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The Collective
Sunday, October 5, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

One of the responses from the debate that I have been to go back to is the following from Biden. I was confused by it at the time, and wanted to see the transcript.

The question:

IFILL: What has this administration done right or wrong — this is the great, lingering, unresolved issue, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — what have they done? And is a two-state solution the solution?

The answer (with the bolded part being the subject of this post:

BIDEN: Gwen, no one in the United States Senate has been a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden. I would have never, ever joined this ticket were I not absolutely sure Barack Obama shared my passion.

But you asked a question about whether or not this administration’s policy had made sense or something to that effect. It has been an abject failure, this administration’s policy.

In fairness to Secretary Rice, she’s trying to turn it around now in the seventh or eighth year.

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.

When we kicked — along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, “Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don’t know — if you don’t, Hezbollah will control it.”

Now what’s happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel.

The fact of the matter is, the policy of this administration has been an abject failure.

And speaking of freedom being on the march, the only thing on the march is Iran. It’s closer to a bomb. Its proxies now have a major stake in Lebanon, as well as in the Gaza Strip with Hamas.

We will change this policy with thoughtful, real, live diplomacy that understands that you must back Israel in letting them negotiate, support their negotiation, and stand with them, not insist on policies like this administration has.

The response is a jumbled mess. He is referring to the period after the Hezbollah/Israel conflict in 2006, although he has the narrative rather confused.

Some of the problems:

-The US never kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, with the help of the French or not. That is simply nonsense. One might think that he means they were kicked out of Israel, but apart from the initial cross-border raid that sparked the conflict, I am fairly certain that the fighting consisted mainly of bombardments from Lebanon into Israel, with any actual fighting taking place in southern Lebanon. Beyond that, neither the US nor the French were involved at that point.

-It is true that the French participated in a peacekeeping force after the end of the conflict.

-The mission was a UN one, not a NATO one. Indeed, it was an enhancement of an existing mission that was started in 1978 (UNIFIL).

-Hezbollah was already a member of the Lebanese government prior to the conflict, so it wasn’t as if some failed policy of the Bush administration led to that outcome. (Indeed, I noted Hezbollah’s status as a political party here, in one of the few (only?) instances in which I favorably quoted John Bolton).

Really, Biden’s answer makes no sense, and had Palin said anything along those lines, she would have been skewered.

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5 Comments »

  1. Here’s an honest truth that based on a couple of posts I’ve made here you’ll find surprising.

    I think it makes more sense than you’re giving it credit for (though not much). I think that you have the wrong incident that he was talking about. I think he substituted the word Hezbollah for Syria, and was talking about 2005 when the Lebanese people, along with backing of US and French diplomatic corps, forced Syrian forces out of Lebanon.

    Now, putting in any forces we control, whether US, NATO, or UN was never an option in this case. It’s possible, but doubtful, that he ever mentioned anything along these lines publicly. I’m pretty sure that Obama was probably too smart to say something that off the wall.

    Which brings the real problem with a Biden vice presidency. I always thought that Obama picked Biden because he wanted a traditional party stalwart, but was fearful of allowing the Billary two headed monster into his inner circle. Anybody that has ever had to work with an uncontrollable, unpunishable subordinate knows the special kind of chaos they can create.

    If Biden has shown anything in this election he’s shown that he doesn’t give a flying fig about what the Obama folks think. He says what he wants when he wants. Thirty years of being called ’senator’ have ingrained his infallibility into his DNA. An Obama win will give Biden a standing invitation to all of the Sunday talk shows where he can give his own special form of commentary of the days events. And only 1 person necessarily comes out looking good in a Biden tale, and it ain’t Obama.

    You once made a post about different types of Veep picks, concluding that Biden was a governing pick. I’m guessing before this is over Obama will be looking in Dante’s Inferno to see which level of Hell is reserved for unfaithful vice presidents.

    Comment by Buckland — Sunday, October 5, 2008 @ 7:02 pm

  2. No. impossible, dr. Taylor. She would not have been skewered. She would have been gently criticized in some categories, and then she would have been defended by a throng of R’s who think it perfectly legitimate to have someone on the ticket who knows nothing about foreign policy. and they would have sighed and put their hands over their heart in great admiration because she mentioned a proper name like hezbollah at all. “ahhh….see? she’s smart. she said Hezbollah.”

    okay, i’m just being silly. and at the time of the debate when biden said that i made one of those scooby-doo noises. “errr??” thanks for recapturing that.

    Comment by mbailey@berry.edu — Monday, October 6, 2008 @ 3:48 am

  3. The real question - while he no doubt is being Joe Biden - is he being the best Biden he can be? (see January 8, 2007)

    Comment by RandyB — Monday, October 6, 2008 @ 8:28 am

  4. Thanks for the post. This went over my head when watching the debate. I think the moral of the story is to hope that both Obama and McCain manage to find competent Secretaries of State.

    Comment by Black Political Analysis — Monday, October 6, 2008 @ 10:47 am

  5. I heard this clip the next day and was similarly puzzled. Did he really say that he and Obama called for a NATO mission in Lebanon? Because that would be quite some proposal for an expansion of NATO’s raison d’etre.

    On the statement right before that, I have heard Obama state that he argued against elections in the Palestinian Territories. (I do not know if he was on record with that statement or not, but the claim is part of his whole “judgment” over “experience” argument.) This, too, is something on which he has not been asked to explain himself, to my knowledge. It is an implicit statement that elections are not a way to resolve internal conflicts. But then what is? Independent of our hindsight regarding what happened, what would have been better than letting Hamas and Fatah contest an election? And what guide is this to future policy that an Obama administration would follow?

    [This may appear twice or not at all. I got a WP error in trying to post it the first time/]

    Comment by Matthew — Monday, October 6, 2008 @ 3:49 pm

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