There were three people on the stage in Danville, Kentucky for the vice presidential debate on Thursday night, but there was a fourth who got a lot of attention – and it wasn’t Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.
The president and his Republican challenger did get their fair share of shout-outs and slams during the spirited 90-minute tussle, but there was one politician in the race who was name-dropped no fewer than eight times: Binyamin Netanyahu.
Most of the time the two competitors – Vice President Joe Biden and GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan – went so far as to call him by his nickname, Bibi.
When Netanyahu caused a brouhaha last month by taking America to task for not setting red lines on Iran, he vociferously claimed not to be wading into US presidential politics – but on Thursday night he was dragged on in.
Both sides used him to back up their arguments on dealing with Iran.
Ryan argued that the ayatollahs in Iran were taking comfort in the fact that US was distancing itself from Israel, giving them less to fear and less pressure to stop their nuclear program. For proof, he referred to Obama’s decision not to meet with the PM while he was in the States last month for the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York.
“They see President Obama in New York City the same day Bibi Netanyahu is, and instead of meeting with him goes on a daily talk show.”
Biden, on the other hand, batted aside Ryan’s words. “Bibi, he’s been my friend for 39 years. The president has met with Bibi a dozen times. He’s spoken to Bibi Netanyahu as much as he’s spoken to anybody,” Biden said, then strenuously defended the administration on Iran and turned to exhibit A – Israel’s intell assessment.
“The Israelis and the United States -- our military and intelligence communities are absolutely the same exact place in terms of how close the Iranians are to getting a nuclear weapon,” he emphasized. “They are a good way away. There is no difference between our view and theirs.”
Even moderator Martha Raddatz got in on the act, referring to Netanyahu and his now infamous visual aid at his UN speech.
“You both saw Benjamin Netanyahu hold up that picture of a bomb with the red line and talking about the red line being in spring,” she noted.
Yes, they had.