Laughing Biden to Cool Ryan: `Now You’re Jack Kennedy’

Photograph by Scott Eells/Bloomberg

Vice President Joe Biden during the October 11, 2012 vice presidential debate

“The middle class will pay less, and people making more than $1 million will pay more,” Vice President Joe Biden says of the Obama administration’s plan for taxes.

“We want to extend permanently the middle-class tax cut,” Biden says, accusing the Republicans of “holding hostage the middle-class tax cut to (protect) the super wealthy.”

Rep. Paul Ryan, his adversary in tonight’s debate, Republican Mitt Romney’s running mate, is chairman of the House Budget Committee. And the first hour of their sole vice presidential debate in Danville, Kentucky, tonight has given Biden a lot of opportunities to laugh at and ridicule with smiles Ryan, who has responded with an unwavering focus on his arguments.

Ryan says a 28 percent tax rate is high enough for a small business — that’s what Romney and Ryan propose with 20 percent tax cuts and preservation of the Bush-era tax cuts for all. Under the scheduled repeal of the Bush tax cuts at year’s end, that top income tax rate rises to 39.6 percent.

Moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News asks why Romney and Ryan haven’t specified how they’ll pay for their tax cuts.

“We want to have big bipartisan agreements,” Ryan says.

The nation has seen how well that’s worked, Biden interjects.

“Let me have a chance to translate,” says Biden, recalling his days in the Senate when Ronald Reagan was president. “He gave specifics.”

“Let’s look at how sincere they are,” Biden says, pointing to the tax rate that Romney pays — about 14 percent on his income from investments.  The only way to pay for the tax cuts Romney and Ryan want is to cut tax exemptions like the one for home mortgages, Biden insists.

“He’s wrong about that,” Ryan says. “You can cut taxes by 20 percent and still preserve these important (exemptions) for the middle class.”

Can’t be done, Biden says, never has been. John Kennedy did it, Ryan replies

“Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy,” Biden says, with an allusion to Democrat Lloyd Bentsen’s cut-down of Republican Dan Quayle in 1988, when Quayle said in debate that he had served in Congress almost as long as Kennedy had. “You’re no Jack Kennedy,” Bentsen said.

Ryan gets the joke, looks at Biden, laughs, and moves on.

Unlike Quayle:

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