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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Vice Presidential Debate: Conclusion Explores Candidates' Personal Beliefs

Fiona Alfait |
October 11, 2012 | 8:30 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

(Neon Tommy)
(Neon Tommy)
The third portion of the debate focused on Afghanistan, Syria, abortion, the negative tone of the campaign and what each presidential candidate could bring if elected.

Moderator Martha Raddaz first asked the candidates what conditions they thought would justify U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan. 

Paul Ryan said that he and Mitt Romney do not want troops to say past 2014, yet at the same time don't want to give a definite withdrawal date, which to him is like saying to our enemies "put a date on your calendar, wait us out, and then come back."

Vice President Joe Biden instead stressed the importance of a clear date, which he asserted is necessary to impose so that Afghans step up to do the job, for they would have a definite date when they can no longer rely on the comfort of having international forces for support.

The candidates then discussed the withdrawal of surge troops from Afghanistan during the fighting season. 

Biden said that there's "nothing political about this" and it has to do with what the military said. Furthermore, he explained how withdrawing takes time and cannot happen all at once. Though the surge withdrawal does occur during the fighting season, the whole point is that American soldiers are being replaced with indigenous ones, and therefore this should not be an issue.

Ryan, on the other hand, found the timing of the withdrawal the most concerning. In his opinion, pulling the men out before the fighting season ends makes it less safe for the remaining men, as there are less doing the same job.

On the topic of Syria, the candidates were equally divided. 

Biden stressed the importance of taking time to work with those in the region to assure that the correct person takes control because "the last thing America needs is to get into another ground war in the Middle East."

Ryan felt that the current government was moving too slowly, and allowing for things that should not occur to happen. He referred to how Bashar al-Assad has been referred to as a reformer, and how foreign policy has been outsourced to foreign nations, allowing for Vladimir Putin to veto. In his opinion, if Assad does not fall, the U.S. will "lose credibility in the world community."

When pressed for how the Romney administration would act differently, Ryan gave no definite answer. Instead he stressed that each situation dictates its own circumstances.

The topic of abortion was much less clear cut, as both men are Catholic, and therefore fine definitions in faith came into play. 

Ryan took the stance that his personal faith and public opinion are tied, and for this reason is pro-life.

He said, "I don't see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do." Furthermore, he criticized the Democratic party for allying themselves too closely with abortion, which he feels is infringing upon religious liberties, citing examples such as Biden's visit to China.

Biden made a fine distinction in his faith. Though he, too, personally accepts his faith's position on abortion, unlike Ryan, he does "not believe that we have a right to tell other people that - women they can't control their body." Fundamentally, he said, he differs in opinion from his opponent.

Finally, the men discussed the negative tone of the campaign. Raddatz framed the question within the question of former soldier. Interestingly, both men focused more on addressing the soldier and utilizing the question as a platform for campaigning, rather than speaking on the tone of the campaigning. 

Biden apologized for the tone of the campaign, saying, "things have occurred in this campaign and occur in every campaign that I'm sure both of us regret."

Ryan focused more directly on Obama, who he feels "has now turned his campaign into attack, blame, and defame."

When asked what makes each candidate unique and best for the job, the men took different stances.

Ryan stressed his honesty. He assured voters that he will do and fix what he promises to - something he feels is very necessary right now in the country.

Biden stressed his record, and professional life of devotion to the middle class.

The candidates closing statements were both almost purely about the economy.

Biden, who spoke first as per the coin toss, focused on the Republicans' characterization of the American people, namely the 47 percent. He appealed to his life as a man very much of the middle class, and devotion to "evening the playing field."

Ryan directly appealed to the audience.

"We face a very big choice," Ryan stated, "What kind of country are we going to be? What kind of country are we going to give our kids?" He spoke of the failure of Obama and how the American people "deserve better"-- something that the Romney administration will do by focusing on job creation. He conclude with another direct appeal to the audience, making eye contact with the camera as he said, "The choice is clear, and the choice rests with you. And we ask you for your vote. Thank you." 


Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage on the 2012 election debates here.

Reach Staff Reporter Fiona Alfait here.



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