CBS Puts Ryan on Defensive, Goes Soft on Libya for Biden

While CBS This Morning hosts served Vice President Joe Biden softball questions on mostly horserace issues and debate optics, they challenged Paul Ryan to defend his voting record.

"Does Governor Romney believe the President was right to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law? You voted against that act, didn't you?" pressed co-host Anthony Mason. In contrast, when Biden was asked about the Libya fiasco at the very end of his interview, Norah O'Donnell molded it into a more friendly question.

"And you said that you were not told about the requests for extra security at the Consulate. I have to ask you, do you wish you had been told?" she asked the Vice President.

CBS asked Biden two softball questions about Obama's debate performance and teed him up to critique Romney's "binders full of women" comment. When they pressed him, it was over non-substantial matters like debate antics and poll numbers.

"There was that one moment in the beginning of the debate where it looked like Governor Romney and President Obama were so close that perhaps the Secret Service was going to have to get involved. What did you make of that moment?" O'Donnell asked  Biden.

While Biden was asked how he thought or felt about various issues, CBS put Ryan on the defensive and pressed him to explain his running mate's "binders full of women" remark as well as his exchange over the Libya attacks.

"The Wall Street Journal editorial page this morning, a conservative editorial page, said that this back and forth over Benghazi was Mitt Romney's weakest moment in the debate. What happened?" O'Donnell inquired of Ryan. Only at the end of the interview did he receive softer questions about Biden's antics in the vice presidential debate.

A transcript of the interviews, which aired on CBS This Morning on October 17, is as follows:

[7:06 a.m. EDT]

NORAH O'DONNELL: And shortly after the debate I spoke with Vice President Joe Biden and I asked him why this was a different President Obama than the one we saw in the last debate.

(Video Clip)

JOE BIDEN, Vice President of the United States: The President Obama that I've worked with, sat with for four to six hours a day until this campaign started is the guy you saw tonight, the guy I see every single day. This is a guy who is absolutely committed to bringing the middle class back and you get this country on a road to recovery and continuing it. So, I mean, I wasn't surprised at all by what I saw tonight.

O'DONNELL: But you have to admit he seemed a bit more engaged in this debate than the last one, right?

BIDEN: Well, he was. He was. He had a great debate tonight. And I expect you'll see another great one next Monday.

O'DONNELL: Why do you think President Obama and your double-digit lead among women voters has evaporated in the latest USA Today/Gallup poll? What happened?

BIDEN: Well that's not what the guys on our team tell me. I think that – I think we still have a clear lead among women for a good reason, and you saw it tonight. You saw, you know, when Governor Romney was asked about everything from, you know, what was he going to do about everything from Lily Ledbetter to equal pay, he just obfuscated the issue.

O'DONNELL: I know you watched the debate. There was that one moment in the beginning of the debate where it looked like Governor Romney and President Obama were so close that perhaps the Secret Service was going to have to get involved. What did you make of that moment?

BIDEN: (Laughing) Well I thought that was real. See, the thing I liked about this debate, it was so real. You know, both men, you know, intent on making their points, and I just thought it was – I thought it brought a freshness, a realness to the whole thing in that town meeting setting as opposed to behind a podium or seated at a table where there's not much movement. But I wasn't worried about that. I know them both. Anyway, I wouldn't worry about them needing the Secret Service.

O'DONNELL: Well speaking of stylistic things that happened at debates, I want to ask you about your own debate with Paul Ryan. As you know, Saturday Night Live had a field day with that afterwards.

BIDEN: It was good, wasn't it? (Laughing)

O'DONNELL: Do you think your –  

BIDEN: It was hilarious.

O'DONNELL: Do you think your laughing at Paul Ryan was overdoing it a bit? Some people said that they didn't like it.

BIDEN: Well I wasn't laughing at Paul Ryan. I was laughing at the assertions being made by Paul Ryan. Some of the stuff that was being said in two minutes you get to answer were absolutely simply incredible. And so, I mean, it's fascinating how Governor Ryan, I mean Paul Ryan, Congressman Ryan has run away from the Ryan budget and his voucherizing of Medicare which he got passed in the Republican House of Representatives and Governor Romney said were he present he would sign it, all of a sudden somehow they're for all of that. It's laughable.

O'DONNELL: Mr. Vice president I have to ask you about another thing that happened in tonight's debate between Governor Romney and President Obama. It was on the issue, and when there was a question asked about equal pay and Governor Romney talked about filling his own cabinet in Massachusetts where he said he was not presented with any women to fill his cabinet so he said that he, quote, "went to a number of women's groups and said can you help us find folks, and they brought us whole binders full of women." What did you make of that remark?

BIDEN: Well let me put it this way, I've never had any problem when there's a job opening having as many women apply as men. I mean, so the idea that, that he got, you know, he had to go ask for help to find qualified women – there's so many qualified women walking around in Boston, Massachusetts where the capital of Massachusetts is, and the state capital and so many qualified women walking around every place in this country, the idea that you got to go ask help to find one, I didn't quite understand what he was talking about. They are in abundance.

O'DONNELL: I want to ask you about Libya, because certainly at the vice presidential debate that topic also came up. And you said that you were not told about the requests for extra security at the Consulate. I have to ask you, do you wish you had been told?

BIDEN: Well, I'm not going to speculate on that. Look, but what I said was absolutely accurate. Neither the President or I were told of the additional security request, as Hillary has pointed out straightforwardly, that request never got to the President or me.

O'DONNELL: Should you have been told?

BIDEN: I'm not going to speculate on that. There's an investigation underway. We'll see what it's all about.

(...)

[7:12 a.m. EDT]

NORAH O'DONNELL: Let me ask you about the debate last night. There was a sharp exchange over Libya and what happened in Benghazi. The President said last night he takes offense to anyone who had suggests they were playing politics after the loss of four American lives. Do you accuse the President of playing politics with this issue?

PAUL RYAN, Republican vice presidential candidate: Well, look what's so troubling about this, Norah, is that they, five days after the attack, sent the U.N. Ambassador out to suggest this is as a result of a spontaneous mob and a YouTube video. It took the President two weeks before acknowledging this was an act of terror. He went to the U.N. and mentioned the YouTube video six times after theUu.N. Attack. That's what's so troubling about this. As the facts come out about the Benghazi attack, we learn more troubling facts by the day. And so that's why we need to get to the bottom of this to get answers so that we can prevent something like this from ever happening again. That's what's so troubling about this whole entire episode.

O'DONNELL: Congressman, there was this sharp exchange in the debate last night where President Obama pointed out that he did say in the Rose Garden on September 12th, the day after the attack, quote "no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation." The Wall Street Journal editorial page this morning, a conservative editorial page, said that this back and forth over Benghazi was Mitt Romney's weakest moment in the debate. What happened?

RYAN: I actually totally disagree with that. It wasn't his weakest moment in the least. The moderator said that he was right in the main on this, that she wasn't correct in pointing out that he made reference to this being a specific terrorist attack. He gave a passing reference to acts of terror in general. If this was what you're suggesting, that he said this was as a result of a terrorist attack, then why five days after the attack, four days later, send the U.N. Ambassador out to the Sunday talk shows to suggest that it was not that, that it was the result of a spontaneous mob reacting to a YouTube video. Why take two weeks later to suggest that it was a terrorist attack? Why go on Univision and The View and not claim that it was a terrorist attack. And so look, the facts just don't square with that line of argument. What's difficult and troubling about this is every time we learn more about these facts, the more troubling it is, and the reason Democrats and Republicans in Congress are asking for answers is so that we can prevent something like this happening again. That's what's so troubling about it.

ANTHONY MASON: Congressman, the Governor used a phrase last night that's getting a lot of attention. He said that when he was Governor of Massachusetts in recruiting female candidates for his cabinet he got binders full of women from some women's' group. What did he mean exactly by the phrase "binders full of women?"

RYAN: All he simply meant was that he went out of his way to try and recruit qualified women to serve in his administration when he was governor. That's really what he was saying. And by the way, he has an exceptional record of hiring women in very prominent positions in his administration. And that's the point he was making. And the other point is this economy has been terrible for women. Poverty rates among women are at a 17 year high. We need jobs. We need economic growth. And among those that have been hit hardest in this economy are women. So what he was pointing out to was that he went out of his way to find qualified women to serve in senior positions in his administration, and he did just that, and he had one of the most exceptional records of governors in the country.

MASON: The original question, Congressman, was about ensuring equal pay for women. Does Governor Romney believe the President was right to sign the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay act into law. You voted against that act, didn't you?

RYAN: Right. Yes. And so you know that Lily ledbetter was not an equal pay law. Equal pay was already established in prior legislation. We of course agree with equal pay. What Lily Ledbetter did was it opened up the statute of limitations for lawsuits that could have occurred decades after alleged abuses would have occurred, even after people have already not even worked at a place anymore. The point is, Lily Ledbetter was not an equal pay law. It was about opening up the lawsuits and statute of limitations. It wasn't an equal pay law. And of course we support equal pay.

O'DONNELL: Finally, and this is my first chance to get to ask you about your own debate against Vice President Joe Biden. There was a lot made of the stylistic differences there, the Vice President laughing and smiling, interrupting you a lot through that debate. He told us that he wasn't laughing at you, he was laughing at your proposals. How did that debate go, what did you make of how the Vice President treated you?

RYAN: I thought it went very, very well. Look I wasn't worried about how other people were conducting themselves. I was focused on offering the country a very clear choice, offering ideas about how to create jobs, the difference that stand between us –

(Crosstalk)

O'DONNELL: Did you think he was respectful to you?
 
RYAN We've had three debates now – look, I wasn't focused on how Joe was conducting himself. I was focused on myself and giving the country a very clear choice. And that's what I think has been so beneficial about these debates, Norah. Three debates, the Vice President and the President have not offered a single new idea about how to turn this economy around and create jobs. They haven't offered a single new idea on how the next four years will be any different than the last four years. And what Mitt Romney and I are offering are real solutions to grow the economy, to create jobs, and get us going in a better direction. That's why I think these debates have gone so well for us.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014