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Reporting on Senator Biden at the Center for American Progress

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I heard Senator Joe Biden speak Tuesday afternoon at the Center for American Progress, in which he responded to the recent “appeasement” attack against Barack Obama, as well as McCain’s recent “2013” speech.

Biden cast the twin attacks last week by Bush and McCain, as setting an emerging ugly pattern of political attacks masquerading as policy. He added a personal note about his friend John McCain, on the “Hamas” swipe, in which he tried to link Obama to the terrorist organization: “I didn’t think John would say something like that.”

Turning to Bush’s “long distance swift boat attack on Senator Obama” from Israeli, Biden said, “This is the only president I know of … who would engage … in this kind of activity overseas.” He also noted that background White House reports to the media seemed to conflict with later denials that Bush was aiming his remarks at Senator Obama, concluding: “Karl Rove must be very proud.” Noting the obvious hypocrisy stemming from Bush‘s own efforts to engage Iran and such dictators as Libya’s Qaddafi and North Korea‘s Kim Jong Il - addressing the latter as “Dear Mr. Chairman” - Biden pointed out that, like Nixon and Reagan before him, Bush was right to pursue such engagements: Bush only damaged U.S. credibility with his attack on Obama.

Biden concludes that Bush & McCain’s behavior is motivated by their desire to hide the failure of Bush Administration policies, distracting with the politics of “smear & fear.” Biden predicts this strategy won’t work because these failures are “patently obvious.” After all, “Iran, not freedom has been on the march” and that regime is closer to a nuclear bomb; Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan are stronger than they were before 9/11; Hamas controls Gaza, we’re still stuck in Iraq, costing close to $2 trillion and “the entire Middle East is more dangerous,” and more of a threat to us & our allies, including Israel.

Referring to McCain’s question: What does Obama want to talk about? Biden says that if McCain can’t answer that question, we’re in real trouble, adding: if we don’t talk to our enemies, then the status quo and war are the only options left. Further, he sees setting, as preconditions, the very issues that are in dispute, as just another way to avoid talking.

Biden also made the astute point that the Bush Administration’s obsession with regime change makes no sense, as it gives our adversaries no incentive to change its behavior, saying, in effect: “Cease and desist, and then we’ll take you down.” Instead, we need to focus on behavior change. He calls the Bush-McCain saber-rattling self-defeating, as it encourages the Iranian people to rally around their leaders, and spurs Middle East instability and adds to the price of oil.

Biden asks, ”since when has talking … removed our ability to use the work ‘No?’”

Biden called McCain’s “2013” speech “beyond vague,” suspecting that he knows “that if he revealed his plan, which is the Bush plan, it would be summarily rejected by the American people.”

Biden argued that rather than arguing the risks of leaving Iraq, we should be discussing the costs of staying. That cost includes continued casualties, “degradation of the U.S military,” “draining our Treasury,” and the “inability to send enough soldiers to the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Al Qaeda is. “The price of staying is staggering & knowable.”

He challenges the idea that leaving would strengthen Al Qaeda in Iraq; rather, it would take away their strongest recruiting tool. Leaving would enable us to confront Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

According to Biden, McCain’s 100-year vision of a U.S. presence in Iraq, assumes an analogy to Germany, Korea and Bosnia that does not exist. Our continued occupation only fuels Arab conspiracies, and aids radicals and recruitment; our goal of ending Iran’s influence in Iraq is a “fantasy.”

Questions from the media revolved around presidential politics, which failed to get Biden to make an endorsement. Perhaps the most important answer from Biden was that, if Bush follows through on attacking Iran, Biden would support impeachment proceedings.

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Amy Fried applies her Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior to writing and activism on church-state separation, feminism, reproductive rights, corruption, media and veganism.

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