U.S. News is live blogging the vice presidential debate between Vice President Joe Biden and GOP vice presidential contender Paul Ryan in Danville, Ky., Thursday night.
Follow along as we verify, dissect, and add context to the candidates' arguments. And also check out our live opinion blog.
Getty Images transmits combination picture of Joe Biden cracking up during debate twitter.com/passantino/sta…— Jon Passantino (@passantino) October 12, 2012
- Huffington post: BIDEN’D
- Drudge Report: SMILE
- Washington Post: Sharp Words....
- NY Daily News: Vigorous Veep Debate...
- Daily Caller: Hoedown in Danville
- Daily Kos: A Debate Beatdown
- Breitbart: The 90-Minute Smirk
10:58 p.m. | Biden spoke for 41:32 minutes of the debate, while Ryan spoke for 40:12. During the roughly 90 minutes, a number of topics weren't discussed, including immigration, gay marriage, and education.
Photo: Biden and Ryan cross paths after debate twitter.com/passantino/sta…— Jon Passantino (@passantino) October 12, 2012
Moderator Raddatz pressed the candidates on Iran towards the debate's outset. In defending the administration’s policy towards the Iranian nuclear program, Vice President Biden said the country was a "good ways away" from acquiring a nuclear weapon. The exact status of the program is difficult to verify, but Iran does have hurdles to clear before it’s a nuclear threat, says David Mislan, a professor at American University’s School of International Service.
"The weapon is only one part of the equation, since Iran does not have reliable technology to deliver the weapon beyond southeastern Europe. I've seen estimates that put a deliverable nuclear weapon as soon as next year or as distant as the end of the decade." Mislan says. "It's a moving target that's too difficult to estimate."
But Mislan says Iran's economic issues play a large part in Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"Iran's inflation problems and financial isolation are likely to bankrupt the Iranian government before it can deliver a workable nuclear weapon," says Mislan. "Iran's financial isolation is a policy that began under Bush and intensified under Obama. Whether this is enough of a deterrent, however, if far from certain."
It's difficult to make the claim that al Qaeda is on the rise because of one event. Quite simply, a small group of terrorists exploited a weakness in our consulate's security and had access to heavy weapons in a post-conflict region.
— David Mislan, assistant professor at American University’s School of International Service
10:49 p.m. | Vice President Biden did not respond to Paul Ryan's comment that Biden was put in charge of the negotiations to obtain a Status of Forces Agreement to keep U.S. troops in Iraq, and that negotiations failed. As McClatchy reported at the time, "Throughout the summer and autumn, as talks on a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq foundered, President Barack Obama and his point man on Iraq, Vice President Joe Biden, remained largely aloof from the process, logs released by the U.S. Embassy here suggest." Now, with no U.S. troops left in Iraq, the Maliki government has been drawn further into Tehran's orbit, allowing Iraq's airspace to be used by Iran to funnel weapons to Syria's Bashar al Assad and struggling to respond to a renewed al Qaeda presence in the country.
— Jamie M. Fly, Executive Director, Foreign Policy Initiative
Paul Ryan said that the Romney tax plan would create 7 million jobs. In a recent ad, Romney said that these 7 million jobs would contribute toward a grand total of 12 million new jobs his administration would create. But to trumpet these sorts of figures is "misleading," says Robert Lehrman, adjunct professor in the School of Communication at American University. He points to recent CBO projections which already forecast over 8 million jobs being created between the first quarter of 2013 and the final quarter of 2017—a projection that does not depend on who wins in November.
Furthermore, as the Washington Post pointed out in August, Moody's Analytics has forecast that 12 million jobs would be created by 2016--once again, regardless of who is elected.
In other words, while presidents can influence job creation, plenty of that growth happens without the president's assistance.
"If either the administration or Romney says, 'I'm going to create seven or eight million jobs,' I think that is what you would call in rhetoric class a false cause," says Lehrman.
10:42 p.m. | Mr. Ryan suggested that, in the Romney-Ryan Medicare proposal, poor Medicare beneficiaries will be protected. Although key details of their proposal are unavailable, this protection would presumably come from the Medicaid program. The Romney-Ryan platform would convert Medicaid into a block grant, under which the decision of how and whether to protect low-income Medicare beneficiaries would be a decision made by each state—a decision that may well require tradeoffs between Medicaid support for low-income Medicare beneficiaries and Medicaid support for low-income children and parents, especially if funding for the Medicaid block grant grows more slowly than health costs.
— Jack Hoadley, Research Professor, Health Policy Institute, Georgetown University
The Huffington Post is reporting that Biden was winning the debate at the forty minute mark, according to a survey of "more than 300 voters from across the political spectrum" who voted instantly on their mobile phones. About two thirds of respondents said Biden was winning, while 36 percent said Ryan had the upper hand.
Among those who take it seriously, there are a couple of different views. One is that lower taxes will stimulate growth and therefore lead to more tax revenue for the government, even if tax rates are lower. Republicans basically tried that during eight years of the George W. Bush administration, and it didn't happen, but Romney says this time it might be different.
Second, some long-time tax experts, including those who were around during Reagan's 1986 reforms, think Romney may, in fact, have created a broad blueprint for tax reform, with Congress able to fill in the blanks if he becomes president. There is precedent for that too, since Congress will spend months deliberating over the tiniest details of any tax reform plan.
10:34 p.m. | While the candidates—both Catholics—talk abortion, a bizarre and silly photo of the two men is spreading across the Internet. The image, created by visual designer Shelby White, shows Biden and Ryan as they would look if they switched haircuts. Biden, we must say, looks a bit like Reagan in the coiffed brown hair.
10:31 p.m. | The discussion on taxes during the vice presidential debate focused on a study by the Tax Policy Center that it was said concludes that the Romney proposal would cut taxes by $5 trillion. The study does not conclude that the Romney proposal would decrease taxes by that much. The $5 trillion number is an extrapolation that has been made by others, not the authors of the study. In addition, the study is based on a number of significant assumptions. For example, it assumes no significant limitations on itemized deductions even though Gov. Romney has said he would limit itemized deductions available to high income individuals. Other studies have reached significantly different conclusions.
— David J Kautter, Managing Director, Kogod Tax Center, Kogod School of Business, American University
This is a marked difference from what Obama has claimed. The Obama line up until now has been that Romney intends to cut taxes for the wealthy by "$5 trillion." Here's where that came from: The Tax Policy Center analyzed Romney's tax plan and found that cutting every income tax bracket by 20 percent would cost the government about $480 billion in tax revenue per year. Obama has been extrapolating that to a 10-year time frame (and rounding up), by claiming that the overall tax cut would amount to $5 trillion. That doesn't account for the lower deductions and credits Romney claims he would enact, but Romney hasn't specified what those would be—an evasion Paul Ryan perpetuated in this debate, in the name of bipartisanship.
At any rate, Biden is making a more supportable claim, by simply characterizing the Romney tax cut based on the impact it would have in one year. He'll still get flack for failing to account for lower deductions, but Ryan / Romney aren't providing those, so the Biden claim, in factual terms, is something of an improvement on the Obama claim of $5 trillion.
10:25 p.m. | While Mitt Romney offered assurances Wednesday that he would protect tax deductions for the middle class, when it comes to the mortgage interest deduction, the details are foggy. The mortgage interest deduction allows homeowners to deduct their mortgage interest payments from their tax returns, reducing their taxable income. The deduction is considered sacred by many Americans, and crucial to the future of homeownership according to some experts. "[Romney and Ryan] have not specified which deductions would be cut," Jed Kolko, chief economist at real estate website Trulia, wrote in an E-mail. "Romney suggested capping deductions overall without specifying particular deductions. However, 49 percent of itemized deductions are housing related—mostly mortgage interest and also property taxes."
10:18 p.m. | Ryan's Uphill Fight for the Catholic Vote
The battle for the White House is raging between social justice Catholics and pro-life church goers.
10:16 p.m. | With regard to the Medicare voucher discussion, Vice President Biden explained the story accurately. It will be difficult for the value of the voucher—the federal financial support amount toward Medicare—to remain high enough to pay for the traditional Medicare program, especially if the oldest and sickest beneficiaries end up in the program while the healthier beneficiaries move into less expensive private plans. If the value of the voucher goes high enough to support the traditional program, the budget savings will not be achieved.
— Jack Hoadley, Research Professor, Health Policy Institute, Georgetown University
10:12 p.m. | Paul Ryan seems to be arguing that the Obama administration's foreign policy is making the United States weak. If the attack in Libya was a sign of weakness, then the United States has been weak for a while. More likely, however, it's not a sign of weakness at all. One only needs to look to the Lebanon attacks in 1983 and the bombings of our embassies in East Africa in 1999 to see that our staffers have been vulnerable to security threats long before the current administration.
Interestingly, the State Department has made it a priority after 9/11 (in Republican and Democratic administrations) to build safer embassies and consulates abroad. Further, the notion that all of our diplomats can be safe all of the time is mistaken; most importantly, the idea that this is a recent development due to a decline in American strength is a misrepresentation of U.S. foreign policy throughout recent history.
— David Bell Mislan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of International Service, American University
10:09 p.m. | Biden's smirking grin in the debate has already begun to go viral. There are now Biden grinning Twitter accounts and Biden grinning gifs. The Republican National Committee has also published a page called "What's so funny, Joe?" featuring photos of the vice president laughing along with criticism of his grin from political commentators.
Joe Biden claimed that Moody's endorsed the stimulus, and indeed, Moody's Analytics—not to be confused with the eponymous credit rating agency, though they are owned by the same company—did so, and heartily. Its chief economist, Mark Zandi, testified before the House Budget Committee in 2009 that while its stimulus plan would not completely mitigate the downturn, it would go a long way toward staving off job losses.
Though he acknowledged that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act could worsen the nation's long-term budget situation, he also pointed out to the committee in his written testimony that "the nation's budgetary problems will likely become even worse if policymakers do not respond aggressively to the crisis, because the sliding economy would undermine tax revenues and result in much higher government outlays."
As the Washington Post reported in 2009, Democrats widely welcomed the support from Zandi, who had been an advisor in John McCain's presidential campaign.
Since then, Zandi has reiterated his support of the program. In a 2010 paper co-written with Princeton University Professor Alan Blinder, the two economists wrote that "the effects of the fiscal stimulus alone appear very substantial, raising 2010 real GDP by about 3.4%, holding the unemployment rate about 1.5 percentage points lower, and adding almost 2.7 million jobs to U.S. payrolls."
Even moderator Martha Radditz got this a bit wrong. Medicare is the big concern, and it will in fact bankrupt the nation if nothing is done to arrest mushrooming costs that might eventually swamp the entire federal budget. Social Security is not really going bankrupt, and can be fixed with some relatively minor changes, such as raising the retirement age and reducing SS benefits for wealthy retirees. All we need on that are a few politicians willing to do it.
Medicare is the big deal, because medical costs are rising so fast and nobody really knows how to stop that. Also, baby boomers are joining the program en masse, pushing up the number of people in the program. The facts are complicated and ther'’s a lot of "Mediscaring" going on. Here’s a detailed analysis of basic facts by Factcheck.org. Bottom line: This program needs major fixes but it's not going bankrupt until 2024 at the earliest.
This too has been thoroughly vetted. Obamacare will divert $716 billion from providers and administrators, not from patients. Critics claim that providers will in turn pass on those losses to patients, but that's probably a stretch.
Ryan criticized the Obama Administration for billions in stimulus funding. However, in a letter to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Ryan requested stimulus money to grow two energy conservation companies back home in Wisconsin in 2009.
"After having these letters called to my attention I checked into them, and they were treated as constituent service requests in the same way matters involving Social Security or Veterans Affairs are handled," Ryan said in a statement in August. "This is why I didn’t recall the letters earlier. But they should have been handled differently, and I take responsibility for that."
According to records, the Energy Department did hand over $20.3 million to one of the energy companies.
9:50 p.m. | Ryan just got in a zinger during the discussion on Medicare. When Biden tried to interrupt him, the GOP VP candidate turned to him and said: "Mr. Vice President, I know you are under a lot of duress—to make up for lost ground"—a reference President Obama's widely criticized performance in the first presidential debate. Biden guffawed in response.
Reuters with an amazing Biden picture. twitter.com/BuzzFeedAndrew…— Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) October 12, 2012
Biden and Ryan have been bickering over whether sanctions on Iran are making a difference. Recent evidence suggests that sanctions, at a minimum, are causing disruptions in the Iranian economy. Inflation in Iran has recently become significant, if not severe, according to the Washington Post.
Sanctions always punish innocent citizens as a way of reaching political elites, and it's unclear if sanctions on Iran, while messing up the economy, will harden the regime's hold on power. Here's an analysis of the Iran sanctions so far, by the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
The monthly jobs report from the Labor Department consists of results from two distinct surveys. According to the establishment survey, in which businesses report their hiring, Ryan's assessment is correct. In July, establishments reported adding 181,000 jobs, followed by 142,000 in August and 114,000 in September.
However, the household survey, from which the unemployment rate is computed, jumped considerably last month. After falling by over 100,000 jobs in August, it showed a gain of 873,000 in September.
Still, that large jump comes with a caveat: The household survey has a larger margin of error than the establishment survey. A movement of 100,000 is statistically significant in the establishment figure, compared to 400,000 for the household survey.
9:35 p.m. | Biden has called Ryan "my friend" several times throughout the debate but has not yet referred to his opponent by name. Biden is also reacting to many of Ryan's arguments on foreign policy in Libya or Iran with a grin or even laughter. Jeff Thompson, a nonverbal communication researcher currently at Griffith University, says Biden's expressions appear "condescending" and like he's "not controlling his emotions."
9:20 p.m. | Biden said that the Obama administration didn't know that security officers in Libya wanted more security. However, during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Wednesday, a former State Department Regional Security Officer in Libya, Eric Nordstrom, testified that he sent multiple security requests to the State Department and was denied despite 230 incidences in the country this year.
9:15 p.m. | Raddatz also said the audience should silence their phones, recounting a time her cell phone once went off in a White House briefing. The ringtone: "Ridin' Dirty."
Raddatz is one of only a small number of women who have moderated the debates. There have been three female moderators before her since 1960, according to the Washington Post, and there will be one more on Tuesday, when CNN's Candy Crowley moderates the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in New York.
9:10 p.m. | The stakes are high tonight as Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan face off. Polls show a tight race with Romney leading over all. According to Real Clear Politics, Romney leads by a little more than half a percent.
Raddatz, the senior foreign affairs correspondent at ABC News, is moderating this debate. MSNBC is reporting that Raddatz has been asked to call Rep. Paul Ryan "Mr. Ryan,” and not "Congressman Ryan."
8:55 p.m. | The debate is just a few minutes away, and debate co-chairman Frank Fahrenkopf has just told the audience not to tweet for the entire 90 minutes because the light from the phone is distracting.
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Corrected on 10/12: An earlier version of this blog misattributed quotes to Robert Lerman, professor of economics at American University. The quotes are from Robert Lehrman, a professor in the school of communication at American University.