Commentary Magazine


Topic: Joe Biden

Ryan Unleashes Liberal Incivility

With the heightened focus on the Republican vice presidential candidate, it was only natural that the Democratic incumbent in that office would say something to get a little attention for himself. Vice President Joseph Biden, the gift that keeps giving to Republicans, wasn’t content to merely criticize Republican policies at a campaign appearance in Danville, Virginia; he claimed the GOP would revive slavery. As the Weekly Standard noted, affecting a drawl for the benefit of his south Virginia audience, Biden lambasted the idea that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would free up Wall Street to create more prosperity:

“Look at their budget, and what they are proposing,” Biden said. “Romney wants to let–he said in the first hundred days, he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They going to put y’all back in chains.”

While Democrats may defend this as just another Biden exaggeration, this is a clear-cut case of racial incitement. After all, unless he is referring to Jews being returned to slavery some 3,500 years after the Exodus from Egypt, the only possible allusion here is to the enslavement of African Americans in the south. This is more than just garden-variety political hyperbole. It is an unfortunate example of just how desperate Democrats are to scare voters into backing the president’s re-election.

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With the heightened focus on the Republican vice presidential candidate, it was only natural that the Democratic incumbent in that office would say something to get a little attention for himself. Vice President Joseph Biden, the gift that keeps giving to Republicans, wasn’t content to merely criticize Republican policies at a campaign appearance in Danville, Virginia; he claimed the GOP would revive slavery. As the Weekly Standard noted, affecting a drawl for the benefit of his south Virginia audience, Biden lambasted the idea that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would free up Wall Street to create more prosperity:

“Look at their budget, and what they are proposing,” Biden said. “Romney wants to let–he said in the first hundred days, he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They going to put y’all back in chains.”

While Democrats may defend this as just another Biden exaggeration, this is a clear-cut case of racial incitement. After all, unless he is referring to Jews being returned to slavery some 3,500 years after the Exodus from Egypt, the only possible allusion here is to the enslavement of African Americans in the south. This is more than just garden-variety political hyperbole. It is an unfortunate example of just how desperate Democrats are to scare voters into backing the president’s re-election.

We can expect Democratic spin masters to excuse this as merely Joe being Joe, the crazy uncle of our political system whose excesses should be tolerated if not smiled at. But what is on display in this video is a willingness to demonize opponents that eclipses the routine nastiness we’ve become accustomed to during elections. Biden’s comment is at the level of 9/11 truther–let alone an Obama birther. But this is more than just another example of how hypocritical mainstream liberal complaints are about civility in politics.

The Biden blast shows that in this election, there is literally nothing to which the Obama campaign would not stoop in order to besmirch their opponents. If, as Seth wrote earlier today, liberals are prepared to call Romney and Ryan “murderers,” why wouldn’t they claim the GOP is in favor of slavery?

While some conservatives are guilty of uncivil behavior, the Biden gaffe (and it will be interesting to see if liberals are prepared to admit it was a gaffe rather than a justified comment) points out commentator Dennis Prager’s insight about the difference between the left and the right. Most conservatives merely think liberals are wrong. Most liberals really believe most conservatives are evil.

While it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable — a character trait for which Ryan is well-known — to expect civility from someone who thinks his opponent is beyond the pale is to demand more than a partisan such as Biden can manage. As long as liberals are prepared to demonize Republicans in this manner, we must expect more of this kind of despicable behavior from Democrats this fall–if not far worse.

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Who Will Be the Next April Glaspie?

Today marks the 22nd anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi invasion followed months of escalating rhetoric, much of which American diplomats downplayed in the belief that Arab dictators didn’t mean what they said.  Meeting with Saddam Hussein eight days before the invasion, Ambassador April Glaspie told the Iraqi dictator, “We have no opinion on your Arab – Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.” Iraqi officials subsequently claimed that Saddam interpreted Glaspie’s remarks as a pledge of non-interference and perhaps even a green light.  The press made Glaspie into a scapegoat, but she was only the product of a larger diplomatic culture.

The invasion of Kuwait unleashed a cascade of events which culminated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The question both politicians and historians should ask is whether they might have headed off the invasion months or years ahead of time as the true nature of Saddam Hussein became clear.

Rather than suppress reports of Saddam’s chemical weapons use against Kurdish civilians, the Reagan administration should have cut Saddam off right then and there. But sophisticated diplomats hoped to rehabilitate Saddam, both as a means of containing Iran and also to peel Saddam away from Soviet influence.

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Today marks the 22nd anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi invasion followed months of escalating rhetoric, much of which American diplomats downplayed in the belief that Arab dictators didn’t mean what they said.  Meeting with Saddam Hussein eight days before the invasion, Ambassador April Glaspie told the Iraqi dictator, “We have no opinion on your Arab – Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.” Iraqi officials subsequently claimed that Saddam interpreted Glaspie’s remarks as a pledge of non-interference and perhaps even a green light.  The press made Glaspie into a scapegoat, but she was only the product of a larger diplomatic culture.

The invasion of Kuwait unleashed a cascade of events which culminated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The question both politicians and historians should ask is whether they might have headed off the invasion months or years ahead of time as the true nature of Saddam Hussein became clear.

Rather than suppress reports of Saddam’s chemical weapons use against Kurdish civilians, the Reagan administration should have cut Saddam off right then and there. But sophisticated diplomats hoped to rehabilitate Saddam, both as a means of containing Iran and also to peel Saddam away from Soviet influence.

Against a steady stream of reports suggesting Saddam’s cruelty and aggressive intent, Sen. John McCain pushed for military sanctions on Iraq. Sen. Arlen Specter decided to travel to Baghdad to talk with the Iraqi dictator. Like his senate colleagues John Kerry, Joseph Biden, and Dick Lugar, as well as Nancy Pelosi in the House, Specter believed that he had a unique ability to talk dictators back from the brink: He could engage successfully, where all others had failed. Specter met Saddam on January 12, 1990. He believed Saddam’s talk of peace, and effectively became Saddam’s useful idiot. Over the next few months, he persistently undercut McCain’s proposals to extend military sanctions on Iraq.

Saddam may today be gone, but history seems to be repeating with regard to Iran. Iranian leaders issue a steady stream of genocidal rhetoric against Israel, support repression in Syria, and question the sovereignty of Bahrain. Yet, diplomats and many academics dismiss Iranian rhetoric. While senators have largely embraced sanctions against Iran, just as Specter did almost 23 years ago, President Obama and senior administration officials still suggest that there is enough time for diplomacy to work, even as Khamenei, like Saddam before him, pushes full steam ahead with plans to fulfill his regional ambition.

As history repeats itself, the only questions are who will be the next Glaspie and how much ruin will the Obama team’s blind belief in diplomacy bring.

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Barack’s Message to Bill: It’s My Party Now

Reactions to the report that Bill Clinton will place President Obama’s name into nomination at the party’s convention in September, and that he will play a more high-profile role than the vice president himself, have generally fallen into two categories: mocking Joe Biden for his party’s treatment of him, and acknowledging that Obama believes he needs Clinton to win.

Both are correct. But there is another aspect to Clinton’s role as nominating figure: passing the torch. Obama wants to make clear that this is his party now. He has never been able to fully conceal his contempt for Clinton’s “third-way” politics, which seek to, like chess players, control the center. While Obama has tried to have his cake and eat it too, by spurning Clintonian politics while taking credit for the popular aspects of some Clinton policies, he has also tried to outrun Clinton, who is more popular than Obama.

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Reactions to the report that Bill Clinton will place President Obama’s name into nomination at the party’s convention in September, and that he will play a more high-profile role than the vice president himself, have generally fallen into two categories: mocking Joe Biden for his party’s treatment of him, and acknowledging that Obama believes he needs Clinton to win.

Both are correct. But there is another aspect to Clinton’s role as nominating figure: passing the torch. Obama wants to make clear that this is his party now. He has never been able to fully conceal his contempt for Clinton’s “third-way” politics, which seek to, like chess players, control the center. While Obama has tried to have his cake and eat it too, by spurning Clintonian politics while taking credit for the popular aspects of some Clinton policies, he has also tried to outrun Clinton, who is more popular than Obama.

Consider:

  • Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); Obama campaigned on unilaterally renegotiating it and possibly withdrawing from it–even running “Buy American, Vote Obama” ads during the election–and waited years to sign other free-trade agreements that were ready for him on day one.
  • Clinton signed welfare reform; Obama handed down an executive fiat to gut the very successful legislation.
  • Clinton tried, and failed, to pass health care reform; Obama tossed congressional Democrats under the Tea Party bus just to have health care legislation bear his name.

Clinton’s message to Democrats in 1992 was that they could either have a very liberal party, or they could win the White House. The country would not let them have both. Even so, the Democrats took a shellacking in mid-term elections, leading to the first Republican House majority in four decades. Clinton understood that this was a partial rebuke to his more liberal first attempt at governing, and was forced to the center to keep his job.

We should not overstate Clinton’s centrism, of course. He did not craft NAFTA; he inherited it from George H.W. Bush and signed it. He did not craft, nor even like, welfare reform; it was a Republican initiative that Clinton vetoed repeatedly before accepting it.

But Clinton left office with a high approval rating and was celebrated for his move to the center: he became the first Democrat to win a second full term as president since Franklin Roosevelt. Obama wants to step out of Clinton’s shadow and win a second term as well—but it won’t be enough for him to win it on Clinton’s terms. It has to be on his own terms, with a party remade in his image. That image is becoming clearer by the day, as moderate Blue Dog Democrats disappear, as do pro-life Democrats. And this year, as Joshua Muravchik writes for COMMENTARY this month, is the last in which the Congress will have a Scoop Jackson Democrat, as Joe Lieberman is retiring.

It’s a different party, and Clinton’s role at the nominating convention will make that clear.

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Obama’s Gift to Romney

This past week, the president and the vice president have made some rather curious arguments on their behalf.

“If your main argument for how to grow the economy is ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you’re missing what this job is about,” Obama said. “It doesn’t mean you weren’t good at private equity, but that’s not what my job is as president. My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. My job is to make sure that the country is growing not just now, but ten years from now and 20 years from now,” he said.

Vice President Biden, meanwhile, offered up this argument. “Your job as president is to promote the common good. That doesn’t mean the private-equity guys are bad guys. They’re not,” Biden said at New Hampshire’s Keene State College. “But that no more qualifies you to be president than being a plumber. And, by the way, there’re an awful lot of smart plumbers. All kidding aside, it’s not the same job requirement.”

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This past week, the president and the vice president have made some rather curious arguments on their behalf.

“If your main argument for how to grow the economy is ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you’re missing what this job is about,” Obama said. “It doesn’t mean you weren’t good at private equity, but that’s not what my job is as president. My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. My job is to make sure that the country is growing not just now, but ten years from now and 20 years from now,” he said.

Vice President Biden, meanwhile, offered up this argument. “Your job as president is to promote the common good. That doesn’t mean the private-equity guys are bad guys. They’re not,” Biden said at New Hampshire’s Keene State College. “But that no more qualifies you to be president than being a plumber. And, by the way, there’re an awful lot of smart plumbers. All kidding aside, it’s not the same job requirement.”

I suppose one could say that being a plumber makes you more qualified to be president than being a community organizer, but set that aside for the moment.

The case both Obama and Biden are making is that Obama (a) understands what the job of president entails and (b) is promoting the common good. And based on his record, it’s not clear Obama understands or is doing either one.

To sharpen the point a bit: How exactly is the common good being advanced when during the Obama presidency the number of people in the U.S. who are in poverty has seen a record increase, with the ranks of working-age poor approaching 1960s levels that led to the national war on poverty. In addition, the budget deficit and federal debt have reached their highest percentage since World War II. The same is true when it comes to federal spending as a percentage of GDP. During the post-recession period from June 2009 to June 2011, the median annual household income fell by 6.7 percent– a more substantial decline than occurred during the Great Recession. The Christian Science Monitor points out , “The standard of living for Americans has fallen longer and more steeply over the past three years than at any time since the U.S. government began recording it five decades ago.” The housing crisis is worse than the Great Depression. Home values worth one-third less than they were five years ago. The home ownership rate is the lowest since 1965. And government dependency, defined as the percentage of persons receiving one or more federal benefit payments, is the highest in American history.”

There’s more, but you get the point.

For Obama and Biden to lecture Romney on the qualifications for being president is like John Edwards and Bill Clinton lecturing us on the importance of fidelity in marriage. Their case is undermined by their record, their actions, and their failures.

I cannot imagine a greater in-kind gift to the Romney campaign than for the president and the vice president to run on their stewardship. But that is what they’ve decided to do, at least this week.

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GOP Shouldn’t Waste Time on Biden

It hasn’t been a very good couple of weeks for Joe Biden, and the polls show it. Though President Obama followed his vice president’s lead and endorsed gay marriage, White House resentment about the incident lingers. There has been a torrent of leaks about the president’s dissatisfaction with his number two, and Republicans have taken to targeting the veep and pointing out his numerous gaffes at every opportunity. Though the only person whose opinion he needs to care about — President Obama — has been publicly silent, all this has taken a toll on Biden’s public standing. So yesterday’s Gallup Poll in which the vice president is shown to have a negative approval rating for the first time since taking office is likely to feed the rumors circulating around Washington about Biden being dumped from the Democratic ticket this summer. It will also tempt Republicans to double down on their attacks on the vice president.

But while none of this comforts Biden, it would also be a mistake for Republicans to put much stock in any of it. Biden may not be much of an asset to Obama, but it’s not likely that he will cost him any more votes than he will win for him this year. The same was true in 2008, although the comparison with his GOP counterpart Sarah Palin helped him play the statesman. Though we spend a good deal of time handicapping the unofficial run for the vice presidency every four years, it’s a rare election in which they have any but the most marginal impact. Rumors notwithstanding, the president understands that dumping the veep would be a sign of panic. While some Republicans will enjoy slugging away at his gaffes, any effort diverted from the main task of taking down the president’s record is a waste of time.

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It hasn’t been a very good couple of weeks for Joe Biden, and the polls show it. Though President Obama followed his vice president’s lead and endorsed gay marriage, White House resentment about the incident lingers. There has been a torrent of leaks about the president’s dissatisfaction with his number two, and Republicans have taken to targeting the veep and pointing out his numerous gaffes at every opportunity. Though the only person whose opinion he needs to care about — President Obama — has been publicly silent, all this has taken a toll on Biden’s public standing. So yesterday’s Gallup Poll in which the vice president is shown to have a negative approval rating for the first time since taking office is likely to feed the rumors circulating around Washington about Biden being dumped from the Democratic ticket this summer. It will also tempt Republicans to double down on their attacks on the vice president.

But while none of this comforts Biden, it would also be a mistake for Republicans to put much stock in any of it. Biden may not be much of an asset to Obama, but it’s not likely that he will cost him any more votes than he will win for him this year. The same was true in 2008, although the comparison with his GOP counterpart Sarah Palin helped him play the statesman. Though we spend a good deal of time handicapping the unofficial run for the vice presidency every four years, it’s a rare election in which they have any but the most marginal impact. Rumors notwithstanding, the president understands that dumping the veep would be a sign of panic. While some Republicans will enjoy slugging away at his gaffes, any effort diverted from the main task of taking down the president’s record is a waste of time.

Biden’s negative ratings  — 45 percent disapprove of him while 42 percent approve — actually aren’t all that much worse than the ratings he has received in the last three years. Though he was favored by margins of 42-40, 43-41 and 46-41 in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively, none of these results are dramatic enough to affect the Democratic ticket. Democrats still favor him by a margin of 73-17 even if independents and Republicans don’t care for Biden. And it should be pointed out that even his recent bad numbers are not all that much worse than those of his boss, who has a 52-46 favorability rating in the most recent poll.

It also bears pointing out that it is more than likely that those floating the rumors about Biden’s fate have ulterior motives. Some Democrats may see promoting the idea of promoting Hillary Clinton as Biden’s replacement as way to get on her bandwagon early should she try again for the presidency in 2016. It is also more than likely that those Republicans who have been harping on the idea of dumping Biden may be merely seeking to make mischief rather than providing any genuine insight as to the thinking of their rivals.

But either way, the focus on Biden is a sideshow, and President Obama’s high opinion of himself is certainly enough to make him think he can win re-election with anybody — even a gaffe-prone crazy uncle gasbag like Joe Biden. Republicans should take a lesson from this and confine their focus to the man at the top of the other ticket.

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Why Obama Isn’t Dumping Biden

The idea that President Obama is seriously considering dumping Joe Biden from the Democratic ticket this year is a seductive one. To assume that this is a real possibility, as William Kristol argues in the Weekly Standard, you must believe the president is not only sick and tired of Biden’s bloviating, but that he believes his re-election effort is in real peril. While I don’t doubt the former proposition for a moment, I have yet to see proof President Obama’s messianic self-image has been so punctured by reality that he is willing to do the unthinkable and not only discard a sitting vice president but elevate Hillary Clinton as his figurative and actual successor.

Unlike Kristol and my esteemed colleague Pete Wehner, who also thinks Biden is on his way out, I think the potential costs to the president outweigh the benefits. Even more to the point, the essential prerequisite of this scenario — a panic-stricken White House that sees the president as doomed to defeat unless the Democrats throw the sort of Hail Mary pass that caused John McCain to make a fateful veep pick — doesn’t exist. The president is behaving as if he is convinced that a campaign to destroy Mitt Romney’s character will succeed. Conceding that all is lost without Clinton to save him goes against everything we know about Obama’s belief in himself and his abilities. He may also understand that Biden wouldn’t go quietly, and the perception of weakness the veep’s political execution would engender would merely discourage his supporters rather than energize them.

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The idea that President Obama is seriously considering dumping Joe Biden from the Democratic ticket this year is a seductive one. To assume that this is a real possibility, as William Kristol argues in the Weekly Standard, you must believe the president is not only sick and tired of Biden’s bloviating, but that he believes his re-election effort is in real peril. While I don’t doubt the former proposition for a moment, I have yet to see proof President Obama’s messianic self-image has been so punctured by reality that he is willing to do the unthinkable and not only discard a sitting vice president but elevate Hillary Clinton as his figurative and actual successor.

Unlike Kristol and my esteemed colleague Pete Wehner, who also thinks Biden is on his way out, I think the potential costs to the president outweigh the benefits. Even more to the point, the essential prerequisite of this scenario — a panic-stricken White House that sees the president as doomed to defeat unless the Democrats throw the sort of Hail Mary pass that caused John McCain to make a fateful veep pick — doesn’t exist. The president is behaving as if he is convinced that a campaign to destroy Mitt Romney’s character will succeed. Conceding that all is lost without Clinton to save him goes against everything we know about Obama’s belief in himself and his abilities. He may also understand that Biden wouldn’t go quietly, and the perception of weakness the veep’s political execution would engender would merely discourage his supporters rather than energize them.

Kristol’s idea of David Petraeus sliding from the CIA over to State while Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential candidacy turns a close-run affair into a cakewalk makes sense for the Democrats. Yet though it is the sort of bold stroke that would captivate the media and dominate the news for days if not weeks, it also reeks of panic. Barack Obama is too savvy a politician to want to show the public he not only lacks confidence but needs Clinton to bail him out.

As for Biden’s merits as vice president or his value to his party, I readily concede the arguments Bill and Pete put forward on that score are conclusive. The vice president’s contributions to the administration are risible and pale when compared to those of his recent predecessors, who were given far more responsibility. The fact that he has little political appeal and doesn’t help Obama govern should argue for his dismissal. But doing so will be extremely messy at a time when that is the last thing the president should want.

Biden is not the sort of politician to go quietly into the night just because the president can’t stand him. If there is anything the president should have learned about the vice president in the last four years, it is that his ego is as healthy as his own. Politics is his life, and he will fight for his position — and the fantasy he harbors of running for the presidency in 2016 — with all he’s got. The notion that he will meekly accept a demotion to being a third-tier campaign surrogate for Obama’s re-election strikes me as highly unlikely.

This isn’t about loyalty. I agree with Pete the president’s Chicago-style approach to politics renders him immune to such fine sentiments. Rather, Obama’s own self-regard is such that he probably believes he is great enough to succeed even while lugging around the loquacious Biden on his back. That’s good news for the vice president as well as for Republicans who would have good reason to fear the power of an Obama-Clinton ticket. Although many Democrats would happily make the exchange, I think the odds of this happening are slim and none.

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Bye Bye Biden?

In an editorial in The Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol argues that President Obama would be wise to replace Vice President Joe Biden with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This kind of speculation — the incumbent president replacing the vice president in order to re-energize his campaign — goes on every four years. It almost never happens.

This time it might.

For one thing, Biden is literally, God love him, a buffoon. His counsel and predictions are almost always wrong, from telling us we’d see an increase in 500,000 jobs a month during the 2010 “recovery summer” (a figure that was ludicrously off target) to advising the president not to take out Osama bin Laden. More often than not, Biden makes news by his verbal miscues (“jobs” is a three-letter word, Obama “has a big stick, I promise you,” et cetera). He’s a person who’s almost impossible to take seriously. Read More

In an editorial in The Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol argues that President Obama would be wise to replace Vice President Joe Biden with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This kind of speculation — the incumbent president replacing the vice president in order to re-energize his campaign — goes on every four years. It almost never happens.

This time it might.

For one thing, Biden is literally, God love him, a buffoon. His counsel and predictions are almost always wrong, from telling us we’d see an increase in 500,000 jobs a month during the 2010 “recovery summer” (a figure that was ludicrously off target) to advising the president not to take out Osama bin Laden. More often than not, Biden makes news by his verbal miscues (“jobs” is a three-letter word, Obama “has a big stick, I promise you,” et cetera). He’s a person who’s almost impossible to take seriously.

In addition, the president is frantically trying to boost his standing with (in particular) college educated white women, and his mindset is that placing Hillary Clinton on the ticket could seal the deal. It’s also a decision that would energize liberals without offending anyone within the Democratic Party (Biden has no real constituency).

A final reason — and I think an under appreciated one — is the anger the president and his closest advisers harbor for the vice president, whose “Meet the Press” interview forced Obama to announce his support for same-sex marriage earlier than he wanted to. Worse, at least from the president’s perspective, is that what Biden did was to make Obama’s announcement look political rather than principled.

Obama, marinated in the Chicago Way of politics, doesn’t possess any deep sense of personal loyalty. (See the bus Obama’s “spiritual mentor” Jeremiah Wright found himself under for more.) And whatever residual loyalty the president felt for Biden has, I think, been shattered after Biden’s “Meet the Press” misstep.

Right now, Barack Obama is on course to lose the election. He’ll be as ruthless as he thinks he needs to be in order to turn his fortunes around.

Bill Kristol may be on to something. If I were Joe Biden, God love him, I’d be worried.

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Biased Media’s Rope Line Hypocrisy

Reporters from the national press covering the Mitt Romney campaign kicked up a ruckus on Wednesday when the Republican’s staff attempted to keep them away from a rope line where they might have heard or seen the candidate say or do something dumb. The incident inspired a feature in the New York Times in which the GOP standard-bearer came off looking like a fragile hothouse flower desperately in need of protection from a press corps that could unveil his inadequacies. This might not be worth much of the public’s time, but criticism on this score shouldn’t be put down as unfair. If Romney can’t be relied upon not to commit a gaffe when interacting with the public at unscripted appearances — something that justified his staff’s worries — then he deserves to be called to account for it. However, if this is worth carrying on about when it concerns Romney then we are entitled to ask why isn’t it newsworthy when his opponents play the same game?

That’s the question some political observers are asking today after members of the Obama campaign made sure to keep reporters away from Vice President Biden when he was working a rope line, an incident that failed to get a mention in the Times. But as much as the lack of interest in the Democrats’ desire to protect the even more gaffe-prone Biden is the fact that no one seems to recall that when Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, his control freak staff rarely allowed reporters anywhere near him when he was on the hustings.

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Reporters from the national press covering the Mitt Romney campaign kicked up a ruckus on Wednesday when the Republican’s staff attempted to keep them away from a rope line where they might have heard or seen the candidate say or do something dumb. The incident inspired a feature in the New York Times in which the GOP standard-bearer came off looking like a fragile hothouse flower desperately in need of protection from a press corps that could unveil his inadequacies. This might not be worth much of the public’s time, but criticism on this score shouldn’t be put down as unfair. If Romney can’t be relied upon not to commit a gaffe when interacting with the public at unscripted appearances — something that justified his staff’s worries — then he deserves to be called to account for it. However, if this is worth carrying on about when it concerns Romney then we are entitled to ask why isn’t it newsworthy when his opponents play the same game?

That’s the question some political observers are asking today after members of the Obama campaign made sure to keep reporters away from Vice President Biden when he was working a rope line, an incident that failed to get a mention in the Times. But as much as the lack of interest in the Democrats’ desire to protect the even more gaffe-prone Biden is the fact that no one seems to recall that when Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, his control freak staff rarely allowed reporters anywhere near him when he was on the hustings.

In 2008, the contrast between John McCain’s media-friendly ways and Obama’s less open policies only got noticed when the Republican’s staff tried to change things and restrict access to their all-too loquacious candidate. But no one ever seemed to think there was much amiss about Obama’s practices in which highly choreographed events consisted of appearances with an ever-present teleprompter and little or no press access to the candidate. That many of those covering him — and their editors — might have been as seduced by the historic nature of his run and by his “hope” and “change” mantra is a given.

The point is, if Obama’s lack of openness to the press was not an issue in 2008, it’s not clear why Romney’s staff’s attempts to restrict access to their man should be worthy of much comment today. It is doubly absurd when you consider that it is virtually impossible to cover President Obama in the same way you can Romney because of security considerations.

The election won’t be decided on the issue of which presidential — or vice presidential — candidate is more open to the press on the rope line. But this minor kerfuffle and the staggering hypocrisy with which it was covered is another reminder that Romney’s greatest disadvantage in his effort to prevent the president’s re-election is not his tendency toward gaffes but a biased mainstream media always willing to judge and condemn by a standard they won’t apply to his opponents.

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Biden Tired of “Middle Class Joe” Ridicule

You know how everyone is always mocking Vice President Joe Biden for being just another middle class guy with no dreams and no aspirations? No? Well, in case anybody ever does, Biden wants them to know he’s tired of all the imaginary derision over his humble life status (video via Dan Halper):

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You know how everyone is always mocking Vice President Joe Biden for being just another middle class guy with no dreams and no aspirations? No? Well, in case anybody ever does, Biden wants them to know he’s tired of all the imaginary derision over his humble life status (video via Dan Halper):

“I get tired of being called ‘Middle Class Joe,’ like that somehow I’m just Joe and I don’t dream. C’mon man. Look, you’re the ones that built this country. This valley built this country,” Biden said to cheers.

Actually, according to Nexis, the only person who has referred to Biden as “middle class Joe” has been Biden himself. In an early April speech on college affordability, he said, “I always get criticized for being middle class Joe, which I’m proud of, but I’m middle class Joe and I always talk about the middle class.”

And: “I know I’m characterized in the press as, you know, middle class Joe, like . . . I’m not sophisticated,” he complained last September.

The vice president’s sensitivity to perceived insults about his allegedly middle class status seems to go back to 2009. At a conference that May, Biden referred to himself as “old middle class Joe,” before launching into an indignant rant about how he’s always being put down for it.

“If I — if I heard one more thing about the scrappy kid from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and carrying a lunch bucket — I never carried a lunch bucket, but I guess I’m the middle class guy,” he said. “By the way, I’m proud of that. I’m proud of that.”

This is really one of the flimsiest and most condescending attempts to appeal to the “average voter” since Obama’s phony “funny-sounding name” bit. If Biden is really so paranoid of getting picked on as “middle class Joe,” he might want to play up the fact that he owns a home valued at nearly $3 million, served in the Senate for three decades, earned $379,035 in income last year, and currently lives in the Naval Observatory.

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The End of “No Drama Obama”

Remember the phrase “No Drama Obama”? Perhaps it should be retired after this week.

After all, we learned that Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, apologized to the president for forcing him to accelerate the timetable when it came to announcing Obama’s support of same-sex marriage. The West Wing is reportedly enraged at Biden. Here’s how Politico put it:

Biden’s remarks on “Meet the Press” deeply annoyed Obama’s team, people close to the situation tell Politico, because it aggrandized his role at the expense of Obama’s yeoman efforts on behalf of the community and pushed up the timing of a sensitive announcement they had hoped to break — at a time and place of their own choosing — in the weeks leading up to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this fall.

Nor did it tickle anyone, from Obama on down, that Biden — who backed the Defense of Marriage Act while serving in the Senate in the 1990s — seemed to be getting more credit in the LGBT community than a president who has actually taken steps to repeal the Clinton-era law that defined marriage as something that could only take place between a man and a woman.

And it chafed Obama’s team that Biden had, at times, privately argued for the president to hold off on his support of marriage equality to avoid a backlash among Catholic voters in battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to two officials familiar with those discussions.

It’s not a good situation for any vice president to steal the applause and credit from the president; that must be triply the case when it comes to a man with Obama’s self-regard and tendency toward narcissism.

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Remember the phrase “No Drama Obama”? Perhaps it should be retired after this week.

After all, we learned that Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, apologized to the president for forcing him to accelerate the timetable when it came to announcing Obama’s support of same-sex marriage. The West Wing is reportedly enraged at Biden. Here’s how Politico put it:

Biden’s remarks on “Meet the Press” deeply annoyed Obama’s team, people close to the situation tell Politico, because it aggrandized his role at the expense of Obama’s yeoman efforts on behalf of the community and pushed up the timing of a sensitive announcement they had hoped to break — at a time and place of their own choosing — in the weeks leading up to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this fall.

Nor did it tickle anyone, from Obama on down, that Biden — who backed the Defense of Marriage Act while serving in the Senate in the 1990s — seemed to be getting more credit in the LGBT community than a president who has actually taken steps to repeal the Clinton-era law that defined marriage as something that could only take place between a man and a woman.

And it chafed Obama’s team that Biden had, at times, privately argued for the president to hold off on his support of marriage equality to avoid a backlash among Catholic voters in battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to two officials familiar with those discussions.

It’s not a good situation for any vice president to steal the applause and credit from the president; that must be triply the case when it comes to a man with Obama’s self-regard and tendency toward narcissism.

Then there’s the New York Post’s coverage of a new book by Edward Klein, The Amateur, in which it’s reported that Bill Clinton thought so little of President Obama — mocking him as an “amateur” — that he pressed Mrs. Clinton last summer to quit her job as secretary of state and challenge him in the primaries. “The economy’s a mess, it’s dead flat. America has lost its Triple-A rating . . . You know better than Obama does,” Bill reportedly told Hillary.

In addition, Bill Clinton insisted he had “no relationship” with Obama and had been consulted more frequently by his presidential successor, George W. Bush.

Obama, Bill Clinton said, “doesn’t know how to be president” and is “incompetent.”

When a presidential campaign is less than six months away from an election, trailing the challenger in several polls, the president has to publicly reprimand his vice president for getting “out a little bit over his skis” and “jump[ing] the gun,” and his administration has to respond to reports that the husband of the secretary of tate (and himself an ex-president) encouraged her to challenge the president in a primary, the West Wing is edging toward becoming a hostile working environment.

It looks as if “No Drama Obama” has exited stage left.

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Tip for WaPo: Look Into Young Joe Biden

Now that the childhood hijinks of our national candidates are fair game, the Washington Post might want to devote some investigative resources toward the background of Vice President Joseph Biden. That’s right, “Sheriff Joe” was reportedly involved in a spate of anti-social activities as a child and adolescent, including but not limited to elaborate neighborhood pranks, street brawls, and even an assault on a lowly dorm employee in college.

From the book What It Takes: The Way to the White House, a story of the 1988 presidential election by reporter Richard Ben Cramer, a troubling snapshot of young Biden emerges:

Once Joey [Biden] set his mind, it was like he didn’t think at all—he just did. That’s why you didn’t want to fight him. Most guys who got into a fight, they’d square off, there’d be a minute or so of circling around, while they jockeyed for position. Joey didn’t do that. He decided to fight … BANGO—he’d punch the guy in the face. Joe was kind of skinny, and he stuttered, and the kids called him Bye-Bye, for the way he sounded when he tried to say his name. But Joey would never back down, and he knew how to box, when no one else did. …

Even after he left, after Mr. Biden got the job selling cars in Wilmington and moved the family away, Charlie Roth would still (in moments of duress) tell guys that his friend Joey Biden would come back and beat them up, if they didn’t watch out. (When Joe did come back, Charlie always had a list.)

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Now that the childhood hijinks of our national candidates are fair game, the Washington Post might want to devote some investigative resources toward the background of Vice President Joseph Biden. That’s right, “Sheriff Joe” was reportedly involved in a spate of anti-social activities as a child and adolescent, including but not limited to elaborate neighborhood pranks, street brawls, and even an assault on a lowly dorm employee in college.

From the book What It Takes: The Way to the White House, a story of the 1988 presidential election by reporter Richard Ben Cramer, a troubling snapshot of young Biden emerges:

Once Joey [Biden] set his mind, it was like he didn’t think at all—he just did. That’s why you didn’t want to fight him. Most guys who got into a fight, they’d square off, there’d be a minute or so of circling around, while they jockeyed for position. Joey didn’t do that. He decided to fight … BANGO—he’d punch the guy in the face. Joe was kind of skinny, and he stuttered, and the kids called him Bye-Bye, for the way he sounded when he tried to say his name. But Joey would never back down, and he knew how to box, when no one else did. …

Even after he left, after Mr. Biden got the job selling cars in Wilmington and moved the family away, Charlie Roth would still (in moments of duress) tell guys that his friend Joey Biden would come back and beat them up, if they didn’t watch out. (When Joe did come back, Charlie always had a list.)

A list of children to beat up! That means there are documents, assuming they haven’t already been destroyed. WaPo could find this list and potentially interview the victims. Surely there are some stories there that could give us crucial insight into these vaguely sociopathic flare-ups.

But there’s more. According to What It Takes, Biden apparently also led neighborhood boys in carrying out what he would call “pranks” – and what current law might call “willful and malicious destruction of property” – against an innocent elderly neighbor:

Joe always had an idea. … If their notion of a summer evening’s prank was to put a bag of dogshit on old man Schutz’s doorstep, Joey would say, “No, here’s what we’ll do. You know behind my house, where they got all those little trees? Get a shovel …” And they did: they went out with shovels and planted a forest of saplings on Mr. Schutz’s lawn. It was so much more elaborate—all thought out, the way Joey had it figured.

And later, the book recounts a story about how Biden was put on student probation in college for apparently assaulting a resident adviser with fire extinguisher fluid. Tampering with fire safety equipment? Now we’re moving into federal offense territory:

And before that, University of Delaware, where he only screwed around, trying to be Joe College—got probation for dousing the dorm director with a fire extinguisher. … Then there were hijinks from high school, streaking the parking lot. … They were getting back to childhood sins, stuff where the priest says, “Two Hail Marys” … but Joe was still talking.

Okay, so maybe these incidents all sound innocent enough. But that’s probably just because we haven’t heard from victims or aggrieved outside witnesses with axes to grind. What did that hapless RA do to deserve getting sprayed down with a fire extinguisher, anyway? What about “old man Schutz” – how could he possibly remove all those trees from his lawn on his own? Yes, it will be tough to track down information on these cases considering they took place more than 50 years ago. But if WaPo’s investigative team has shown us anything, it’s that the paper has what it takes to get to the bottom of pressing national issues like these.

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Not a “Buddy Movie” for Obama and Biden

Vice President Biden’s recent remarks about gay marriage have prompted a wave of stories about his role in both the Obama administration and its re-election campaign. But whether or not, as Alana noted, you believe there was some method to Biden’s madness when he got out in front of the president on that issue, there’s little question that the incumbent veep is cut from a different mold than Dick Cheney or even Al Gore, both of whom seemed to have more clout in the government than Biden does.

Indeed, as this profile in today’s New York Times seems to be saying, Biden is something of a throwback to a different kind of politics and even a different sort of vice presidency than the one in which the veep is treated with a bit more deference and given more responsibility. Biden’s chronic case of hoof-in-mouth disease has limited his utility to the president to being the contrarian in the room as well as designated attack dog and defender of the Democratic leader. The key question for Biden-watchers during the next six months is not so much how often the veep goes off the Obama reservation but how much his various utterances will betray a desire to go into business for himself in 2016?

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Vice President Biden’s recent remarks about gay marriage have prompted a wave of stories about his role in both the Obama administration and its re-election campaign. But whether or not, as Alana noted, you believe there was some method to Biden’s madness when he got out in front of the president on that issue, there’s little question that the incumbent veep is cut from a different mold than Dick Cheney or even Al Gore, both of whom seemed to have more clout in the government than Biden does.

Indeed, as this profile in today’s New York Times seems to be saying, Biden is something of a throwback to a different kind of politics and even a different sort of vice presidency than the one in which the veep is treated with a bit more deference and given more responsibility. Biden’s chronic case of hoof-in-mouth disease has limited his utility to the president to being the contrarian in the room as well as designated attack dog and defender of the Democratic leader. The key question for Biden-watchers during the next six months is not so much how often the veep goes off the Obama reservation but how much his various utterances will betray a desire to go into business for himself in 2016?

We are told the often testy relationship between the two in their early days in office together has now changed to a genuine friendship But the idea of the vice president as a “utility player” whose value is as “the guy who does a bunch of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet,” as Obama has been quoted as saying, is just a nice way of saying the president hasn’t trusted Biden in the way Bush trusted Cheney or Bill Clinton trusted Gore. Though he can always be counted on to “help stir the pot,” that’s a contrast to the greater responsibility that was placed on his immediate predecessors. If as Ronald Klain, who worked for both Gore and Biden, puts it, the president and vice president “haven’t tried to turn this into some sort of buddy movie,” neither is it the ideal working relationship.

Which is to say that though Biden isn’t the lost soul who many vice presidents resembled while presiding over the Senate and doing little else, he has also become a punch line. If he was added to the ticket in 2008 in the hope that his foreign policy experience — an odd notion as there is hardly an international issue on which Biden has not been consistently wrong — he remains there more out of inertia than anything else.

That’s why the incessant talk of Biden actively thinking about 2016 — talk that most suspect originates in the office of the vice president and nowhere else — makes it likely that the president’s patience for the veep’s gaffes will decrease during the course of the campaign and a potential second term. Though Biden’s grasp of political reality has never been that firm, one wonders whether he fancies being the first sitting vice president to be rejected by his own party for the top spot since John Nance Garner failed to oust his erstwhile boss Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940.

In the meantime, Obama can continue to count on Biden to swing away on his weak spots, including his record on Israel. Biden again vouched for the president’s bona fides on Israel today in a speech to the Rabbinical Assembly. But, as with many of his utterances on a wide range of topics, the vice president’s grasp of facts remains sketchy. Two weeks ago, I commented that in a previous speech, Biden had mistakenly compared Obama to Harry Truman’s efforts on behalf of Israel’s security. Today he doubled down on that by saying again, “No president since Harry Truman has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama.”

In fact, no president other than the quite hostile Dwight Eisenhower did less for Israel’s security than Truman. Every president subsequent to Ike made a serious contribution to enhancing the security of the Jewish state that surpassed Truman’s, and that includes Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and the elder George Bush, as well as genuine friends such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and the younger Bush. But as President Obama has learned, when Joe Biden talks, it’s customary to take whatever he says with a shovelful of salt.

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Gay Marriage Distraction Intentional?

Ed Morrissey has an interesting column in This Week, arguing that Joe Biden’s gay marriage comments may have been a shrewd political calculation as opposed to a slipup during routine bloviation. I think he’s giving Biden too much credit, but there’s definitely a case to be made that this helps the Obama campaign in several ways:

Consider the coincidence of Education Secretary Arne Duncan offering a corroborating point of view the day after Biden’s statement. Brought to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to discuss Teacher Appreciation Week, Duncan was greeted by TIME’s Mark Halperin with this “icebreaker” question: “Do you believe that same-sex men and women should be able to get legally married in the United States?” Despite the tortured syntax of the query and an objection to the question by a “Morning Joe” panelist, Duncan gave an ironic “I do” in reply, pushing the issue even farther into the public consciousness, and giving Biden some much-needed political cover.

Nor do the coincidences end there. This comes just after the much-publicized departure of foreign policy adviser Richard Grenell from the Romney campaign. …

Even more likely, though, Biden’s gambit was an attempt to keep the media preoccupied with issues other than jobs and the economy. It’s also no coincidence that this eruption came just 48 hours after another disappointing jobs report.

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Ed Morrissey has an interesting column in This Week, arguing that Joe Biden’s gay marriage comments may have been a shrewd political calculation as opposed to a slipup during routine bloviation. I think he’s giving Biden too much credit, but there’s definitely a case to be made that this helps the Obama campaign in several ways:

Consider the coincidence of Education Secretary Arne Duncan offering a corroborating point of view the day after Biden’s statement. Brought to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to discuss Teacher Appreciation Week, Duncan was greeted by TIME’s Mark Halperin with this “icebreaker” question: “Do you believe that same-sex men and women should be able to get legally married in the United States?” Despite the tortured syntax of the query and an objection to the question by a “Morning Joe” panelist, Duncan gave an ironic “I do” in reply, pushing the issue even farther into the public consciousness, and giving Biden some much-needed political cover.

Nor do the coincidences end there. This comes just after the much-publicized departure of foreign policy adviser Richard Grenell from the Romney campaign. …

Even more likely, though, Biden’s gambit was an attempt to keep the media preoccupied with issues other than jobs and the economy. It’s also no coincidence that this eruption came just 48 hours after another disappointing jobs report.

Read the whole thing if you have a chance. Even if Biden’s gay marriage comments weren’t intentional, the Romney campaign will need to be careful with how they proceed on this. According to a new Gallup poll out today, fully half of Americans are in favor of same-sex marriage, compared to 48 percent who oppose. Several of Romney’s most prominent donors are also active in the fight for gay marriage rights.

Many of Obama’s key donors support gay marriage as well. So while the issue is a pleasant distraction for him from economic talk, and yet another opening to bludgeon Romney as far-right and out-of-touch, it also puts the president in a bind. Already some top Obama donors are withholding money from his campaign based on his rejection of a gay rights executive order, Greg Sargent reports. And Obama’s hedging on the gay marriage issue is sure to fuel the perception that he’s choosing politics over principles.

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The White House’s Gay Marriage Dance

Vice President Biden kinda-sorta embraced gay marriage during an interview with David Gregory yesterday – which the administration promptly downplayed – and this morning Education Secretary Arne Duncan came out in favor of same-sex marriage on MSNBC (via Buzzfeed):

The Obama administration tiptoed even closer to supporting gay marriage today, with a second member of the Cabinet coming out flatly in support of treating same-sex couples the same as couples of opposite sexes.

TIME’s Mark Halperin asked Education Secretary Arne Duncan on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today whether he believes “that same-sex men and women should be able to get legally married in the United States?”

“Yes, I do,” Duncan replied.

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Vice President Biden kinda-sorta embraced gay marriage during an interview with David Gregory yesterday – which the administration promptly downplayed – and this morning Education Secretary Arne Duncan came out in favor of same-sex marriage on MSNBC (via Buzzfeed):

The Obama administration tiptoed even closer to supporting gay marriage today, with a second member of the Cabinet coming out flatly in support of treating same-sex couples the same as couples of opposite sexes.

TIME’s Mark Halperin asked Education Secretary Arne Duncan on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today whether he believes “that same-sex men and women should be able to get legally married in the United States?”

“Yes, I do,” Duncan replied.

This certainly gives the impression the administration is relaxing its gay marriage stance. But is it smart or not? Best case scenario for the Obama campaign is if gay marriage supporters take these comments as a winking endorsement from the White House, and leave it at that. It’s a bit risky at this point for the president to personally come out in favor of gay marriage, particularly when many black Democratic voters adamantly oppose it. But as we know, Obama would obviously have more “flexibility” –in this area and others – if he’s reelected. And he likely hopes that message has been subtly transmitted to gay rights advocates through Biden’s remarks.

The political downside of Biden and Duncan voicing their support for gay marriage is that there will no doubt be a frantic rush to parse out whether Obama has personally “evolved” any further on the issue. Stay tuned for Jay Carney fielding gay marriage questions at the briefing. Obama will almost certainly try to avoid taking a firm stance on this. But if frustrated gay marriage advocates get tired of letting him dance around the issue, that could cause problems for the president.

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Obama’s Bin Laden Pitch Jumps the Shark

A year ago even as relentlessly positive a chronicler of the Obama administration as the New York Times noted that the president had begun to use the killing of Osama bin Laden as an integral part of his standard political stump speech. Since then, the president and even Vice President Biden have rarely disappointed listeners waiting for the obligatory bin Laden reference. While President Obama deserves credit for ordering the operation and he was entitled to spike the ball over this a few times, the transformation of the tracking down of the arch terrorist into the central achievement of their years in power says a lot about just how thin their list of victories has turned out to be.

Indeed, as I first noted last May, it should be remembered that Biden made one of the few genuinely witty remarks in the 2008 campaign when he noted that a Rudy Giuliani campaign speech consisted solely of, “a noun, a verb and 9/11,” but in the last year the addresses of Obama and Biden have rarely omitted “a noun, a verb and bin Laden.” Yet as tiresome as the president’s attempt to drape himself in the heroism of the Navy Seals has been up until now, it just got a lot worse. The Obama campaign is not only highlighting the bin Laden killing but it is now, believe it or not, actually putting forward a counter-factual video asserting that a President Mitt Romney would never have tried to take out the al Qaeda leader.

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A year ago even as relentlessly positive a chronicler of the Obama administration as the New York Times noted that the president had begun to use the killing of Osama bin Laden as an integral part of his standard political stump speech. Since then, the president and even Vice President Biden have rarely disappointed listeners waiting for the obligatory bin Laden reference. While President Obama deserves credit for ordering the operation and he was entitled to spike the ball over this a few times, the transformation of the tracking down of the arch terrorist into the central achievement of their years in power says a lot about just how thin their list of victories has turned out to be.

Indeed, as I first noted last May, it should be remembered that Biden made one of the few genuinely witty remarks in the 2008 campaign when he noted that a Rudy Giuliani campaign speech consisted solely of, “a noun, a verb and 9/11,” but in the last year the addresses of Obama and Biden have rarely omitted “a noun, a verb and bin Laden.” Yet as tiresome as the president’s attempt to drape himself in the heroism of the Navy Seals has been up until now, it just got a lot worse. The Obama campaign is not only highlighting the bin Laden killing but it is now, believe it or not, actually putting forward a counter-factual video asserting that a President Mitt Romney would never have tried to take out the al Qaeda leader.

 As Politico reports, a new Obama campaign video not only lavishes the president with extravagant praise for ordering the operation against bin Laden but also attempts to claim that Romney wouldn’t have done the same. The basis for this assertion is the fact that in 2007 Romney questioned whether the United States should be attacking targets in Pakistan and an out-of-context quote from that year in which the GOP nominee said, “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”

That doesn’t sound very good in retrospect but it reflected two sound positions. One was that the U.S. needed Pakistan if it was going to effectively fight the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The other was that the priority in the war on terror needed to be on ensuring that al Qaeda did have the capability to launch more terror attacks rather than merely getting bin Laden. While it can be construed as being one of many Romney verbal gaffes, it did not mean he was opposed to tracking down bin Laden if he could be found.

U.S. forces had been actively hunting Osama bin Laden for years. It was Barack Obama’s good fortune that, thanks to the Bush administration’s decision to conduct a war on terror and to use tactics that he largely opposed before entering the White House that the terrorist was found on his watch. The idea, put forward by former President Clinton (who did little to stop al Qaeda in the years after the first bombing of the World Trade Center and whose negligence materially contributed to the 9/11 disaster) in the campaign video, that there was a down side for Obama in ordering the mission is also, at best, an exaggeration. Though there were risks attached to the operation, the idea that Obama would have been lambasted for ordering an attack aimed at getting bin Laden is unfounded. Few Americans would have faulted him for trying, even if bin Laden had escaped again.

While it is to be expected that any president will take credit for the actions of the armed forces of which he is the commander-in-chief, it appears that in trying to make Romney look as if he was soft on al Qaeda, the president’s henchmen appear to have jumped the shark in a way that will do him little good. Such excesses serve only to diminish what may well be the one real foreign policy victory of his four years in office.

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Obama Will Have to Walk Fine Line on Foreign Policy Message

Vice President Biden gave a foreign policy address at NYU this morning, which, as you could probably guess, included numerous references to the fact that Osama bin Laden is no longer alive. But Biden also floated a new addition to the campaign’s OBL-centric foreign policy message by warning that a Mitt Romney presidency would be a rerun of the George W. Bush years.

“[Romney] takes us back to the failed policies that President Obama has dug us out of,” said Biden. “He would take us back to dangerous and discredited policy that would…make America less secure.”

The bulk of Biden’s speech was focused on attacking Romney. But it was full of apparent contradictions: Romney is too much of a hard-liner, but also can’t be counted on to make tough decisions. Romney is too inexperienced, and yet Obama was fully prepared in 2008. Romney has no interest in foreign policy and would outsource decisions to the State Department, and yet he’s also a dangerous ideologue who is “mired in a Cold War mindset.”

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Vice President Biden gave a foreign policy address at NYU this morning, which, as you could probably guess, included numerous references to the fact that Osama bin Laden is no longer alive. But Biden also floated a new addition to the campaign’s OBL-centric foreign policy message by warning that a Mitt Romney presidency would be a rerun of the George W. Bush years.

“[Romney] takes us back to the failed policies that President Obama has dug us out of,” said Biden. “He would take us back to dangerous and discredited policy that would…make America less secure.”

The bulk of Biden’s speech was focused on attacking Romney. But it was full of apparent contradictions: Romney is too much of a hard-liner, but also can’t be counted on to make tough decisions. Romney is too inexperienced, and yet Obama was fully prepared in 2008. Romney has no interest in foreign policy and would outsource decisions to the State Department, and yet he’s also a dangerous ideologue who is “mired in a Cold War mindset.”

The speech illustrated the difficult line the Obama campaign will have to walk on its foreign policy message. It will have to simultaneously tout its accomplishments, which have practically all been achieved through the continuation (and escalation) of robust, Bush-era policies, while attacking Romney as Bush redux.

Yes, Obama has succeeded at killing a large number of al-Qaeda targets – but he did this by ramping up the drone program. Yes, Obama was able to locate and kill Osama bin Laden – but he did this by using intelligence and gathering methods put into place by the Bush administration. Yes, Obama has increased Iran’s isolation in the world – but only because hawks in Congress strong-armed him into implementing sanctions that he originally opposed.

Biden had to argue today that Romney would be too meek and indecisive to accomplish these things, but was also so hawkish and ideological that he would lead the U.S. into dangerous conflicts. It was a disjointed message, and one that didn’t draw much applause from the audience full of NYU students at the College Democrat event.

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Cold War Still Sore Subject for Biden

The end of the Soviet Union was an unambiguous ideological victory for the West. Yet for many on the left, it remains a sore subject. Any mention of Russia’s foreign policy or criticism of Vladimir Putin inspires a knee-jerk response from the media and Democratic politicians: The Cold War is over!

I wrote about one case earlier this week, in which Doug Bandow and Jacob Heilbrunn chided Mitt Romney’s opposition to Putin’s authoritarian rule by bringing up the Soviet Union, and claiming that Romney broached the subject. (He hadn’t.) This bizarre psychological projection was precisely the New York Times’s response; the paper headlined its editorial “The Never-Ending Cold War.” It’s difficult, in fact, to get the left to stop talking abut the Cold War. Today, Vice President Joe Biden did so again, but he opened a window into the strange defensiveness of the administration and its allies on the subject.

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The end of the Soviet Union was an unambiguous ideological victory for the West. Yet for many on the left, it remains a sore subject. Any mention of Russia’s foreign policy or criticism of Vladimir Putin inspires a knee-jerk response from the media and Democratic politicians: The Cold War is over!

I wrote about one case earlier this week, in which Doug Bandow and Jacob Heilbrunn chided Mitt Romney’s opposition to Putin’s authoritarian rule by bringing up the Soviet Union, and claiming that Romney broached the subject. (He hadn’t.) This bizarre psychological projection was precisely the New York Times’s response; the paper headlined its editorial “The Never-Ending Cold War.” It’s difficult, in fact, to get the left to stop talking abut the Cold War. Today, Vice President Joe Biden did so again, but he opened a window into the strange defensiveness of the administration and its allies on the subject.

Biden said this morning, in a foreign policy speech at New York University, that Romney sees the world through a “Cold War prism, that is totally out of touch with the realities of the 21st century.” He later said Romney is “mired in a Cold War mindset” and is part of a group of “Cold War holdovers.” But contemplating why Biden felt it necessary to give a speech to angrily demand we all stop thinking and talking about the Cold War actually resolves some of the mystery. What was Biden doing during the Cold War? Well, you can guess by invoking the “Biden Rule”–the man is never right about foreign policy, so it’s easy to work backwards and figure out where he stood. But we don’t even have to do that much work, because Biden went public with his thoughts during the Reagan administration.

As Pete Wehner wrote in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago:

Throughout his career, Mr. Biden has consistently opposed modernization of our strategic nuclear forces. He was a fierce opponent of Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. Mr. Biden voted against funding SDI, saying, “The president’s continued adherence to [SDI] constitutes one of the most reckless and irresponsible acts in the history of modern statecraft.” Mr. Biden has remained a consistent critic of missile defense and even opposed the U.S. dropping out of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty after the collapse of the Soviet Union (which was the co-signatory to the ABM Treaty) and the end of the Cold War.

The SDI is significant, because former Soviet officials have made it clear this was the policy that convinced them the arms race was unwinnable. Biden was also quick to abandon allies in Vietnam (yes, Biden’s been getting this stuff wrong for that long) and Eastern Europe, where democracy and freedom have spread despite Biden’s obstructionist efforts during the years.

Biden’s presence in the Obama administration reveals just how far the Democratic Party’s mainstream has drifted from the days of John F. Kennedy and Harry Truman. And it’s easy to understand why Biden takes the Cold War so personally. His inability to stop the policies that brought our victory remains, for Biden, a wound that has yet to heal.

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The Troubling Correlation between Dialogue and Dictatorship

There’s an unfortunate correlation between high-level engagement with Middle East potentates and their human rights abuses. When Nancy Pelosi went to Syria, Syrian dissidents ran for cover. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak knew he was off-the-hook when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went to Egypt and failed to mention democracy. Bush-era Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called Iran a democracy and signaled regime hardliners that their path to repression was clear. President Barack Obama called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan one of his favorite leaders; once an emerging democracy, Turkey now ranks below Russia and Venezuela in terms of press freedom and Erdogan rounds up political opponents in the dead of night.

Earlier this month, Kurdish strongman Masud Barzani joined the club. During his trip to Washington, he met not only with his usual interlocutor Vice President Joseph Biden, but also Obama. He gloated at his reception and calculated that the embrace meant that he would face no more pressure to curtail rampant corruption or respect basic human rights.

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There’s an unfortunate correlation between high-level engagement with Middle East potentates and their human rights abuses. When Nancy Pelosi went to Syria, Syrian dissidents ran for cover. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak knew he was off-the-hook when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went to Egypt and failed to mention democracy. Bush-era Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called Iran a democracy and signaled regime hardliners that their path to repression was clear. President Barack Obama called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan one of his favorite leaders; once an emerging democracy, Turkey now ranks below Russia and Venezuela in terms of press freedom and Erdogan rounds up political opponents in the dead of night.

Earlier this month, Kurdish strongman Masud Barzani joined the club. During his trip to Washington, he met not only with his usual interlocutor Vice President Joseph Biden, but also Obama. He gloated at his reception and calculated that the embrace meant that he would face no more pressure to curtail rampant corruption or respect basic human rights.

The result was this—the arrest of Sherwan Serwani, the editor of an independent Kurdish magazine by security forces controlled by Masud’s son Masrour, who also visited the White House. Serwani has since disappeared. American human rights activists often talk about “disappearances,” but seldom do they get caught on video. Barzani added an exclamation point to his crackdown by banning Hell of Truth, a book by a former employee which detailed corruption within the Kurdish authority. The author has since fled for his life.

Dialogue can be important, even with dictators. But that’s what Biden is for. Rolling out the red-carpet for dictators can be very dangerous indeed, unless Obama is insincere about his call for democracy and freedom in the Middle East.

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The Myths and Facts of a Possible Hillary Clinton Presidential Candidacy

In the contest for most enjoyable political Tumblr–essentially a photo blog conducive to snapshot satire–of the season, the stiffest competition faced by the runaway leader “Newt Judges You” came, surprisingly, from one devoted to Hillary Clinton. Even more surprisingly, it portrayed her convincingly as endlessly cool–an impression all the more cemented by Clinton’s handwritten note of appreciation to the previously obscure creators.

This coolness factor has only increased speculation that Clinton may still be interested in running for president in 2016. Time’s Michael Crowley dives into the debate, noting–correctly–that Clinton seems to have washed away the ill will of her Democratic Party rivals from the bitter 2008 campaign in her term as the embattled president’s secretary of state. But I think Crowley, in turns, overestimates Clinton’s appeal as well as one of the obstacles in her way. He writes:

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In the contest for most enjoyable political Tumblr–essentially a photo blog conducive to snapshot satire–of the season, the stiffest competition faced by the runaway leader “Newt Judges You” came, surprisingly, from one devoted to Hillary Clinton. Even more surprisingly, it portrayed her convincingly as endlessly cool–an impression all the more cemented by Clinton’s handwritten note of appreciation to the previously obscure creators.

This coolness factor has only increased speculation that Clinton may still be interested in running for president in 2016. Time’s Michael Crowley dives into the debate, noting–correctly–that Clinton seems to have washed away the ill will of her Democratic Party rivals from the bitter 2008 campaign in her term as the embattled president’s secretary of state. But I think Crowley, in turns, overestimates Clinton’s appeal as well as one of the obstacles in her way. He writes:

She’s pulled off the neat trick of being a loyal soldier to Obama while restoring her own poll numbers to record highs. And she’s won high marks for her performance as secretary of state — perhaps in part because she has managed, whether through accident or design, not to get bogged down in some of the Obama administration’s thorniest foreign policy challenges, including the Israeli-Arab conflict and the Iran nuclear showdown.

Will Clinton run in 2016? Who knows? Party insiders certainly don’t rule it out, though they tend to say it probably depends on whether Obama wins a second term. It’s easier for her if he doesn’t, especially because she won’t have to challenge a sitting Vice President.

It’s true that last year Clinton’s job approval hit 66 percent. But while she certainly has done some things right, her job approval mirrors that of her predecessors. That Gallup poll was accompanied by a description of previous secretaries of state, and Clinton’s numbers were right around those of Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright. They come nowhere close, however, to Colin Powell’s approval ratings at Foggy Bottom, which were consistently in the 80s, reaching a high of 88 percent. This is no knock on Clinton, but there is no guarantee–indeed it is unlikely–that her high approval ratings would follow her back into the political sphere, where she has always been considered an especially divisive figure.

Whether or not it would be easier for Clinton to run in 2016 if President Obama loses this year would depend greatly on the first term of his would-be Republican successor. It’s also possible that an Obama victory this year could hurt Clinton’s chances in 2016 because it is difficult for any party to win the White House three times in a row.

Contra Crowley, however, having to compete for her party’s nomination with Joe Biden would be a gift from the heavens for Clinton. First of all, Biden’s approval ratings now, at a time when his gobsmacking inability to speak coherently is relegated to the vice presidential sideshow, is 46 percent, according to that same Gallup poll. Biden’s racially insensitive remarks about African-Americans and Indian-Americans and his other horrific displays of unfiltered logorrhea are either papered over by a friendly media or dismissed with a condescending pat on the head. It would be difficult to ignore him if he were in any position to win his party’s nomination for president.

He was put on the ticket in 2008 ostensibly for his “foreign policy experience,” though his relevant ideas turn out to be excruciatingly half-baked, indecipherable, or just plain wrong. Hillary Clinton would face several challenges if she decides to run for president again. Running against Joe Biden would not be one of them.

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Biden: Obama Courageously Risked His Reelection to Kill Bin Laden

President Obama’s decision to order the Seal Team Six raid against Osama bin Laden may seem like a no-brainer in hindsight, but in reality the president took on a lot of risk: American lives, a diplomatic or military conflict with Pakistan, and a failure to kill bin Laden that could have resulted in an international propaganda victory for al-Qaeda.

These are the disaster scenarios that typically come to mind when a White House official praises the president for his courage during the raid. But according to Vice President Biden, Obama’s real act of valor was ordering the operation despite the catastrophic possibility that a failed mission could tarnish his reelection chances:

“This guy’s got a backbone like a ramrod,” Biden said of Obama, according to the White House pool report. He cited the success of the military mission to capture Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last summer as a decisive moment for his presidency.

“He said, ‘Go,’ knowing his presidency was on the line,” Biden said of Obama. “Had he failed in that audacious mission, he would’ve been a one-term president.”

The Obama campaign has highlighted the Navy SEAL mission that resulted in the death of bin Laden as one of the top accomplishments of the president’s term. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who hosted the fundraiser at his Georgetown home, summed up Obama’s first term using a favorite line of Biden’s: “Osama bin Laden is dead. General Motors is alive.”

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President Obama’s decision to order the Seal Team Six raid against Osama bin Laden may seem like a no-brainer in hindsight, but in reality the president took on a lot of risk: American lives, a diplomatic or military conflict with Pakistan, and a failure to kill bin Laden that could have resulted in an international propaganda victory for al-Qaeda.

These are the disaster scenarios that typically come to mind when a White House official praises the president for his courage during the raid. But according to Vice President Biden, Obama’s real act of valor was ordering the operation despite the catastrophic possibility that a failed mission could tarnish his reelection chances:

“This guy’s got a backbone like a ramrod,” Biden said of Obama, according to the White House pool report. He cited the success of the military mission to capture Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last summer as a decisive moment for his presidency.

“He said, ‘Go,’ knowing his presidency was on the line,” Biden said of Obama. “Had he failed in that audacious mission, he would’ve been a one-term president.”

The Obama campaign has highlighted the Navy SEAL mission that resulted in the death of bin Laden as one of the top accomplishments of the president’s term. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who hosted the fundraiser at his Georgetown home, summed up Obama’s first term using a favorite line of Biden’s: “Osama bin Laden is dead. General Motors is alive.”

If there’s one thing you’d hope the Commander in Chief isn’t preoccupied with during such a critical moment, it’s the risk to his own reelection. And the fact that Biden touts this as if it were the president’s most selfless act of courage really tells you where the Obama administration’s primary concerns lie. This White House has injected election politics into nearly every issue it’s tackled during the past three years, including national security. They’ve practically been running for reelection since the moment Obama was sworn in.

Which is yet another reason why America’s enemies don’t take Obama’s warnings seriously. When doubts have been raised about whether Obama has the backbone to take military action against Iran, his supporters point to the bin Laden raid as evidence of his fortitude. But if the White House was concerned about election-year fallout from the bin Laden raid – an operation that was risky, but was supported almost unanimously by the American public – what are the chances Obama would take on an even riskier mission that has less public support?

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