Exclusive: Say It Ain’t So, Joe – Sen. Biden’s Subtly Delusional Debate Performance
by N. M. GUARIGLIA
October 7, 2008
Sen. Joe Biden’s a funny guy. He likes to tell stories. Sometimes he says he was shot at in Iraq, and has to later clarify. Sometimes he talks about the time his helicopter was fired on and forced to land during a trip to Afghanistan, having to clarify yet again. Sometimes, on rare occasions, if the moon is just right, he might take entire excerpts from someone else’s speech, and use it as his own.
But his debate with Gov. Palin produced a whole slew of interesting tidbits and gaffes, which one could imagine would be bigger news should they have been said by Palin instead.
1) On whether or not Sen. Obama said he would meet with Iran’s president Ahmadinejad without preconditions, Biden said this:
Can I just clarify this? This is simply not true about Barack Obama. He did not say sit down with Ahmadinejad. The fact of the matter is, it surprises me that Sen. McCain doesn’t realize that Ahmadinejad does not control the security apparatus in Iran. The theocracy controls the security apparatus, number one.
This is false. During a Democratic primary debate last year, Sen. Obama was asked “Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration in Washington, or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?” The question was asked by a citizen through a YouTube video, and as he named off the countries in question, the faces of Ahmadinejad, Assad, Chavez, Castro, and Kim Jong Il flashed across the screen.
Anderson Cooper turned to Sen. Obama to answer first, and he responded emphatically by saying, “I would,” followed by some revisionist history about Reagan-Soviet summits from the 1980s. He has subsequently reaffirmed that he would meet with Ahmadinejad personally.
So when Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden say they meant “preparations” not “preconditions,” don’t be fooled. Don’t be fooled when they say they meant low-level contacts, not two presidents meeting face-to-face. Don’t be fooled when they exempt the part that said this would all happen within the first year of Obama’s presidency.
And don’t be fooled when they remind us that Ahmadinejad “does not control” things in Iran. We’ve heard both Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden repeat this line now on multiple occasions: “The theocracy” controls the country.
This is true. But who ever implied otherwise? And what point are they making anyway? Is Sen. Biden implying Sen. Obama would not only meet with Ahmadinejad, but meet with Ahmadinejad’s masters as well? Are they saying Sen. Obama will meet with the ruling mullahs like Khamenei, etc. — who are ten times worse then Ahmadinejad — also?
2) On the Palestinians, Biden said this:
Here’s what the president said when we said no. He insisted on elections on the West Bank, when I said, and others said, and Barack Obama said, “Big mistake. Hamas will win. You’ll legitimize them.” What happened? Hamas won.
Wrong. Anyone who knows the first thing about Palestine knows Hamas does not control the West Bank. Fatah rules the West Bank. Hamas reigns over the Gaza Strip. Had Palin said this, it would be national news for the next three weeks.
In addition, Sen. Obama didn’t warn about holding Palestinian elections prematurely. In fact, he liked the idea, saying it was an “opportunity… to consolidate behind a single government.”
Furthermore, if anyone might have “legitimized” Hamas over the course of the last few years, it would be Sen. Obama himself, who has gone on record stating Hamas has “legitimate claims.” Get that? “Legitimate claims.”
Also, Barack’s former foreign policy advisor Robert Malley, pro-Hamas in his own right, traveled to meet with leaders of the terrorist group without U.S. governmental approval, and was forced to resign from the Obama campaign.
It should also be noted that Hamas subsequently endorsed Sen. Obama and Mr. Hope didn’t seem to mind. If the Obama campaign really wants to have a discussion about who has “legitimized” the Jihadist group during the last few years, that’s a debate the McCain camp should welcome.
3) On drilling for domestic energy, Biden said:
John McCain voted 20 times against funding alternative energy sources and thinks, I guess, the only answer is drill, drill, drill. Drill we must, but it will take 10 years for one drop of oil to come out of any of the wells that are going to begun to be drilled.
Incorrect. Throughout his career, Sen. McCain has voted against making it mandatory to use alternative energy. Today, his “only answer” isn’t “drill, drill, drill.” He supports nuclear energy, which Obama opposes. He supports clean-coal, which Obama opposes. He also supports every form of alternative energy that Obama supports as well.
Drilling is important, too. It will not take a decade to get a drop of oil out of our wells. This is a complete fallacy. But it doesn’t matter. The mere attempt at exploring for energy domestically would alter the market’s energy speculation and bring down the price at the pump more or less immediately. This is what happened last month when President Bush simply mentioned the idea about drilling for domestic oil: the prices plummeted. This is how markets work. Sen. Biden either doesn’t understand that or was misleading — or both.
4) Sen. Biden explained his 2002 vote to authorize the war in Iraq like so:
With regard to Iraq, I indicated it would be a mistake to — I gave the president the power. I voted for the power because he said he needed it not to go to war but to keep the United States, the UN in line, to keep sanctions on Iraq and not let them be lifted. (emphasis mine)
Wow. Talk about dereliction of duty. Note to Sen. Biden: the October 2002 Public Law No: 107-243, for which you voted in favor of, is officially called the “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution 2002.” Sen. Biden gets into talk about prewar diplomacy, and still, six years later, won’t even admit he voted to authorize the Iraq war.
5) After Gov. Palin pointed out that Sen. Obama voted to increase taxes on people making as little as $42,000, Biden responded:
The charge is absolutely not true. Barack Obama did not vote to raise taxes. The vote she’s referring to, John McCain voted the exact same way. It was a budget procedural vote. John McCain voted the same way.
Also false. McCain did not vote the same way at all. More than once, Sen. Obama voted in favor of raising taxes on a single taxpayer making just $42,000. McCain didn’t. It’s a matter of record.
6) When speaking about tax breaks, Sen. Biden said Americans will pay no more under an Obama administration than they did under the Reagan administration:
The middle class is the economic engine. It’s fair. They deserve the tax breaks, not the super wealthy who are doing pretty well. They don’t need any more tax breaks. And by the way, they’ll pay no more than they did under Ronald Reagan.
Unless there’s been some huge overnight change in economic philosophy within the Obama camp, this claim is false. Sen. Obama’s economic plan is to raise taxes up to 39.5%, whereas 28% was the highest the tax rates ever were under Reagan. Sen. Obama’s proposed trillion-dollar spending increase and tax hikes on every aspect of business will be the largest in American history. Unprecedented; something this continent has never seen. That’s what he means when he says “change.”
This isn’t partisan speculation, its Obama’s actual economic plan. Just read his website. Look at the numbers and do the math.
7) On Bosnia, Sen. Biden said:
My recommendations on Bosnia. I admit I was the first one to recommend it. They saved tens of thousands of lives. And initially John McCain opposed it along with a lot of other people.
Catching on to a theme, here? Sen. Biden has a knack for exaggerating the hell out of everything. During the Democrat primaries this year, his ads more or less implied he ended the genocide in Bosnia. The truth is more complex and less self-congratulating: during the early 1990s, Sen. Biden was suspicious about using ground forces in Bosnia – just like McCain. Later in the decade, Biden and McCain both supported the intervention together.
8) Sen. Biden compared the cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars:
Look, we have spent more money – we spend more money in three weeks on combat in Iraq than we spent on the entirety of the last seven years… in Afghanistan building that country. Let me say that again. Three weeks in Iraq; seven years, seven years or six-and-a-half years in Afghanistan.
What’s he talking about? We spend about $7 billion every three weeks in Iraq. We’ve spent $172 billion in Afghanistan. He’s off by about 2,000% – he just made these numbers up out of thin air.
But what kind of point was he trying to make, anyway? That we’ve spent more in Iraq than in Afghanistan? Well, I guess you got us on that one, Joe.
Does anyone in the country think otherwise? Is he saying we should be spending less in Iraq or more in Afghanistan, or both? One of the reasons we’ve spent less in Afghanistan is because we have NATO allies there, taking on much of the cost. Isn’t that what Biden wanted in Iraq to begin with, more allies?
Iraq is a much larger war with hundreds of thousands of more combatants; an urban metropolis, the hub of the Middle East’s geopolitics and the global economy; smack-dab in the vortex of the Arab world, with the planet’s second largest oil reserves. Afghanistan is a gigantic mount range, a frontier wilderness where you might not see a village or villager for hundreds of miles. Of course the former will cost more than the latter to rebuild.
9) Sen. Biden talked about Sarah Palin’s record challenging oil companies in Alaska:
And, look, I agree with the governor. She imposed a windfall profits tax up there in Alaska. That’s what Barack Obama and I want to do.
No. Had the debate moderator – who is writing a flattering book about a hypothetical Obama presidency due out on Inauguration Day, coincidentally – given Palin time to respond, she could have corrected the record. Palin reformed her state’s revenue system, setting up Alaska for profits during both good and bad times in the oil industry. What Gov. Palin did was permanent and logical. It made sense. It was not a nonsensical windfall profit tax scheme. She knew that would simply lead the oil companies into hiking up their prices to make up for lost profit. Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden do not understand that.
10) Sen. Biden said our top military commander in Afghanistan opposes John McCain’s policies for Afghanistan:
The fact is that our commanding general in Afghanistan said today that a surge – the surge principles used in Iraq will not – well, let me say this again now – our commanding general in Afghanistan said the surge principle in Iraq will not work in Afghanistan… our commanding general in Afghanistan. He said we need more troops.
Total semantics. Gen. David McKiernan said he wouldn’t call his strategy a “surge,” but what he wants is more or less the same thing: more troops, as Biden noted, and to work with friendly indigenous tribal forces in a new counterinsurgency doctrine. He didn’t say it wouldn’t work. He said it’d be difficult and different from Iraq. No kidding.
What kind of point was Biden making anyway? Was he saying whatever Gen. McKiernan says goes? That Gen. McKiernan’s view of Afghanistan is infallible? Sen. Biden forgot to mention that Iraq’s former commanders, Gen. Casey and Gen. Abizaid, also opposed a surge in Iraq when McCain was calling for one. Casey and Abizaid resigned in stalemate, and the outsider Gen. David Petraeus, who McCain championed for years, implemented the strategy that McCain had been talking about for nearly a half-decade.
Biden also failed to mention that the wildly successful Petraeus – who Biden called “dead flat wrong” about Iraq last year – was recently promoted to Central Command, and now oversees Gen. McKiernan as well as the Afghan war theater. What Petraeus says goes. Not McKiernan. And Petraeus wants to implement in Afghanistan his same strategy that he succeeded with in Iraq.
11) When Biden tried to name an accomplishment of Sen. Obama’s, he said this:
Barack Obama, the first thing he did when he came to the United States Senate, new senator, reached across the aisle to my colleague, Dick Lugar, a Republican, and said, “We’ve got to do something about keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.” They put together a piece of legislation that, in fact, was serious and real.
Talk about embellishing your own CV. Whenever a surrogate of Sen. Obama’s is asked to name a single thing their candidate has done, they usually stutter and mumble for a bit before concluding that he’s done next to nothing. The smart surrogates, however, the ones who know their talking points down pat, point to this hailed wizardry of brilliant national security legalization that Obama supposedly took up himself, going to abandoned Russian warehouses, personally splitting the atoms and dismantling the warheads themselves, and raising the issue of anti-proliferation in a heroic bipartisan fashion worthy of some sort of medal.
Give me a break. The truth of the matter is, this bill was never called the “Lugar-Obama Bill,” despite what Sen. Obama’s website boasts. It was called “The Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Conventional Weapons Threat Reduction Act.” Sen. Obama didn’t spearhead the bill, despite what he claims. He was a mere co-sponsor, along with 25 other members of the Senate.
See, that’s what these young go-getting chaps do. They jump on the train right before it leaves the station, so they can beef up their own record and say “Me too” when asked about it later.
And despite what Sen. Biden says today, it didn’t stop proliferation at all. The bill died in 2006 after being reported out of committee. A less ambitious bill that dealt primarily with conventional and not nuclear concerns was passed the year after.
Sen. Obama has a long record of this kind of sad, sad, sad padding of his resume. As a state legislator in Illinois – and always mindful of his next ambitious political move – he voted “present” 130 times on controversial bills, and arranged with the President of Illinois’ State Legislature Emil Jones to attach his name to bills with which he had no part in introducing or passing. It’s a matter of open record – and it’s sad, in case I haven’t mentioned that part.
12) On clean-coal use, Biden said:
We believe – Barack Obama believes by investing in clean-coal and safe nuclear, we can not only create jobs in wind and solar here in the United States, we can export it.
Leaving aside the obvious question – “How exactly will investing in coal and nuclear help with wind and solar?” – Biden was way off, again. Just a few weeks ago, a supporter of his in Ohio asked Sen. Biden why he and Sen. Obama were supporting clean-coal technology. Biden responded, “We’re not supporting clean-coal. Guess what? China’s building two every week, two dirty coal plants. And it’s polluting the United States. It’s causing people to die.” Biden then pointed at the girl and said clean-coal was “gonna ruin your lungs, and there’s nothing we can do about it. No coal plants here in America! If they’re gonna build them over there (China), make them clean, because they’re killing you.”
13) On the bailout, Biden said the legislation matched the four principles that Sen. Obama laid out on his own. But it just… doesn’t.
14) When asked if Iran or Pakistan were a greater threat, Sen. Biden implied Pakistan and said:
I always am focused, as you know Gwen, I have been focusing on for a long time, along with Barack on Pakistan. Pakistan already has nuclear weapons. Pakistan already has deployed nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s weapons can already hit Israel and the Mediterranean.
The distance between Israel and Pakistan is 2,085 miles. Pakistan’s top-range nuclear missile maxes out at 1,000 miles. Sen. Biden also omitted that the head of the Pakistani government is friendly, at least abstractly. The only chance that Pakistan’s central government becomes proactively hostile to the U.S. or Israel is if Salafist clerics overtake the apparatus of the Pakistani government – the kind of action that would likely occur should Sen. Obama militarily intervene into Pakistani territory, as he says he would.
15) When speaking about the nuclear test-ban treaty, Sen. Biden said:
Number two, with regard to arms control and weapons, nuclear weapons require a nuclear arms control regime. John McCain voted against a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty that every Republican has supported.
Wrong. Another 50 members of the Senate opposed the ban as well, and the treaty was defeated. Nearly “every Republican” opposed the treaty, too, and for good reasons (too nuanced and geopolitical to delve into now). Sen. Biden made it seem like McCain was out of the mainstream and was the sole reckless voice in the Senate for the continuation of nuclear proliferation.
16) Sen. Biden said John McCain opposed the “Violence Against Women Act,” which Biden had an intricate role in crafting. This is true, but not because McCain is pro-beating-up-your-wife. He opposed it for the same reasons the United States Supreme Court opposed it: because it was unconstitutional and represented an illegal federal power grab from states.
17) After Gov. Palin was asked to define the constitutional authority of the vice president’s office, Sen. Biden had his turn and said:
Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history. The idea he doesn’t realize that Article 1 of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that’s the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.
No, Sen. Biden. Everyone should understand that Article 1 of the Constitution does not define the role of the vice presidential office, and only mentions the VP in context of the office’s legislative responsibility to reside over the Senate. It says nothing about the Executive Branch. Nothing. He should understand that.
18) The issue of funding U.S. troops in Iraq came up. Biden said this:
John McCain voted to cut off funding for the troops. Let me say that again. John McCain voted against an amendment containing $1 billion, $600 million… he voted against it. He voted against funding because he said the amendment had a timeline in it to end this war. He didn’t like that.
Does he have no shame? Fact: Sen. McCain opposed an amendment that put a timeline on our withdrawal from Iraq. He supported the funding package that came without a timeline. And he did this not because he “didn’t like” the idea of ending the war, but because he wanted to end the war by winning it; by finally pacifying Iraq through the new counterinsurgency strategy.
Sen. Obama said he’d never vote against funding U.S. forces, and then did precisely that when the timelines for withdrawal that he wanted in the bill were kept out of it.
At the time Obama did this, Biden opposed him and said he was being reckless with American lives. All Gov. Palin had to say was something like this: “Sen. Biden, you and I share an overriding commonality. We are both parents of sons serving overseas in Iraq. We share that experience, and we both know that feeling that only fathers and mothers of veterans get when we hear about another IED attack, or another casualty report. When your presidential candidate, Sen. Obama, voted to cut off funds for the U.S. military, you opposed the measure and rightly said ‘This is cutting off support that will save the lives of thousands of American troops.’ Now I ask you, Joe, with all sincerity, can you look me in the eye – can you stare into the camera and look the country in the eye – and tell me you are comfortable with Barack Obama as the Commander-in-Chief of your son? Because I’m not.”
Had she said that, it would have been game, set, match.
19) Biden began talking about Lebanon and said this:
When we kicked – along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, “Move NATO forces in there. Fill in the vacuum, because if you don’t know – if you don’t, Hezbollah will control it.”
This had to be, by far, my favorite excerpt from the night. What in God’s good Milky Way galaxy was Sen. Biden talking about? Hezbollah kicked out of Lebanon? France? NATO? What?
Anyone who happened to watch the Israeli-Hezbollah war two summers ago could testify: none of this happened. It just simply didn’t happen. I’m not quite sure how to say it other than that: it didn’t happen. It’s like Biden is living in an alternate universe. Hezbollah wasn’t kicked out of anywhere. France didn’t do anything. NATO didn’t kick anyone anywhere, either. Neither did the United States or Israel. Neither did the Lebanese.
You could imagine the scene at the Guariglia household. There I was, sitting down and listening to the man who might become vice president talk about imaginary military interventions and make-believe military deployments. It was borderline Fantasia. He might as well have said Carrot Top captured Osama bin Laden – or Lucille Ball kicked al Qaeda out of Six Flags theme park. And we’re supposed to be unnerved that Palin might be a heartbeat away from the presidency?
The entire night, Biden talked about things that exist only in his mind. And what’s unsettling is how serious and forthright he is when he states these falsities. It’s almost pathological. He even got the name of the restaurant he visits in Delaware wrong (it’s been out of business for many years).
Whenever Sen. Biden is about to say something he thinks is profound, he gets this exasperated I-can’t-believe-none-of-you-know-what-I’m-about-to-tell-you look on his face, and prefaces his statement with “Look, people,” or “I want to make myself perfectly clear, here,” or “Let me repeat myself so there’s no confusion.” He then continues on a tangent, rambling on and listing off names and numbers, dates and times, and places and people. It’s all very quite impressive if you aren’t privy to the information he’s throwing at you, but after some quick fact-finding research, it’s moderately simple to come to the conclusion that everything Sen. Biden just said was either a half-truth or an outright falsehood.
A cynic would suggest this kind of behavior is to be expected from a man who once plagiarized a speech about his family tree, and was forced to resign from the 1988 presidential race. Every single time Biden opened his mouth during the debate, I made that sound Scooby Doo makes whenever he’s surprised or shocked. What’s so worrisome about this, however, is how much conviction Sen. Biden has when he says these things; a stern, serious grimace that would be reassuring if the words that accompanied it were not wholly detached from reality.
The sad truth is, Sen. Biden hasn’t changed much from 1988. I don’t want to believe that because I like Biden on a personal level, and think he’s a good guy overall. But he’s making it hard for us to come to any conclusion other than he’s the same person who once lied about his family background, using word-for-word the biography of a British politician’s family, in order to make himself a more attractive presidential nominee 20 years ago. (Jack Shafer of Slate said it best, when he rhetorically asked: “What kind of plagiarist is Joe Biden? The unusually creepy kind.”)
Anyone familiar with Sen. Biden’s knack for fibbing and embellishing must take everything he says with a grain of salt. On nearly every issue, Sen. Biden seems to take credit for having been the first person to raise that specific issue “years ago.” Global warming? “I was the first to raise that issue years ago.” Arms control? “I warned of that years ago!” Disease epidemics? “Me, me, me – years ago!” It’s very unbecoming, and very untrue.
I think it’s safe to say we all know at least one unpleasant person like this in our lives. (On a side note, someone put Joe Biden in touch with the New York Giants’ front office, because they could use a good draft pick in 2015.)
Too bad Gov. Palin isn’t a policy wonk. Another candidate might have been able to call Biden out on these tall tales during the debate. By any objective standard, the sheer quantity, quality, and magnitude in Sen. Biden’s misstatements were unprecedented. To put it bluntly, there’s just never been anything like it – and there likely may never be anything like it again.
That Biden’s history-making performance has been met with near-silence from the press is the latest proof that the mainstream media is fully in the tank for Obama’s candidacy. Rest assured, had Gov. Palin said the things Sen. Biden said – about wars that never happened, bills that never passed, nuclear test-ban treaties that never materialized, etc. – the all-out media blitz on her performance would have forced McCain to drop her from his ticket. Either way, the election would have been over.