VP debate excerpts – Biden and Ryan spar over Syria

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript of Vice President Joe Biden and Republican nominee Paul Ryan’s exchange on intervening in Syria at the vice presidential debate on Oct. 11, 2012:

JOE BIDEN: What would my friend do differently? If you notice, he never answers the question.

PAUL RYAN: No, I would — I — we would not be going through the U.N. in all of these things.

BIDEN: Let me — you don’t go through the U.N. We are in the process now — and have been for months — in making sure that help, humanitarian aid, as well as other aid and training is getting to those forces that we believe, the Turks believe, the Jordanians believe, the Saudis believe are the free forces inside of Syria. That is underway.

Our allies were all on the same page, NATO, as well as our Arab allies, in terms of trying to get a settlement. That was their idea. We’re the ones that said, “Enough.” With regard to the reset not working, the fact of the matter is that Russia has a different interest in Syria than we do, and that’s not in our interest.

MARTHA RADDATZ: What happens if Assad does not fall, Congressman Ryan? What happens to the region? What happens if he hangs on? What happens if he does?

RYAN: Then Iran keeps their greatest ally in the region. He’s a sponsor of terrorism. He’ll probably continue slaughtering his people. We and the world community will lose our credibility on this. Look, he mentioned the reset…

RADDATZ: So what would Romney-Ryan do about that credibility?

RYAN: Well, we agree with the same red line, actually, they do on chemical weapons, but not putting American troops in, other than to secure those chemical weapons. They’re right about that.

But what we should have done earlier is work with those freedom fighters, those dissidents in Syria. We should not have called Bashar Assad a reformer. And…

RADDATZ: What’s your criteria…


RYAN: … we should not have — we should not have waited to Russia…

RADDATZ: What’s your criteria…


RYAN: … should not have waited for Russia to give us the green light at the U.N. to do something about it.

BIDEN: Russia…

RYAN: They’re — they’re still arming the man. Iran is flying flights over Iraq…

BIDEN: And the opposition is being armed.

RYAN: … to help Bashar Assad. And, by the way, if we had the status-of-forces agreement that the vice president said he would bet his vice presidency on in Iraq, we probably would have been able to prevent that. But he failed to achieve that, as well, again.

RADDATZ: Let me ask you a quick question.

BIDEN: I don’t…

RADDATZ: What’s your criteria for intervention?

BIDEN: Yeah.

RYAN: In Syria?

RADDATZ: Worldwide.

RYAN: What is in the national interests of the American people.

RADDATZ: How about humanitarian interests?

RYAN: What is in the national security of the American people. It’s got to be in the strategic national interests of our country.

RADDATZ: No humanitarian?

RYAN: Each situation will — will come up with its own set of circumstances, but putting American troops on the ground? That’s got to be within the national security interests of the American people.

RADDATZ: I want to — we’re — we’re almost out of time here.

RYAN: That means like embargoes and sanctions and overflights, those are things that don’t put American troops on the ground. But if you’re talking about putting American troops on the ground, only in our national security interests.



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