Metro Weekly

Biden, Ryan Spar Over Range of Issues at VP Debate


The first and only vice presidential debate of the campaign concluded last night with no mention of LGBT issues.

Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan faced-off at Centre College in Danville, Ky. in a heated debate that many observers declared a draw.

For 90 minutes, Biden and Ryan addressed a number of issues, from taxes to foreign policy and the overall tone of the campaign.

Although social issues — specifically abortion — came up at the end of the debate, marriage equality and other LGBT issues were not mentioned.

Debate moderator Martha Raddatz, a senior foreign correspondent for ABC News, asked Biden and Ryan, who are both Catholic, what role faith plays in their public life.

“I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith,” Ryan said. “Our faith informs us in everything we do.”

Although Biden said his religion defines who he is, he said he will not let his religious views dictate policy that impacts those with differing religious views.

“I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and — I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman,” Biden added.

On the issue of abortion, Biden warned that the next president will likely appoint two Supreme Court justices, which could affect the ideological makeup of the high court for years to come.

Biden’s appearance at last night’s debate was the first time since May that he has addressed a national television audience while fielding questions from a reporter. Five months earlier, on May 6, Biden appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press and clearly stated his support for marriage equality.

Ryan, like Mitt Romney, supports amending the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Notably, advising Ryan’s debate preparation was Ted Olson, the conservative lawyer and former Solicitor General for President George W. Bush who is leading the legal fight against California’s Proposition 8.

Conservatives were largely critical of Biden’s performance, describing his frequent smiles and visible displays of dismay at Ryan’s answers as disrespectful.

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace described Biden’s behavior as “openly contemptuous and disrespectful.”

“I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a debate in which one participant was as openly disrespectful of the other as Biden was to Paul Ryan tonight,” Wallace said.

It was a sentiment echoed by GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia, who criticized Biden’s attitude toward the many issues discussed.

“Not only did Biden laugh his way through a discussion over their failed economic record, he also laughed his way through a discussion of this administration’s failed foreign policy in a dangerous world,” LaSalvia said. “Paul Ryan made it clear how seriously the Romney/Ryan administration would take America’s leadership in the world and in protecting Americans at home and abroad.”

Despite the criticism from Republicans, Democrats appeared energized by Biden’s performance, particularly after last week’s presidential debate where President Barack Obama left many supporters disappointed and dismayed.

Gay conservative blogger and Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan, who penned a devastating critique of Obama’s debate performance last week, praised Biden’s performance and equated it to the 2004 debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards.

“I have to say that Biden did to Ryan what Cheney did to Edwards in style and demeanor and authoritah. Ryan was hampered by an insurmountable problem on the impossible mathematics of the Romney budget,” Sullivan wrote. “I think his inability to answer that question – how do you pay for it? – has to be the driving question now.”

Obama watched the debate during his return from campaign events in Florida aboard Air Force One. Speaking to reporters after the debate, Obama said Biden was “terrific.”

“I could not be prouder of him,” Obama said, according to a pool report. “I thought he made a very strong case. I really think that his passion for making sure that the economy grows for the middle class came through.”

The next presidential debate will be held Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. The debate will be a town-hall format focusing on foreign and domestic policy.

WATCH Biden’s and Ryan’s answers on faith and abortion here:

Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's former political editor and White House correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @JustinCSnow.