The debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan was considered a draw by CNN Political Analyst David Gergen. A CNN poll of undecided Virginia voters was split three ways: a third for Ryan, a third for Biden and a third still undecided. Political analysts from Fox News declared Congressman Ryan the clear winner and vice president material, while MSNBC felt Vice President Biden gave the young man from Jamesville, Wisconsin a lesson in facts and politics. A CBS poll reported that 50 percent of registered voters felt Biden won with 31 percent favoring Ryan. A click of the remote here and there and I found myself in the midst of political spin.
Fact check was busy with statements from both candidates. Ryan claimed that 20 million people would lose their health care insurance under The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but this was not true. Nor was his claim that Romney’s 20 percent tax cut across the board would not reduce tax deduction to the middle class, such as mortgage interest or education, according to the Tax Policy Center. And then there were misrepresented quotes when Biden said that Romney said, “Let the US auto industry go bankrupt,” but that was not exactly what he said. Romney said he would support a managed bankruptcy for the auto industry, but he did oppose the auto industry bail out. Quotes and facts are quite different when speaking of what a person said, as opposed to what a person’s plans are for America, but we hear what we want to hear, as was the case for various news agencies. But I am not an employee of CNN, CBS, FOX or MSNBC. Nor am I a registered Democrat or Republican, because I do not buy into party politics; I believe each and every politician requires close examination.
Such as in the case of Ryan’s response to the recent killings of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Libya. Ryan claimed that the president misinformed America of the terrorist attack on the embassy in Benghazi, suggesting it was a cover up and adding that President Obama should have provided embassy security. He said it was the unraveling of Obama’s foreign policy and that we should never apologize for our values. Biden shot back and reminded the young Congressman that he voted against a $300 million appropriation for embassy security and explained that Obama reported what US intelligence had reported to him and when they, after further investigation, changed their report Obama reported the change. If you followed the story there was much speculation initially, but no solid intelligence. However, Romney, before the news of Ambassador Stevens death could be confirmed, was televised condemning Obama for the outbreak in the Middle East. This was not disputed by Ryan—he simply turned the attack back onto Obama’s failed foreign policy.
However, Ryan never supported his claim and when it came to apologizing for our values he provided no specifics. It was simply another political slogan. Secretary Hillary Clinton’s statement to the Libyan people and Muslims throughout the Middle East disassociated the US government from the production of Sam Bacile’s nefarious YouTube video, “Innocence of Muslims,” and condemned its content. She did not apologize for American values. When Ryan was asked if he condemned the burning of the Koran he said, “Oh gosh yes.” Does this mean he opposes free speech, an American value? No, he is simply saying that we must be respectful, which is what Secretary Hillary Clinton said by condemning the video. I found this spin, by a vice presidential candidate, very disturbing.
Ryan claimed that the US wasn’t doing enough in Iran or Syria, but when quizzed on what exactly he would do differently he failed to offer substantive solutions. When discussing Afghanistan he agreed on the withdraw date of 2014, but said that drawing down troops left the remaining US troops in peril. Biden responded by making it clear that the Afghans were filling these voids and were being sent into Taliban strongholds. When Ryan claimed the US should do more in Syria the only thing he offered was the engagement of the freedom fighters earlier. He chose not to respond to or acknowledge Biden’s comments regarding the international community’s involvement. He made it clear that the US was no longer alone in deciding the outcome of international conflicts because Obama had won back their support, and he added that the US will not put American troops in harm’s way when sanctions, as in Iran, are working. Biden went on to say that war should always be the absolute last resort.
When I glimpsed the spin on Fox News, Ryan was touted as a foreign affairs guru, while MSNBC felt there was no substance behind his foreign policy attacks, but were impressed that he managed to memorize names and places. CNN and MSNBC said Biden brought energy and fight to the debate and Fox claimed Biden was rude and constantly interrupting Ryan.
The candidates were asked many interesting questions, but what caught my ear was the role their Catholic religion played on their personal views on abortion. Ryan said he believes that life began at conception because of religion, reason and science and is pro-life. He went on to say that he respects people that disagreed with him, but Romney’s administration policy opposes abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.
Biden claimed that his Catholic faith defines who he is and he accepts the church’s position on abortion, which is life begins at conception, but he refuses to impose his religious beliefs on equally devout Christians, Muslims and Jews. He said, “I do not believe that―that we have a right to tell other people that women, they―they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor, in my view…I’m not going to interfere with that.”
The Romney Ryan Administrative Policy on abortion fails to respect the religious beliefs of others. It contradicts Ryan’s accusations of Obama’s administration for attempting to force the Catholic Church into performing abortions at their hospitals and clinics, which was disavowed, so that religion is free from government, but government (the people) is not free from religion. The freedom of religion is central to American democracy and is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution. It guarantees religious liberty and strict separation of church and state. It states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” And while Ryan claims he respects people who disagree with him, he intends to impose his personal religious beliefs on others of different faiths with legislation. There is no respect in this proposition and it is contrary to the American values regarding the freedom of religion—American values Ryan uses so often in his speech.
A thousand words will never cover 90 minutes of intense debate, but I clicked the TV off feeling that when a person does not give specifics and instead uses high level political rhetoric and slogans to argue a position that require specifics, it becomes difficult to support much of what they say, regardless how well they say it. When that is coupled with fact checking that claims what they did say was false, especially as it relates to health care, taxes and the deficit, how is it possible to find value in their position? The clear differences in this debate were the contradictions I encountered regarding respect, the freedom of religion and American values by the confident and well spoken Ryan, something I did not encounter in the words of Biden, however so abrupt they may have been; just another spin.