Now that Joe Biden has announced his candidacy for the presidency in 2020, it is time to have some of the same conversations we had on the previous occasions when Biden announced or intimated a run for the so-far-elusive Oval Office.
The one that is getting the most play, deservedly so, is his well-documented advice to then-Pres. Barack Obama not to conduct a raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011. At a meeting of top advisers in the White House Situation Room, Biden counseled:
Mr. President, my suggestion is, don’t go. We have to do two more things to see if he’s there.
In October 2015, The New York Times ran a column on the problem that Biden’s opposition to the raid posed for a run in 2016, noting that if he did run, his role would be seen as a “potential weakness that Mrs. Clinton has signaled she might exploit.”
But it isn’t merely that Biden is perceived as having made the wrong call on bin Laden. It’s also that over time, he came to deny the reality, which makes him either a liar or addle-pated. As the Times article notes:
… [B]y January 2013, Mr. Biden had begun hedging on whether he had opposed the raid.
“I remember walking up to his office and saying: ‘Look, follow your instincts. Follow your instincts,’ ” he said in a January 2013 interview.
When asked specifically whether he had advised against the raid, Mr. Biden said: “Let me put it this way: My advice was, follow your instincts, knowing what his instinct was.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Biden’s evolution continued. Before an audience at George Washington University, Mr. Biden said he never gave Mr. Obama definitive advice on controversial issues in front of other officials, mindful that he did not want the rest of the team to see a difference between his opinion and that of the president. With others around them, Mr. Biden said he suggested one more pass over the Abbottabad compound with an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone.
But this version of the facts is belied by Biden’s own words at a House Democratic retreat in Maryland on Jan.27, 2012.
Another controversial recommendation that may come back to haunt candidate Biden was his suggestion as a senator in 2006 that Iraq be divided into three states — one controlled by the Kurds, one by Sunni Arabs, and one by Shiite Arabs. In an August 2015 article at Vox, Max Fisher predicts that in the event Biden runs in 2016, his Iraq strategy will inevitably come up in the context of “what are said to be his considerable foreign policy chops.”
Fisher goes to great lengths to defend Biden against the “myth” that he called for partitioning Iraq into three totally independent countries, one for each major sectarian group — before going on to dismiss plan as just as terrible an idea as partitioning. So much for help from your friends.
A lesser, though significant embarrassment for Biden was his comment to members of the House Democratic caucus at a retreat in Williamsburg, Va., in February 2009 regarding Obama’s $900 billion economic-stimulus package. “If we do everything right,’ said Biden, “if we do it with absolute certainty, there’s still a 30% chance we’re going to get it wrong.” Here’s a video:
As Time writes:
He said the line while recalling a White House meeting with President Obama and senior aides — something that probably wasn’t expected to leave the room. The White House later dismissed the remark, with Obama quipping at a prime-time press conference, “I don’t remember exactly what Joe was referring to, not surprisingly.