The debate was certainly heated, but did it offer any solutions to the next generation? Members and staff from the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network and Pipeline weigh in.
Grant Ferowich, Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, Wake Forest
As Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney stated in consecutive debates, one message is clear: they stand for a strong(er) military. Indeed, Paul Ryan’s supposedly ruthless and draconian Budget Plan actually increases defense spending by 20 percent. The budget-minded Republicans apparently have a tainted perception of foreign policy. Since the end of the Cold War, the percentage of our national budget devoted to security has hardly changed. We are in an arms race with ourselves.
Despite attempts to reassure citizens with promises of security and protection, it seems that the Republican mindset fails to grasp that a bigger military means a bigger government. Furthermore, as the Simpson-Bowles Bipartisan Deficit Reduction plan notes, our nation cannot afford to be the world’s police. Currently, the U.S. spends more money on the military than the next 15 countries combined. This includes China, Russia, and the U.K., and the list goes on. It simply is not coherent for the Millennial Generation to accept a platform that promises to cut Pell Grants in half while increasing the size of a bloated military. And we of course must not forget the warning of General Dwight D. Eisenhower: “The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.”
Dante Barry, Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Chapter Services and Summer Academy Coordinator
We still got the standard talking points from both Vice President Joe Biden and from Congressman Paul Ryan, and we are still without answers to issues like education, immigration, money in politics, and so forth. I was disheartened to also not hear much for young people, despite Ryan’s disconcerting remarks about Social Security. Politically, Vice President Biden did what President Obama should have done last week, though it was an unsuccessful appeal to undecided voters, similarly to last week’s presidential debate with an aggressive Romney. I’m glad that we were able to see a well moderated debate that challenged both vice presidential candidates on their actions and their stances.
David Weinberger, Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline, New York
While it was clear to me that Vice President Biden was able to give the more articulate, level-headed, and progressive vision for America’s future last night, he could have been a bit stronger. It’s great that both campaigns claim to be fighting for a “fair shot” for the middle class. Indeed, the Obama administration has made some valiant efforts to bring quality education, health care, and other social and economic services to the middle class. But the administration has also made significant progress in ensuring that all Americans, regardless of background or location, have access to the environmental services that underpin public health and economic opportunity. Low- and middle-income Americans don’t have a fair shot without clean air, clean water, and access to clean and affordable energy resources. The Obama administration’s environmental record is by no means an environmentalist’s dream, but the air, water, and climate standards issued under it have been essential–and uncelebrated–components of the recovery. The American economy is nothing without the people who drive it, and that means that we must continue to invest in sustaining healthy communities. Environmental standards and green job investments are not points on the president’s record to run away from. The Obama campaign should embrace these accomplishments as linchpins in his recovery effort. By separating the president’s environmental record from his economic recovery agenda, the campaign is opening itself up to misguided accusations that the administration has sacrificed economic goals for investments in what Congressman Ryan claims is a failed green jobs program. I’ll take a solar installation job and clean water over asthma and a Medicare voucher any day.
Naomi Ahsan, Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, University of Rochester
My greatest disappointment last night was the lack of detail on Ryan’s too-good-to-be-true budget. Twenty-seven days out from an election that everyone says is about the economy, we still don’t have any specifics on the proposed tax cuts. Reducing potential revenues is the opposite of paying down a debt. We do know that austerity for our social insurance programs is going to materially increase Americans’ suffering. Ryan confirmed tonight that he and Romney don’t understand America’s struggle. It’s not just about saving money and having more to spend. It’s also about having a healthy economy with jobs, mobility, and the nurturing of research, education, and entrepreneurship. I do applaud the attention to American foreign policy, which historically and regrettably lacks democratic character in representing American opinions and respecting global humanitarian needs.
Mawish Raza, Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline, University of Maryland
Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan not only surprised viewers with a gripping, emotional debate, but one that was surprisingly stimulated by substance. Regardless of my personal views, both candidates presented the issues and represented their views through meaningful content. Unlike the enthusiasm, or lack thereof, during the first round of presidential debates last week, both exuded exhilaration throughout the course of the debate, from Vice President Biden’s sarcastic expressions to Congressman Ryan’s searing comebacks. Moderator Martha Raddatz also played the role of an actual moderator by pressing relevant, controversial issues, such as the war in Afghanistan, abortion, and the role of religion in policy. When discussing the tragic loss of Ambassador Stevens and the Obama administration’s reaction to the recent Middle East protests, Congressman Ryan indicated that the appropriate response to a tumultuous minority faction would have been to dismiss the film entirely and only deplore the violence that resulted. With all respect, Mr. Congressman, the glaring problem with this hard power approach — which would apply to all international affairs — is that it fails to create a relationship and dialogue with the resentful populations. Mr. Congressman, you probably didn’t notice, but during this misguided “Muslim rage,” there were other protests going on in regions such as Cairo — led by students occupying the American University of Cairo — for high tuition rates. Following this was a protest by doctors, also in Cairo. This is what the Arab Spring seemed to have missed and what the Romney-Ryan campaign has blatantly ignored. By simply reducing an entire region to the heinous crimes committed by an extremely small, misrepresenting faction, we are encouraging the anti-western sentiment that caused the loss of Ambassador Stevens, continues to influence the ayatollah’s negation, and triggers terrorist organizations to keep targeting American civilians. We should not defend these individuals and organizations that jeopardize and endanger our security and react aggressively. At the same time, rather than aggressively imposing our political standards and values on another culture through the presence of our military, we need to create dialogue and conversation that will stabilize a longer-lasting framework. When honoring the loss of a dearly departed diplomat, it is only just to continue the mission and values that he worked so hard to develop in Libya.
Tahsin Chowdhury, Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, CCNY
The vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan was indeed entertaining, and it was pleasant to see my peers who are not usually politically active to engage in a political discussion through social media. Some people were tweeting/writing statuses about Joe Biden’s use of the word “malarkey” and his laughter, and others were focused on more substantive issues. I had some issues with both candidates and their performance in the debate.
While Joe Biden was substantively the stronger candidate, consistently disproving Paul Ryan’s statements and aggressively standing his ground, it should not go unnoticed that he presented a degree of unprofessionalism in the debate. While Paul Ryan was making his arguments, Vice President Biden consistently interrupted with an argument and trying to disprove his opponent. My “left wing New York” peers were the first to criticize Mitt Romney about interrupting President Obama, but were reluctant to disagree with Joe Biden’s same tendencies. The same happened with my Romney supporter peers except vice versa. This double standard and stubborn bias is unproductive for American “political growth” of the youth and it’s sad to see that people’s objective approaches to a political discussion are waning in numbers. Joe Biden was also inaccurate on one of his statements about the fact the U.S. Embassy that was attacked in Libya did not request more diplomatic security personnel. Many journalistic sources claim they have. While I do not believe Joe Biden bluntly lied, I believe he is inaccurate and this was most likely an internal management flaw within the intelligence community. It does take government a lot of clearance to get from one end to the other. Vice President Biden should have cleared this information with his staff before the debate.That was a lack of responsibility from his end.
Paul Ryan had difficulty criticizing the opposition on foreign policy. When asked about how he’ll increase spending on the defense budget, he denied he said that and made the attempt to justify/fabricate what he said. Biden justified reallocation of defense funds elsewhere in the government by saying that America is ending its wars abroad slowly and money may not be well spent if such funding remains. Paul Ryan attempted to justify adding more to the budget by saying “we need more security” when we clearly spend more money on defense than all the other countries combined. He stumbled on the question of “what’s our current national security threat” and displayed utter weakness of his grasp of the topic. With regards to Afghanistan, they both tended to agree. However, Paul Ryan made the attempt to disagree, which showed weakness. Vice President Biden did a powerful job maintaining the argument that U.S. military was successful in training Afghani security forces.
Democrats and Republicans switched places from the first debate in the sense that Vice President Biden was playing offense and Paul Ryan was playing defense with a weak offense. He maintained accuracy of substance — for the most part, that is — and that makes him the “winner” in common wisdom. I look forward to the debate on foreign policy. It will be difficult for Mitt Romney to criticize President Obama on the topic, because much was accomplished in Obama’s four-year term as president: Osama Bin Laden was assassinated, Muammar Gadhafi was murdered and Libya “liberated,” Egypt democratized, and American interests in Southeast Asia were reaffirmed. And Obama continued many Bush policies while affirming the Iraq and Afghanistan troop withdrawal.