The Candidates and The World

Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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Debate Update: Joe Biden’s and Paul Ryan’s Foreign Policy

by Newsteam Staff
October 11, 2012

Members of the media work on the Centre College campus before the vice-presidential debate October 10, 2012. (Matt Sullivan/Courtesy Reuters) Members of the media work on the Centre College campus before the vice-presidential debate October 10, 2012. (Matt Sullivan/Courtesy Reuters)


Vice President Joe Biden and vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan are scheduled to debate tonight in the first and only vice-presidential debate of the campaign.

Because of recent events in the Middle East and moderator Martha Raddatz’s position as a  foreign affairs correspondent, international issues are likely to get more time than they did in the first presidential debate last week, reports the New York Times. Joe Biden is a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is likely to contrast this with Paul Ryan’s relative inexperience in the realm of foreign affairs, the Times also notes.

James Traub writes in Foreign Policy that “on foreign policy, Biden is the most powerful U.S. vice president in history save for his immediate predecessor, Dick Cheney.” Traub goes on to note:

Once [President] Obama took office, he dispatched Biden to the Balkans, to Lebanon, and to Georgia and Ukraine to put out fires and issue strategic reassurances — though Biden started a small fire of his own when he returned from this last trip to say that Russia had a “withering economy.” The president asked him to deliver a key strategic address in Munich, where Biden coined the term “reset” to describe the administration’s plan to restore relations with Russia as part of the new paradigm of “engagement.” Biden quickly became a chief strategist, devil’s advocate, and implementer of White House foreign policy.

Meanwhile, although Ryan is a relative newcomer to the political and foreign policy scenes compared with Biden, he has visited both Iraq and Afghanistan (NBC). He rebutted criticisms of the Republican ticket’s lack of foreign policy experience in an interview last month saying that his fourteen years as a member of Congress from Wisconsin is “more foreign policy experience” than Obama had four years ago when he ran for president after two years in the U.S. Senate, reports USA Today.

Ryan has backed up GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s (NBC) foreign policy objective of projecting U.S. strength around the world, telling a crowd in Ohio after Romney’s foreign policy speech Monday:

The point is, in a Romney administration, when we know that we are clearly attacked by terrorists, we won’t be afraid to say what it is. If terrorists attack us, we will say we had a terrorist attack and more importantly, we will do what is necessary to prevent that from happening by having a strong military, by making sure that our adversaries do not test us, do not think that we are a weak and in retreat.

Read what Obama and Romney are proposing for a number of major foreign policy topics in these CFR Issue Trackers.

–Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri

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