DANVILLE, Kentucky (Reuters) - Key quotes from Thursday’s debate between Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for vice president:
* On the fatal assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens:
BIDEN: “I can make absolutely two commitments to you and all the American people tonight. One, we will find and bring to justice the men who did this. And secondly, we will get to the bottom of it, and whatever - wherever the facts lead us, wherever they lead us, we will make clear to the American public, because whatever mistakes were made will not be made again.”
RYAN: ”Look, if we’re hit by terrorists we’re going to call it for what it is, a terrorist attack. Our ambassador in Paris has a Marine detachment guarding him. Shouldn’t we have a Marine detachment guarding our ambassador in Benghazi, a place where we knew that there was an al Qaeda cell with arms?
“... What we are watching on our TV screens is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy.”
* On U.S. policy in the Middle East:
RYAN: “We should not be imposing these devastating defense cuts ... When we show that we’re cutting down on defense, it makes us more weak. It projects weakness. And when we look weak, our adversaries are much more willing to test us.”
BIDEN: “With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey ... not a single thing he said is accurate.”
* On Iran’s efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon:
RYAN: ”When Barack Obama was elected, they had enough fissile material - nuclear material to make one bomb.
”Now they have enough for five. They’re racing toward a nuclear weapon. They’re four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability.
“The Obama administration says the military option’s on the table but it’s not being viewed as credible.”
BIDEN: ”Imagine had we let the Republican Congress work out the sanctions. You think there’s any possibility the entire world would have joined us, Russia and China, all of our allies? These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions, period.
“So all this bluster I keep hearing (from Republicans), all this loose talk, what are they talking about?”
* On the economy:
BIDEN: “We knew we had to act for the middle class. We immediately went out and rescued General Motors. We went ahead and made sure that we cut taxes for the middle class. And in addition to that, when that - when that occurred, what did Romney do? Romney said, ‘No, let Detroit go bankrupt.’ We moved in and helped people refinance their homes. Governor Romney said, ‘No, let foreclosures hit the bottom.'”
RYAN: ”Look, did they come in and inherit a tough situation? Absolutely. But we’re going in the wrong direction. Look at where we are. The economy is barely limping along. It’s growing at 1.3 percent. That’s slower than it grew last year and last year was slower than the year before.
“Job growth in September was slower than it was in August, and August was slower than it was in July. We’re heading in the wrong direction; 23 million Americans are struggling for work today; 15 percent of Americans are living in poverty today. This is not what a real recovery looks like.”
* On Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s videotaped remarks that the roughly 47 percent of Americans who do not pay income taxes are “victims” looking for handouts:
RYAN: “This is a man who gave 30 percent of his income to charity, more than the two of us combined. Mitt Romney’s a good man. He cares about 100 percent of Americans in this country. And ... I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.”
BIDEN: “I don’t doubt his personal generosity. ... But you know what? I know he had no commitment to the automobile industry. He just - he said, let it go bankrupt, period. Let it drop out. All this talk - we saved a million jobs. Two hundred thousand people are working today. And I’ve never met two guys (Romney and Ryan) who’re more down on America across the board.”
* On Social Security:
BIDEN: ”Let’s talk about Medicare. What we did is, we saved $716 billion and put it back, applied it to Medicare. We cut the cost of Medicare. We stopped overpaying insurance companies, doctors and hospitals. The AMA supported what we did. AARP endorsed what we did. And it extends the life of Medicare to 2024. They want to wipe this all out.
“With regard to Social Security, we will not ... privatize it. If we had listened to Romney and the congressman during the Bush years, imagine where all those seniors would be now if their money had been in the market. Their ideas are old and their ideas are bad.”
RYAN: “Here’s the problem. They got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, turning Medicare into a piggy bank for Obamacare. Their own actuary from the administration came to Congress and said one out of six hospitals and nursing homes are going to go out of business as a result of this.”
BIDEN: “That’s not what they said.”
RYAN: “Mr. Vice President, I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground but I think people would be better served if we don’t keep interrupting each other.”
BIDEN: ”... The bottom line here is that all the studies show that if we went with Social Security proposal made by Mitt Romney, if you’re ... in your 40s now you will (get) $2,600 a year ... less in Social Security. If you’re in your 20s now, you get $4,700 less.
“The idea of ... (cutting) benefits for people without taking other action you could do to make it work is absolutely the wrong way. (Republicans) haven’t been big on Medicare from the beginning. ... And they’ve always been about Social Security as little as you can do.”
RYAN: ”This is what politicians do when they don’t have a record to run on: try to scare people from voting for you.
“Medicare and Social Security did so much for my own family. We are not going to jeopardize this program but we have to save it.”
* On taxes:
RYAN: “What we are saying is, lower tax rates across the board and close loopholes, primarily to the higher-income people. We have three bottom lines: Don’t raise the deficit, don’t raise taxes on the middle class and don’t lower the share of income that is borne by the high-income earners.”
BIDEN: “Let’s look at how sincere they are. Ronald - I mean, excuse me, Governor Romney on ‘60 Minutes’ ... was asked, ‘Governor, you pay 14 percent (income tax rate) on $20 million (income). Someone making $50,000 pays (a higher rate) than that. Do you think that’s fair?’ He said, ‘Oh, yes, that’s fair.'”
RYAN: “You can - you can cut tax rates by 20 percent and still preserve these important preferences for middle-class taxpayers.”
BIDEN: “Not mathematically possible.”
RYAN: “It is mathematically possible. It’s been done before. It’s precisely what we’re proposing.”
BIDEN: “It has never been done before.”
RYAN: “It’s been done a couple of times, actually.”
BIDEN: “It has never been done before.”
RYAN: “Jack Kennedy lowered tax rates, increased growth. Ronald Reagan...”
BIDEN: “Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy?”
* On Afghanistan:
BIDEN: ”We went there for one reason: to get those people who killed Americans, al Qaeda. We’ve decimated al-Qaeda central. We have eliminated Osama bin Laden. That was our purpose.
“We’ve agreed on a gradual drawdown so we’re out of there by ... 2014. (Ryan and Romney) say (their plan for withdrawal would be) based on conditions, which means it depends. It does not depend for us. It is the responsibility of the Afghans to take care of their own security. We have trained over 315,000, mostly without incident. But we are leaving ... And in the process, we’re going to be saving over the next 10 years another $800 billion.”
RYAN: “We want to make sure that 2014 is successful. That’s why we want to make sure that we give our commanders what they say they need to make it successful. We don’t want to extend beyond 2014.”
* On abortion:
RYAN: ”You want to ask basically why I‘m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course. But it’s also because of reason and science.
”You know, I think about 10 1/2 years ago, my wife Janna and I went to Mercy Hospital in Janesville (Wisconsin) where I was born, for our seven-week ultrasound for our first-born child, and we saw that heartbeat. A little baby was in the shape of a bean. And to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child Liza, ‘Bean.’ Now I believe that life begins at conception.
“That’s why - those are the reasons why I‘m pro-life. Now I understand this is a difficult issue, and I respect people who don’t agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.”
BIDEN: ”My religion defines who I am and I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And has particularly informed my social doctrine ... With regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a ... doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.
“But 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. I do not believe that we have a right to tell ... women they can’t control their body.”
Reporting by David Lindsey; Editing by Christopher Wilson and Bill Trott