Biden Opens Up About Pakistan, His Presidential Rivals, and Money

Joseph Biden

Remember the angry exchange between Senators Obama, Dodd and Clinton about Pakistan at the AFL-CIO debate last week. Joe Biden tells me his three colleagues missed the point: America’s policy has been to target al Qaeda figures in Pakistan!

“The reason I was surprised by what not only Senator Obama said, but what Senator Clinton said and Senator Dodd said, is that all three of them seemed to be arguing about something that they didn’t know already existed. It is the policy of the United States of America, it has been the policy for the last five years; if there’s actionable intelligence relating to bin Laden or Al Qaeda, that we would move, assuming we’re able to move, against him,” Mr. Biden said. “The part that surprised me was the lack of knowledge about this and the idea that you wouldn’t take action if you knew where bin Laden was.”

Mr. Biden added that Mr. Obama’s proposal to make American aid to Pakistan conditional on progress in fighting Al Qaeda is already in legislation. Mr. Biden drafted an amendment to a bill passed by Congress in July and awaiting the signature of President Bush. “That’s the Biden-Lantos amendment,” Mr. Biden said. “It exists now, so the thing that startled me was the fact that here these three people are arguing about whether we should go in or not go in or how to go in, the first thing that surprised me is it took so long for them to focus on Pakistan. I’ve been talking about Pakistan and this since I went into Afghanistan as the first American in there since the Taliban came down in 2001.”

Read more here.

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Why Biden, in his view, is a better presidential candidate than Clinton? “I think I am much better positioned to win Kentucky, MO, Arkansas, West Virginia than any of the other candidates running.

Because of my positions on the issues, because I come from a state that is a border state, that the politics of having to reach across party lines matter, because my 34 years in the senate have been the opposite of polarizing, they have been uniting. So I think for all those reasons, I think I have the best chance of crossing over and picking up independent votes and keeping a democratic base. But again, time will tell that. That’s an assertion. It’s a judgment that democrats are going to make, but they will make that judgment of who they think we’ll be best able to win a general election.”

On Obama. “You know he’s a very smart guy. I can’t speak for me. But I know for me that it was a learning experience. I worked very hard. I’m sure he’s working very hard too. I’ve watched seven presidents, and I’ve watched presidents who have come to office who haven’t thought through some of the areas that theyt’ve never worked in, for example foreign policy. I watched several presidents come in and they’re smart as the devil and they get here and unless you already know when you get here exactly what your foreign policy is, it’s awful hard to hit the ground running and not to make serious mistakes the first couple of years. I’m not saying that senator obama is where I was [when elected to the senate at age 29]. I was younger than he was when he got to the Senate. But I do think, I acknowledge that experience is not the issue, it’s whether your experience has been good or bad. Somebody with 34 years of bad experience isn’t perfectly qualified to be president, someone with 34 years of good experience that makes a big difference. So, again, I know it’s kindof difficult to master, it’s kindof difficult to feel sure-footed in a lot of areas that you haven’t spent a long of time dealing with.”

On Dennis Kucinich: “It’s a little bit like my friend Dennis Kucinich. Dennis, God love him, gets up in all these debates and says the Democratic Congress could end the war today. Dennis should read the Constitution. You gotta have 67 votes to override a presidential veto. Unless he’s figured out how to get 17 Republicans in the Senate to vote with us, I’m not quite sure how to do that. But it’s very appealing.”

On money in politics: “The third thing that’s different [since his 1988 presidential run] are the obscene amounts of money that are being
It is radically different. The last time I changed this at the stage I left which was eight months before Iowa, I had raised $6 million and that was more than any other candidate had raised in the democratic process. Now you’re talking about these giant amounts of money, that it’s arguable that you need $100 million to run in a primary. It’s obscene. I think there’s going to be a backlash to it.”

Biden’s got a highly readable new memoir out, “Promises to Keep.”

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