News, who asked nine major questions on both foreign and domestic topics. Here's a summary of how the candidates answered the questions during the debate, and factchecks where available.

1. Was the Handling of the Attack in Libya a Foreign Policy Mistake?:

Biden: We will serve justice to the perpetrators. We will review and correct any mistakes. We didn't know they needed more security. (Factcheck: Administration officials refused requests, saying they were training Libyans.)

Ryan: We should have a Marine detachment guarding Ambassadors in areas with known al-Qaeda operatives. We are now projecting weakness abroad, especially with defense spending cuts. Biden: Obama has repaired alliances, and has spent more on defense than any other President.

Raddatz: Should the U.S Apologize for Burning Korans? Ryan: Yes, but we shouldn't apologize for our values.

Raddatz: How Effective Would a Military Strike Against Iran Be? Ryan: We tried to enforce sanctions, but Obama tried to stop us. This makes us look weak in the eyes of the Ayahtollah. Biden: These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions. We could deal a serious blow militarily to Iran. However, they are still a good way away from making a nuclear bomb. They have the material, but no weapons-grade container to put it in. Obama has said we will not let them get a nuclear weapon period. Facts matter: they don't have a nuclear weapon.

2. Can You Get Unemployment Under 6%, and How Long Will It Take?:

Biden: We can, but I don't know how long it will take. Republicans should get out of the way and allow the tax cuts on the middle class be approved, without holding it ransom for the tax cuts for the wealthy, and for saying 47% of Americans are dependent on government. Republicans helped create recession and unbalanced budget. For more, see U.S. Debt by President.

Ryan: We are heading in the wrong direction. We need real reforms for a real recovery. Outlined Romney's five point plan: Energy independence, more free trade, training, create a balanced budget, and don't increase taxes on small businesses. Get the economy growing at 4%, and create 12 million jobs in four years. Ryan attacked the Obama economic stimulus program, but asked for stimulus money for his area.

3. Will You Change Benefits for Social Security and Medicare?:

Ryan: Yes. Must change them for people who are 54 or younger to preserve it for those 55+. Give younger people the choice of Medicare or private insurance. Benefits will be cut for the wealthier. Low income will have all their costs be paid. Let younger Americans be able to choose private plans instead of Social Security.

Biden: Cut $716 billion from payments to providers under Medicare Advantage, keeping Medicare solvent till 2033. Biden kept interrupting Ryan to counter various points he made. The Romney/Ryan voucher won't keep pace with health care costs. It will cost the average senior $6,400 more. We won't be part of any plan to privatize Medicare or Social Security.

4. Who Will Pay More in Taxes and Who Will Pay Less?:

Biden: If the Bush tax cuts are extended to those making $250,000 or more, that means that 120,000 families, with an average income $8 million, will get a total of $500 billion in tax breaks over the next 10 years. This will end up raising taxes on middle class. 97% of small businesses make less than $250,000 a year. Many of businesses making above $250,000 a year are hedge funds.

Ryan: Revoking Bush tax cuts will raise top level above 40%, and tax 53% of small business income. It will place higher taxes on 1 million small businesses. Even with tax increase, it won't pay for all deficit spending. We need fundamental tax reform. Lower tax rates 20% across the board, and close $5 trillion in loopholes for upper income, without affecting the mortgage deduction for middle income families. Six studies have confirmed the numbers will work.

5. How Can We Raise Defense Spending Without Increasing the Deficit?:

Ryan: Obama plans to cut by $1 trillion.

Biden: The Joint Chiefs of Staff asked for a smaller, leaner force.

Raddatz: Why Can't We Leave Afghanistan Now? Ryan: We agree that we should leave in 2014. We have to make sure we have what we need to keep the Taliban out. We don't want to advertise to our enemies that they can just wait us out. We took troops out during the fighting season, leaving our remaining troops vulnerable.

Biden: We went to Afghanistan to get al-Qaeda. We did that. We will help train Afghanistan's military, and then get out by 2014. This will save over $800 billion over the next 10 years. The only way Kabul will step up is if we set a deadline. When we pulled out, we trained Afghan troops to replace us.

6. Why Don't We Do More to Support Syria?:

Biden: Five times the population, heavily populated, in the most dangerous of the world, will impact the entire region. We are working hand-in-glove with Saudis, Turks, Qatar to identify who should be supported after Assad goes. The last we thing need to do is put boots on the ground in Syria, it would add to the deficit.

Ryan: Nobody is proposing boots on the ground. We wouldn't go through the UN, allowing Putin to veto our plans. We should have moved in sooner directly with our allies. Iran keeps their greatest ally in the region. We will lose our credibility. Raddatz: What Is Your Criteria for Intervention? Ryan: The strategic national interest of our country. Not humanitarian.

7. What Your Has Your Catholic Religion Played in Your Views on Abortion?:

Ryan: My faith informs me in everything I do. I'm pro-life, not just because of my faith, but also because of reason and science. I believe life begins at conception. The policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortion with the exception of rape, incest and the safety of the mother. Support unrestricted taxpayer funding of abortions.

Biden: My religion defines who I am. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can't take care of themselves. I accept that life begins at conception, but I don't think the government has the right to impose that on others. We don't have the right to tell women they don't have control of their body. No religious entity has to be a source for abortion or contraception in any healthcare program we've developed.

8. What Would Say to a Veteran About the Negative Tone of This Campaign?:

Biden: The only sacred obligation we have is to equip our armed forces who are in harm's way. He shouldn't be counted as part of the 47%. I'm sure both sides are dismayed by the negative campaign messages, especially by Super-PACS. Ryan: We won't cut defense. Obama has broken promises. For example, he said he won't raise taxes for those making less than $250,000. Instead, many of Obamacare's taxes fall on middle class. Biden: Ryan's budget cuts education by $415 billion. Increases tax cuts for the very wealthy.

9. What Would You Bring to the Job of President?:

Ryan: You need people who will do what they say they are going to do. The five-point plan will put people back to work. Biden: I do what I say I'll do. My whole career is about helping the middle class. Making Main Street and Wall Street on the same playing field.

Closing Statements

Biden: I'm frustrated with Romney/Ryan attitude about the middle class. Want to level the playing field for the middle class. Ryan: What kind of country are we going to be? Obama had his chance, higher taxes, government take-over of health care, more spending -- it's not working. You deserve better. We're offering real reform for a real recovery. (Sources: NBC News live broadcast, Live blog, NPR Presidential Debate, October 11, 2012; ABC, Vice-Presidential Debate Transcript, October 11, 2012)

Debate Schedule

The second presidential debate will be on October 16. The third and final debate is on October 22. Article updated October 11, 2012.
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