So Joe's the one who's qualified?
Even after a day of mulling, Joe Biden's remarks at a Seattle fundraiser a few days ago are still troubling to me because they say something about both Joe Biden and Barack Obama. Here's what Joe the Politician said:
"Mark my words," the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers Sunday. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy."
"They" was Nikita Khrushchev. How was John Kennedy tested? Severely :
Although Kennedy was keenly aware of some of the risks of such meetings — his Harvard thesis was titled "Appeasement at Munich" — he embarked on a summit meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna in June 1961, a move that would be recorded as one of the more self-destructive American actions of the cold war, and one that contributed to the most dangerous crisis of the nuclear age.
Senior American statesmen like George Kennan advised Kennedy not to rush into a high-level meeting, arguing that Khrushchev had engaged in anti-American propaganda and that the issues at hand could as well be addressed by lower-level diplomats. Kennedy’s own secretary of state, Dean Rusk, had argued much the same in a Foreign Affairs article the previous year: "Is it wise to gamble so heavily? Are not these two men who should be kept apart until others have found a sure meeting ground of accommodation between them?"
But Kennedy went ahead, and for two days he was pummeled by the Soviet leader. Despite his eloquence, Kennedy was no match as a sparring partner, and offered only token resistance as Khrushchev lectured him on the hypocrisy of American foreign policy, cautioned America against supporting "old, moribund, reactionary regimes" and asserted that the United States, which had valiantly risen against the British, now stood "against other peoples following its suit." Khrushchev used the opportunity of a face-to-face meeting to warn Kennedy that his country could not be intimidated and that it was "very unwise" for the United States to surround the Soviet Union with military bases.
Kennedy’s aides convinced the press at the time that behind closed doors the president was performing well, but American diplomats in attendance, including the ambassador to the Soviet Union, later said they were shocked that Kennedy had taken so much abuse. Paul Nitze, the assistant secretary of defense, said the meeting was "just a disaster." Khrushchev’s aide, after the first day, said the American president seemed "very inexperienced, even immature." Khrushchev agreed, noting that the youthful Kennedy was "too intelligent and too weak." The Soviet leader left Vienna elated — and with a very low opinion of the leader of the free world.
Kennedy’s assessment of his own performance was no less severe. Only a few minutes after parting with Khrushchev, Kennedy, a World War II veteran, told James Reston of The New York Times that the summit meeting had been the "roughest thing in my life." Kennedy went on: "He just beat the hell out of me. I’ve got a terrible problem if he thinks I’m inexperienced and have no guts. Until we remove those ideas we won’t get anywhere with him."
A little more than two months later, Khrushchev gave the go-ahead to begin erecting what would become the Berlin Wall. Kennedy had resigned himself to it, telling his aides in private that "a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war." The following spring, Khrushchev made plans to "throw a hedgehog at Uncle Sam’s pants": nuclear missiles in Cuba. And while there were many factors that led to the missile crisis, it is no exaggeration to say that the impression Khrushchev formed at Vienna — of Kennedy as ineffective — was among them.
So, in other words, like with Kennedy, some bellicose dictator in the world is going to decide that Obama is "too intelligent and too weak" and will opt to throw a hedgehog at Obama's pants, and it could be vitally serious if that "hedgehog" is nuclear-powered. But there's more from Biden:
The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."
Joe Biden is directly saying that some unnamed dictator is going to instigate an international crisis, taking advantage of an inexperienced commander-in-chief, in part because the commander-in-chief is inexperienced and perhaps viewed as too accommodating. Ever since they were picked as running mates, the VP candidates have been receiving daily briefings from national security officials. Does Biden base his words on this daily intel or is he just spitballing? In either case, his guaranteeing an international crisis in the first six months of an Obama administration demands an explanation. It's one thing to tell a guy in a wheelchair to stand up, but it's something else to reveal our hand on national security and tell the world that an incident is guaranteed to arise in part because we elected a president who is perceived to be rollable by a dictator or three. If this other nation has nuclear weapons or acquires them, then this is highly troubling. And there's more:
"I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate," Biden said to Emerald City supporters, mentioning the Middle East and Russia as possibilities. "And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."
Not only is Biden predicting an international crisis, he is predicting how Obama will respond to the crisis and Biden is predicting how people will react to Obama's response, which will be unfavorable. The response will be so unfavorable that Biden is urging the more strident Obama supporters to circle the wagons around the new administration. Biden is saying that Obama will have made the right choice, but on what basis? Joe Biden was wrong on the Reagan defense build-up and wrong on the 1991 Gulf War. To most liberals (I'm guessing), Joe Biden was wrong to vote "yea" on the 2002 Authorization to Use Military Force on Iraq. Joe Biden was also wrong on the surge strategy for Iraq, as was Barack Obama. Why should we trust that Obama-Biden will make the right choice when a belligerent gets belligerent? It took Obama a whole week to figure out the right answer after Russia invaded Georgia.
In the early days of the Bush administration, an international crisis was stoked by the Chinese when a fighter pilot engaged an American surveillance jet. The fighter pilot died after the planes collided and the American plane was forced to land at a Chinese airbase. The American crewmen were held hostage and Prince Bandar from Saudi Arabia helped negotiate their release. The jet was held by the Chinese and eventually returned, but the Chinese presumably gained some technology in the process. That incident was relatively small and easily forgotten. It doesn't like that's the sort of incident Biden is predicting.
Biden's remarks are revealing about Joe Biden because they once again show that he has a big mouth and insufficient self-control to shut it, even when vital matters of national security are involved. He elocutes like an intelligent guy, but like with his Seattle speech and his nonsensical and wrong comments about Hezbollah at his last debate, the things that come out of his mouth are bewildering and bespeak poor judgment. What has Joe Biden really learned from his 35 years of experience? From where I sit, not nearly enough.