Joe Biden and Paul Ryan Spar on Iran, Israel

Vice Presidential Candidates Feud Over Obama's Approach

Fighting Mad: Joe Biden and Paul Ryan came out swinging on the U.S. policy toward Iran and relations with Israel in their vice presidential debate.
getty images
Fighting Mad: Joe Biden and Paul Ryan came out swinging on the U.S. policy toward Iran and relations with Israel in their vice presidential debate.

By JTA

Published October 12, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan clashed over Iran’s nuclear program and U.S. relations with Israel during their televised debate.

Ryan assailed President Obama’s approach to the issue in Thursday night’s vice presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky. The Wisconsin congressman accused administration officials of sending “mixed signals” to Iran about U.S. resolve.

“They say the military option’s on the table, but it’s not being viewed as credible, and the key to do this peacefully is to make sure that we have credibility,” Ryan said. “Under a Romney administration, we will have credibility on this issue.”

Biden responded by noting the president’s repeated public statements that the U.S. will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran and touting the toughness of international sanctions that the administration has secured against the Islamic Republic. “These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions, period,” Biden said.

Biden asked Ryan: “You’re talking about doing more, are you going to war? Is that what you want to do now?” Ryan replied: “We want to prevent war.”

The Iranian nuclear issue was raised by the debate moderator, journalist Martha Raddatz, who said that “there’s really no bigger national security” issue facing the U.S. In their responses, the two candidates echoed the positions articulated by their respective running mates, with Ryan stressing that Iran must not be permitted a nuclear weapons “capability” and Biden emphasizing that Iran should be prevented from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Ryan said that Iran was “four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability” and added that U.S. sanctions on Iran were only implemented by Congress “in spite of the administration.”

Regarding the possibility of U.S. military action, Biden said “we feel quite confident we could deal a serious blow to the Iranians.” But the vice president added that Iran is “a good way away” from getting a nuclear weapon, adding that “there is no difference” between the Israeli and American assessments on this point. Biden said that “both the Israelis and we will know if they start the process of building a weapon.”

Ryan also criticized Obama for not meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his recent U.S. visit, to which Biden responded that Obama has “spoken to Bibi Netanyahu as much as he’s spoken to anybody.”

Referring to the Iranian bomb illustration that Netanyahu presented at the U.N. General Assembly, Biden said: “We will not allow the Iranians to get a nuclear weapon. What Bibi held up there was: when they get to the point where they can enrich uranium enough to put into a weapon. They don’t have a weapon to put it into. Let’s all calm down a little bit here. Iran is more isolated today than when we took office.”

The vice president criticized “all this loose talk about ‘All they have to do is get to enrich uranium in a certain amount and they have a weapon.’ Not true.” He added that “if we ever have to take action, unlike when we took office, we will have the world behind us, and that matters.”

Asked by Raddatz which would be worse, war or a nuclear-armed Iran, Ryan answered that the more dangerous scenario would be “a nuclear-armed Iran which triggers a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. This is the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism. They’ve dedicated themselves to wiping an entire country off the map. They call us the Great Satan, and if they get nuclear weapons, other people in the neighborhood will pursue their nuclear weapons as well.”

Biden said that “war should always be the absolute last resort” and stressed that sanctions are crippling for Iran. Echoing Obama’s past statements on the issue of all options being on the table, Biden said: “We’ve made it clear: Big nations can’t bluff. This president doesn’t bluff.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.