What Joe Biden Got Right

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What Joe Biden Got Right

Thoughts on the vice presidential debate

I wrote in a recent column about the “alternate universe” that some of our politicians seem to inhabit. Last night, watching America’s vice presidential debate, much of the time I felt like I was listening to a conversation in that universe.

Several statements from Vice President Biden were particularly perplexing:

  • He said Iran was on the ascendancy when President Obama took office, whereas now it is more isolated than ever, and far less powerful. He is looking at a completely different set of criteria than I am.
  • He said the American and Israeli military and intelligence communities are in perfect agreement that Iran is “a good way away” from getting a nuclear weapon. Is Benjamin Netanyahu aware of this? Why then has he been traveling around talking about a “red line,” complaining about America’s lack of concern over this existential threat to his country, and turning to Germany for help?
  • The vice president admitted that Iran has grown in its capacity to produce fissile material, but said it doesn’t matter because Iran doesn’t have a weapon to deliver it. I have never heard this defense of Iran’s nuclear program before. Apparently there’s nothing to worry about with all this talk of uranium enrichment; Iran hasn’t even started to build an actual weapon yet. This is supposed to make us all a lot less concerned about the regular reports we hear about missiles Iran is developing, including missiles that can reach Israel and even Europe.
  • The vice president said of President Obama, “This is a guy who’s repaired our alliances so the rest of the world follows us again.” Which alliances is he talking about? Britain? Israel? Pakistan? Egypt? Russia? China? Mexico? Maybe Venezuela? And did you know that the rest of the world is following America’s lead again? This is news to me.
  • He said that the White House’s account of the 9/11 Benghazi attack was “exactly” what the intelligence community had told them. In reality, the State Department was calling it a premeditated terrorist attack almost immediately, while the White House stuck to its story that it was a protest against a YouTube video for weeks.
  • He said the White House wasn’t told the U.S. consulate in Libya wanted more security. But it has been proven the State Department had received those requests and turned them down. The vice president blamed the security lapse in Benghazi on, of all things, Congressman Ryan’s budget, which “cut embassy security … by $300 million below what we asked for.” Of course, the U.S. doesn’t use Ryan’s budget—or any budget at all for that matter. It hasn’t had a budget for more than three years. And even if the security budget did lack that $300 million, the State Department decides where to spend its dollars based on the threats to its interests. Clearly the lack of protection in Benghazi was a serious mistake, one that this administration will not even acknowledge, let alone take responsibility for.
  • He blamed the national debt on Republicans in Congress, even though it has risen nearly $5 trillion under President Obama.
  • He said that no religious institution would have to “refer contraception … pay for contraception … [or] be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide.” What in the world, then, is the Catholic Church thinking by suing over Obamacare’s insistence that it support contraception?
  • He said he believes life begins at conception, but “I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that—women they can’t control their body.” How can these both be true? If life begins at conception, people are being murdered. This is not a matter of opinion, or simply a woman controlling her own body. It is life or death. Yet the vice president went so far as to warn that a Romney administration could well install one or two conservative Supreme Court justices who could overturn Roe v. Wade, thus denying women the right to choose to murder the life within them that begins at conception.
  • Just a few “alternate universe” statements. What, though, are the headlines today? It was a big win for the vice president. “Feisty Biden gives Democrats reason to smile after debate,” wrote cbs News.

    I do think Joe Biden got one thing right, and that was to expose the weakness in the Romney/Ryan foreign policy. He pressed the issue on what exactly a Romney administration would do against Iran, and against Syria—would it actually go to war against those countries? Governor Romney strongly criticizes the present administration, but in the end, I’m not convinced he would do anything substantially different. America is simply in no mood for another war in the Middle East.

    Biden pressed the congressman about the 2014 timetable in Afghanistan, and I honestly couldn’t detect any substantive difference between what the Obama administration has done and what Ryan was advocating: He said he wants to pull out in 2014 and would really work to do so. With the possible exception of Governor Romney’s willingness to be openly friendly to Israel, it seems that most of what we’re getting from him foreign policy-wise amounts to a difference in rhetoric more than of substance.

    It’s always hard watching these debates because it feels like the truth is given so little respect. There were a few exchanges last night where the vice president was directly contradicting everything Congressman Ryan was saying, point by point. Who are we to believe? After every debate we need professional fact checkers to tell us what was true, what was partially true, and what was completely false, and even there we get conflicting accounts.

    I feel like I’m listening to my children explaining an incident where I’m getting contradictory stories because each child is shading the facts in order to put themselves in the best possible light while making the other look as guilty as possible. That is, if they’re not simply outright lying.