Vice President Joe Biden and GOP-nominee running mate Paul Ryan squared off in the sole Vice Presidential Debate of this election cycle at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky last Thursday.
It proved to be a drastic (if predictable) switch-up from the first presidential debate, with a perfectly-at-ease Biden aggressively calling Ryan out on what he felt was “malarkey.”
Congressman Ryan seemed to be attempting to channel the calm and collected demeanor our President is so well-known for. It worked out slightly better for him, but polling still holds that Biden came away the winner.
ABC’s Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz moderated, and it turns out there couldn’t have been a better woman for the job. Judging just from the outpouring of praise for her from social media outlets like Twitter, you would think she won the debate.
She’s deserving of every bit of it, though. Her more than 20-years experience as a reporter showed through in the depth and direction of her questions, and she was tough on both Biden and Ryan when it came to policy specifics.
Raddatz opened the debate up with a fast ball she was especially qualified to pitch as an expert on foreign affairs: the Obama administration’s slippery response to the September 11th, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Rather than let the running mates talk freely like Jim Lehrer did with Mitt and Barack in the first presidential debate, she kept the discussion underneath her thumb at all times, which was a good thing.
But the most important thing that Raddatz did during the discussion—the one thing that decided the debate, for me at least—was to ask a question divorced from party lines: “I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.”
This debate was historic for the simple fact that both candidates for the Vice Presidency are Catholic. Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, who are diametrically opposed to each other on so many hot topics, share something powerful—faith.
Ryan responded to the question first. “I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith,” he said. “Our faith informs us in everything we do… The policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.”
That’s where I feel Congressman Ryan (and by extension, any administration that takes this stance) is completely, utterly wrong. Faith determines who you are as a person, but should your faith define someone else? Absolutely not.
When it was Joe Biden’s turn to respond, I held my breath.
“Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life,” he said. “But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews… I do not believe that we have a right to tell women they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor,” he continued.
My heart soared. That’s what I think our democracy should be—the application of just the right amount of government to meet the needs of everyone, not just the Catholics, Protestants or the wealthy elite.
The difference between Ryan’s answer and Biden’s is the difference between the two futures for America that this election signifies. I hope when it’s all said and done, we have a democratic republic that equally serves all our needs--instead of a theocratic plutocracy.