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July 24, 2007

Biden's Problem
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

I have a lot of respect for Joe Biden.  He is one of the most effective and serious foreign policy experts in the Senate.  But his campaign tactic of claiming that he is the only Senator who “supports the troops” because he voted for the Iraq supplemental is just infuriating.

First of all, it’s patently untrue to argue that voting against an appropriations bill means that you don’t support the troops.  According to this logic all the Republican Senators who voted against the appropriations bill that called for a timeline out of Iraq voted against the troops.  The President must be against the troops because he vetoed the bill.  I bet that pretty much every single member of Congress has at some point voted against some piece of military spending.  So guess what.  They are all against the troops.

However, what is even more important and damaging is that this line of argument reinforces the worst of all conservative frames on national security.  This has been a consistent conservative substitute for genuine debate for years now.  Yell at the other side for not supporting the troops and use that as an excuse for why Congress should just rubber stamp all of the President’s lousy national security policies.

I admire Senator Biden for his long record of leadership on these issues.  I respect his position on the war, even if I don’t agree with certain elements of his argument.  I don’t believe that he actually thinks that Congress should just shut up and fund the troops.  But every time he makes this “support the troops” argument, he reinforces that frame.  He has to stop.


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Quite true. I'm really confused why he's doing it.

You'd be right if he actually said anyone doesn't support the troops. But the fact is he doesn't. If you actually listen to his argument, which apparently you haven't, he never once says anyone doesn't support the troops. But his reason for voting for the supplemental was because he got his amendment to it passed which will save troops' lives by giving them these MRAPVs they've been asking for since at least 2005. And he won't vote against anything that will protect a soldier's life. I think that's very honorable. He isn't using it to attack anyone else. He's simply defending his own vote.


Here is what Biden said in the Debate Yesterday.

"Number three, the idea that we all voted -- except for me -- for that appropriation. That man's son is dead. For all I know, it was an IED. Seventy percent of all the deaths occurred have been those roadside bombs. We have money in that bill to begin to build and send immediately mine-resistant vehicles that increase by 80 percent the likelihood none of your cadets will die, General. And they all voted against it.

How in good conscience can you vote not to send those vehicles over there as long as there's one single, solitary troop there?"

You be the judge


Regardless of whether you think that Biden called the other candidates out, Biden did the right thing and the other Dems are holding the party line in order to get support from the base. And it's at the expense of the troops safety. We all want the troops home ASAP, Biden as well. Biden has known for some time (and Obama should have too, being on the Senate Foreign Relations committee) that these IEDs make up 70% of all deaths and injuries over in Iraq and getting those vehicles over there will cut those deaths and injuries by 2/3 or more. The rest of the crop who voted against the supplemental bill did so for political reasons, Biden did it because he knew what was right. Further, as I am sure you know, the Dems don't have the votes to override a Bush veto. Proves how shallow and/or naive these other candidates are or how much more intelligent and effective Biden is. Also, who other than Biden do you think can win a general election against the Republicans? Hillary? Obama? Edwards? Richardson? Come on, let's be serious.

Joe: Your are right on target, Joe, uh, is that Joe Biden? I agree that he is the only current Democratic candidate that can defeat a strong GOP candidate. Biden crosses lines, liberal to conservative, Democrat, Independent and Republicdan

Biden has the best grasp of the issues,especially foreign policy, which can hardly be separated from domestic policy anymore. He is also realistic and refreshingly honest.

I totally agree i am a Marine Vet and i have been following senator Biden since he last visited Iraq one of his 7 visits.. you know why senator Biden cares most about the troops because his son is a captain in the Army. This man has so much class that he didnt even point out his
son for political advantage... Semper fi Senator Biden only democrat with guts since FDR..Hopefully America wakes up and stops falling for the media's lies...

The argument in the piece is far too simplistic, and clearly fails to understand Biden's argument. Biden has not been saying that if you vote against any appropriations you are against the troops. He was referring to a specific bill, one which contained the money to send life saving equipment to Iraq. I think he is right on the money on this one. He did it because he believed in something and Obama and Clinton voted against it purely so that they could say they did. They were two of the last people in the chamber to vote after they already knew that the necessary votes were there to pass it. This is what America needs right now, a man who is willing to stand and be judged on his principals. Go for it Joe.

I think the guy has to be given some room to defend himself against the constant attacks from the Kossack-types accusing him of being "pro-war" and enabling Bush. He's just explaining why he felt compelled to vote for the war supplemental, much to the detriment of his standings among the most anti-war part of the base.

Personally I just really love a candidate that uses the phrase "cut the crap." I can't remember if he said that on stage or in the spin room, but it was zesty.

I'm going on memory here, and perhaps I am thinking of the wrong appropriations bill. My recollection, though, is that the bill Biden was discussing had only about 15 Senators voting against it, including Clinton and Obama. Both of these Senators cast "no" votes at the end of the roll call, when it was clear their votes wouldn't change the outcome.

I'm not really Joe Biden's biggest fan; I disagree with him more often than not. But I recognize that in his position he has tried to engage with the real problems facing us in Iraq. Clinton and Obama haven't. They just haven't. Their whole orientation has been to do the campaign, and win the campaign, and then -- after becoming President -- fix all the things that need fixing (good luck with that last part if you're a foreign policy novice, by the way). Naturally they will have lots of admirers worried that some other Democrat will step on their message. That's what Campaign World is all about.


I clearly set off a nerve. Here is what Biden said right after the vote on May 30th.

"As Long As There Are Troops Who Are In A Position Where, If We Don't Fund Them They Are Going To Be Hurt, I'm Not Going To Cut Off Funding ... That's What The Other [Democrat Presidential] Candidates Said Too, But They Changed Their Mind."

This statment is completely unfair and simplistic. As I explained above if you are going to argue that the other candidates were voting to cut off funding, then you would have to also say that all Republicans who voted against the first appropriations bill were voting to cut off funding. And President Bush vetoed the supplemental. So he is also for cutting off funding.

The other democratic candidates voted against the bill because they wanted to see a different bill that mandated a redeployment of forces. They were not voting to cut off funding.

The fact is that conservatives have consistently based progressives on the head with this arguement for years. And the arguement is bull. It disappoints me when a leader like Joe Biden, who I have great respect for, uses it for his campaign.

Just a little research would tell you that Sen Biden is way out front on protecting our troops in Iraq. The MRAP issue....Joe seems to be the only advocate for getting those vehicles in place. I have not heard another single voice from anyone.....presidential candidate or ohterwise bring this up.

Give Joe credit....his passion solving the Iraq dilema and protecting our troops while there should draw praise. Passion, specific solutions, and follow through.........Joe's my man.

First, when Biden said "As Long As There Are Troops Who Are In A Position Where, If We Don't Fund Them They Are Going To Be Hurt, I'm Not Going To Cut Off Funding" he was referring specifically to the MRAP issue. More to the point, though, (and I'm guessing here), it would have been one thing to vote against appropriating the money in an environment where Congress was somewhere close to a veto-proof majority with the capacity to wrench control of Iraq policy from the President's hands. At the point this bill was being considered, though, it did not. Failing to pass the Appropriations bill would not have forced Bush to begin withdrawing American troops from Iraq, it would have merely lead to another round of parliamentary maneuvering. Under such circumstances, it made sense to ensure that fewer troops would be killed by providing MRAPs and save the funding fights for a time when they could make a positive difference.


With all due respect I think you're position is naive. The claim that Biden is calling out the Democratic presidential candidates for making popular political decisions at the expense of our troops must represent a reflection of the contempt he must hold towards anyone who opposes a war is way off base. FYI: The Republican politicians who voted against the bill are in similar situations as Clinton and Obama--they are campaigning for their jobs, which in this case means keeping their Congressional seats. Windy-spirited political opportunists, just like Clinton and Obama. Aside from the aforementioned info which squashes your claim already, what makes you think Biden's vote was political. He wasn't hiding in the shadows waiting until the number of votes needed for the bill to pass were secured to cast their vote. He wrote the freakin legislation. And the other stuff that was vetoed by Bush just prior to this bill, was legislation Biden wrote as well. Biden has been in the Senate for 34 years and yet his ambition to be President does not overshadow his committment to his people, his country, or his job. He wrestles with decisions and makes his decisions based on what is right. You can see it in his votes, particularly when it comes to supreme court justices. Take this example, looking at his faith. He comes from an old school Irish Catholic background, which many would categorize as a anti-abortion. Yet, this guy was one of the chief opponents of Justice Roberts and has promised not to approve of an SJC appointee that would overturn RvW because he supports women's privacy and their right to choose, regardless of the voracity with which the Catholic Church opposes abortion. And this isn't a guy who was brought up in the era of Catholics who were quasi-committed to the church like the younger generations. I mean that's a deep struggle for someone like Biden. This isn't a stance he takes to get elected, he believes in it. He's been a Senator from DE for 34 years and doesn't need to be as active or as vocal as he is. He'd keep his seat regardless. None of these candidates even understand how to end the war and yet Biden issued a coomprehensive plan a year ago. You heard Hillary use some of Biden's points as her own in the last debate but it was obvious she knows nothing about getting us out of Iraq. Biden speaks about it easily, eloquently, and with a sense of urgency. I don't know how Senator Biden feels about any of the people you mentioned, Ilan. But if I were he, I think I'd hold contempt for any and all politicians who make votes to cover their ass, even if it means jeoparizing our troops they claim to care so dearly for.

PS- Now to the Senators and both their stances and solutions for the war. Obama claims he was against the war from the beginning. When the vote was taken to invade Iraq in 2003, Barack was a state legislator in IL. Yet people believe, if he was a rookie Senator in there when the vote happened that he would have voted against the overwhelming majority? Please. Then he was outspoken and voted against the war without descriptive reasoning when it was unpopular. Bravo. Dodd voted against the recent bill b/c he saw that the formerly beloved Senator Joe Lieberman of CT couldn't win as a Democrat in his state this last election and had to run as an Independent. (Many constitutional law experts blaim Lieberman for creating a cushion in Congress to allow Bush to go to war preeminently.) Hillary voted for it when it was popular and against it when it wasn't, never once explaining her feelings and motivations in detail as to why, as Biden has so frequently done. Further as to the relationship you describe bewteen rest of the Senators who voted against the bill and President Bush, I wouldn't go that far. But, the President's an idiot who cares more about his power and how he can use it than how well he's managing the war and the safety of our troops. He should have had those verhicles in there from the start when the commanders called for them. I think it's fair to say, looking at his approval rating, that an overwhelming majority of Americans have contempt for President Bush. Though not as frequent, and certainly not to the same degree these politicians you so unwaveringly defend have used this war in a different way for their own advantages. Just remember, you suggested the relationship, not me.

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