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Bessent: Joe Biden, Paul Ryan clash over Libya attacks, Iran sanctions

Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan of

Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, right, listens as Vice President Joe Biden makes a point during the vice presidential debate at Centre College, in Danville, Ky. (Oct. 11, 2012) (Credit: AP)

It’s on!

The vice presidential debate started Thursday night on Vice President Joe Biden’s foreign policy turf with a question about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. After solemnly promising to get the people responsible, Biden pivoted — in a New York minute — to attacking Mitt Romney.

He slammed him for saying he wouldn’t move heaven and earth to get bin Laden, and for taking issue with the administration’s decision to set dates certain for ending the long, unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Republican Paul Ryan fired back. He called President Barack Obama weak on foreign policy, and blasted him for sitting by while his foreign policy “unraveled.”

But Biden then did something Obama never managed in debating Mitt Romney. He essentially called Ryan a liar. “With all due respect that’s a bunch of malarkey,” he said.

“Not one thing he said was true.”

On Iran it was Ryan who seized the offensive. In a rapid-fire attack he slammed the Obama administration for failing to change Iranian officials' minds about their nuclear program, attempting to water down sanctions, authorizing too many exceptions and showing daylight between the United States and Israel by refusing to meet with Israeli  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month in New York.

Biden changed tack. He adopted the posture of the mature policy maven, insisting the sanctions are working and that the administration has been clear it will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons.

President Obama may have been passive and distracted in his debate last week. Not Biden. The danger, of course, is that his mouth may get out ahead of his head. 

But Ryan almost visibly breathed a sign of relief when the questioning turned to the economy.

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