Our View: Biden vs. Ryan
Posted: October 15, 2012
We’ll get to the theatrics of Thursday’s vice-presidential debate — oh boy, will we ever! — but let us first address the substance. That is, the meat and, at times, gristle — some easily enough digested and some resistant even to chewing — of the remarks tendered by Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.
The two candidates covered an awful lot of ground at moderator Martha Raddatz’ prompting. Both scored rhetorical points: Mr. Biden on Afghanistan and Mr. Ryan closer to home on such domestic issues as the economy and taxes. We’ll home in on three topics, the first of which is:
The Benghazi attack — Kudos to Ms. Raddatz for leading off the debate with this hottest of hot-button issues. Then again, her credibility — and what remains of the press’s, institutionally — was on the line.
If Mr. Ryan were an NFL coach, he could have thrown two red flags, challenging Mr. Biden’s version of events — first, on who knew what and when about the identity of the attackers and, second, on the call for additional security at the compound, a request that apparently escaped Mr. Biden’s attention.
In defending, after a fashion, the administration’s oft-repeated line — that the assault came in response to an anti-Islamic video — Mr. Biden all but threw the nation’s intelligence community beneath the bus. While it is true that community’s first-blush impulse was to attribute the bloody raid to reaction to the video — as Fox News’ Chris Wallace observed after the debate — it must also be noted this story changed within the first 24 hours of the incident. Intelligence officials knew then it was a terrorist attack. Nonetheless, the administration continued, ad nauseum, to link the violence to the sophomoric video.
Second, Mr. Biden flat-out stated he knew of no request for additional security at the Benghazi post. Nor, apparently, did anyone else in the West Wing. But, in riveting House testimony two days before the debate, it was twice noted, in no uncertain terms, that officials in Libya had asked for more protection.
So, dare we employ the word “cover-up,” or is “incompetence” more accurate? Definitely a question worth asking by Mitt Romney when he and President Obama tangle anew on Tuesday.
“Death panels” — Much as Mr. Romney did in the first presidential debate when the subject of ObamaCare came up, Mr. Ryan referred, albeit not by name, to the Independent Payment Advisory Board, that 15-person panel of unelected presidential appointees charged with the oversight of Medicare. Mr. Biden dismissed any further discussion of IPAB by noting Sarah Palin made a similar “death panel argument” four years ago.
But Mr. Ryan made no such reference. Instead, he merely observed that the deliberations of this panel — none of whose members “has to have medical training” — will “lead to denied care for current seniors.” And he could have pursued the matter further by pointing out that, come 2017 (if ObamaCare is still in effect), Congress will no longer have the legal power to challenge the diktats of this board.
Look for Mr. Romney to revisit this example of governmental overreach on Tuesday.
The HHS mandate — With regard to this controversial mandate — relative to coverage of abortion and contraceptive services under ObamaCare — that opponents maintain infringes on religious liberty, Mr. Biden had this to say: “Let me make it absolutely clear” — a fair indication that a fast-and-loose, or inaccurate, interpretation of something is on the way — “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.”
Though injudiciously cut off by Ms. Raddatz before he had a chance to further elaborate, Mr. Ryan countered with this devastating riposte: “Why would they keep suing you?” Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, speaking with radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham on Friday, followed up this line of rebuttal, stating, in essence: Try passing that off as “fact” to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, and the Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, who’ve spearheaded the Church’s legal response to the mandate.
Try, indeed. Again, another issue to be plumbed by Mr. Romney. Mr. Biden, for all his rhetorical hand-wringing, left a lot of dirty water in the sink Thursday night.