Sunday, September 07, 2008

Why I Don't Trust Joe Biden When It Comes To Israel (Updated)

First of all, there is no indication that all of this "experience" of Senator Joe Biden has translated into a real understanding of foreign affairs. Actually, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, that is exactly what someone claimed:
In fact, decade after decade and on important issue after important issue, Mr. Biden's judgment has been deeply flawed.

In the 1970s, Mr. Biden opposed giving aid to the South Vietnamese government in its war against the North. Congress's cut-off of funds contributed to the fall of an American ally, helped communism advance, and led to mass death throughout the region. Mr. Biden also advocated defense cuts so massive that both Edmund Muskie and Walter Mondale, both leading liberal Democrats at the time, opposed them.

In the early 1980s, the U.S. was engaged in a debate over funding the Contras, a group of Nicaraguan freedom fighters attempting to overthrow the Communist regime of Daniel Ortega. Mr. Biden was a leading opponent of President Ronald Reagan's efforts to fund the Contras. He also opposed Reagan's efforts to send military assistance to the pro-American government in El Salvador, which at the time was battling the FMLN, a Soviet-supported Marxist group.

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.

In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and, we later learned, was much closer to attaining a nuclear weapon than we had believed. President George H.W. Bush sought war authorization from Congress. Mr. Biden voted against the first Gulf War, asking: "What vital interests of the United States justify sending Americans to their deaths in the sands of Saudi Arabia?"

In 2006, after having voted three years earlier to authorize President George W. Bush's war to liberate Iraq, Mr. Biden argued for the partition of Iraq, which would have led to its crack-up. Then in 2007, Mr. Biden opposed President Bush's troop surge in Iraq, calling it a "tragic mistake." It turned out to be quite the opposite. Without the surge, the Iraq war would have been lost, giving jihadists their most important victory ever.

On many of the most important and controversial issues of the last four decades, Mr. Biden has built a record based on bad assumptions, misguided analyses and flawed judgments. If he had his way, America would be significantly weaker, allies under siege would routinely be cut loose, and the enemies of the U.S. would be stronger.
Now you can argue that in your opinion Biden was right on some, or even all, of these issues. But considering the general theme of Biden's stands on these issues against helping allies and cutting back on defense in general, I just wonder why Biden claims to feel differently about Israel--and why we should believe him?

Secondly is the fact is that Joe Biden has not always followed up on his promises. Joe Biden has treated Supreme Court nominees pretty poorly--which is his right, I suppose. But that was after he specifically promised those nominees that he would treat them fairly.

She quotes Tony Mauro who writes:
[Clarence Thomas] has less than fond memories of his treatment by Biden, who chaired his stormy 1991 hearing. In his 2007 memoir "My Grandfather's Son," Thomas recalls that Biden initially kept Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment against Thomas private. Before the firestorm began, Biden called him at home and said, "Judge, I know you don't believe me," but if the allegations come up, "I will be your biggest defender." Wrote Thomas, "He was right about one thing. I didn't believe him."
Althouse notes that Senator Biden did something similar during the hearings of another nominee:
There's this description, from Elisabeth Bumiller, of Biden at Day 2 of the Alito hearings:
"I understand, Judge, I am the only one standing between you and lunch, so I'll try to make this painless," he began, with some promise.

Mr. Biden then dived into a soliloquy on Judge Alito's failure to recuse himself from cases involving the Vanguard mutual fund company, which managed the judge's investments. After 2 minutes 50 seconds - short for the senator - Mr. Biden did appear to veer toward a question, but abandoned it to cite Judge Alito's membership in a conservative Princeton alumni group. Mr. Biden discoursed on that for a moment, then interrupted himself with an aside about his son who "ended up going to that other university, the University of Pennsylvania."

Judge Alito, who had been sitting without expression through Mr. Biden's musings, interrupted the senator midword, got out three sentences, then settled in for nearly 26 minutes more of Mr. Biden, with the senator doing most of the talking. With less than a minute to spare, Mr. Biden concluded, thanked Judge Alito for "being responsive," then said to Mr. Specter that "I want to note that for maybe the first time in history, Biden is 40 seconds under his time."
On a different note is the following from TimesOnline on JFK aide Ted Sorensen, who writes about his nomination by Jimmy Carter to be Director of the CIA:
Sorensen was impressed with Senator Inouye, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. But he didn't warm to all the committee members:

I never lost my admiration for Inouye.

On the other hand, the prize for political hypocrisy in a town noted for political hypocrisy went to Joe Biden. On my first courtesy call to his office, he could not have been more enthusiastic, supportive, and gracious, calling me "the best appointment Carter has made!"

At the opening of the hearing, he changed both his tune and his tone, stating: "Quite honestly, I'm not sure whether or not Mr Sorenson could be indicted or convicted under the espionage statutes.......whether Mr Sorenson intentionally took advantage of ambiguities in the law or carelessly ignored the law."

After listening to my statement of defense and withdrawal, he said: "Ted, you are one of the classiest men I have ever run across in my whole life."
Against this background of saying one thing but doing another--while I appreciate what Biden says about Israel, I am concerned that once he is in a different position, one where he will have input on policy and no longer need to score points with his constituency by associating himself with particular Senate bills, Biden will show a different agenda. Under those circumstances, I just don't trust Biden to keep his promises to Israel.

UPDATE: This unreliability of Biden's is exemplified by his recent comments on AIPAC:
“This is not a question for us to tell the Israelis what they can and cannot do,” said the Democratic vice presidential candidate. “I have faith in the democracy of Israel. They will arrive at the right decision that they view as being in their own interests.”

That said, Biden added, the Bush administration could have done much more on the diplomatic front to help avert the potential need for military action. He also accused the White House of not doing enough to promote Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and faulted it for reportedly ordering Jerusalem not to engage in talks with Syria. Even as he pledged to respect Israel’s decisions on peace and security, Biden vigorously defended his record of occasionally breaking ranks with the pro-Israel lobby.

“AIPAC does not speak for the entire American Jewish community,” Biden said. “There are other organizations as strong and as consequential”
Despite any occasional claims to the contrary, AIPAC does not speak for Israel, the longtime Delaware senator added. Biden made a point of stressing that he and the organization agreed on the fundamentals.

o Biden has faith in Israel to make their own decisions, yet thinks the US should have done more (notice there is no condemnation of Condoleezza's pressure on Israel to make concessions)

o Biden claims he will respect Israel's decisions on her own peace and security, but makes an issue of picking a fight with AIPAC, and claims there are other organizations just as "strong" and "consequential".

On this second point, Rosner writes:
Biden was mostly wrong: AIPAC doesn’t technically speak for Israel, but its positions usually reflect the Israeli position better than the positions held by other Jewish organizations. He was right in saying that AIPAC does not speak for “the entire Jewish community” (as if such a thing were even possible), but strangely followed the line of argument that has enjoyed recent popularity among the leaders of newly established, smaller, and less-significant Jewish organizations.
Is Biden thinking of J Street? Check out James Kirchick, who demonstrates that J Street is not as mainstream as they want people to think, nor is AIPAC as outside the mainstream as J Street claims and Biden apparently believes.

(I thought of the additional material while driving. Now I see that Soccer Dad has also addressed Biden's comment on AIPAC and the broader implications)

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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