Tag Archives: Joe Biden

Iraqis need the ‘will to fight’

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter appears to be a blunt speaker.

That’s a good thing. We need some of that frank talk when it involves war.

However, he’s now having to out-blunt the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, who’s now trying to make nice with Iraq leaders angry over what Carter said about their troops’ ability to defend a key military target.


Carter asserted over the weekend that Iraqis lack “the will to fight” the Islamic State terrorists, which overran the Iraqi city of Ramadi against forces that outnumbered and outgunned them. What did Carter say? “We can give them training, we can give them equipment. We obviously can’t give them the will to fight.”

Flash back 40 years. The United States fought North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops for a decade trying to save South Vietnam from a communist takeover. Our troops pulled out in 1973 after training, equipping and dying alongside South Vietnamese troops. In March 1975, North Vietnam launched its final offensive and in April claimed the entire country.

Why and how did they succeed? South Vietnam lacked “the will to fight.”

So, what’s happening in Iraq isn’t necessarily a new development.

It’s not too late to get the Iraqis ready to defend their country. But defend it they must. This must be their fight, not ours. We’ve already lost more than 4,000 precious American lives in the effort to rebuild Iraq into a free society.




Biden: U.S., Israel 'love each other'

Vice President Joe Biden wants to set the record straight.

The United States and Israel are like “family.” The nations argue with each other, he said, but when the chips are down they “protect each other.”


The vice president sought to tamp down the heated rhetoric of recent months over differences between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His remarks came at a ceremony marking the 67th anniversary of Israel’s independence.

Has the U.S.-Israel partnership been spat free over those six-plus decades? Hardly. Indeed, the differences pre-date the Obama administration. President Carter had difficulty negotiating the Israeli-Egypt peace agreement when he visited played host in 1978 to Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat at Camp David. Carter’s nemesis was Begin. But the deal got done.

Israelis know that the United States stands with them in critical moments. They know their principal ally will not forsake them when they face a direct threat from the neighbors.

“Sometimes we drive each other crazy, but we love each other — and we protect each other,” Biden said.

Isn’t that enough?

Secret Service fails ex-president

The hits just keep on coming at the Secret Service department.

Now this: It took the agency charged with protecting presidents and former presidents more than a year to repair a faulty alarm system at the Houston home of former President George H.W. Bush.

Let’s see. We’ve had agents frolicking with hookers in South America, a man busting through security at the White House, someone crashing a small helicopter on the White House lawn — and now reports of a failure to respond in a timely manner to concerns about an alarm system at the home of the 41st president of the United States.


There’s more, too.

Vice President Joe Biden’s home in Delaware had its alarm system shut off indefinitely by the Secret Service because it, too, wasn’t working properly.

This is getting increasingly difficult to understand, let alone justify.

The Secret Service is charged with protecting the highest government officials in the land, namely the president and the vice president. It also protects former presidents and their families. The one notable recent exception to that was the late former President Richard Nixon, who resigned from office in August 1974 and who then hired private security officers to protect him in his family in his post-presidency years.

The rest of them, though, get — and deserve — protection from the Secret Service.

That the agency wouldn’t repair former President Bush’s home security immediately after its malfunction became known is unconscionable. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and new Secret Service director Joseph Clancy have declared security upgrades for those under the agency’s protection to be a top priority item.

Do you think?


The Letter is getting kicked around

Let’s call it The Letter.

It has the names of 47 Republican U.S. senators under it. The Letter advises the mullahs who run the Islamic Republic of Iran against approving a treaty banning Iran’s development of nuclear power — or perhaps a nuclear weapon.


The Letter might violate the Logan Act, which prohibits unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.

And The Letter is becoming a talking point for both Republicans and Democrats.

Vice President Joe Biden has entered the fray. On the other side is a freshman GOP senator, Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

“In 36 years in the United States Senate,” Biden said, “I cannot recall another instance in which senators wrote directly to advise another country — much less a longtime foreign adversary — that the president does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them.”

Cotton responded to Biden. He said that he and the other senators who signed the letter are “simply speaking for the American people.”

The Letter involves whether the senators are meddling in a sensitive negotiation between the United States and Iran. The GOP signees advise Iran that the letter might become irrelevant once President Obama leaves office in January 2017.

From where I sit, the senators have interjected themselves into territory where they don’t belong. OK, so they “are simply speaking for the American people,” as Cotton said. I don’t need to remind the young man from Arkansas about the nature of our government, but I’ll do it anyway.

Ours is a “representative democracy” that places certain power and authority in the hands of elected officials. The president is elected by the entire nation and the Constitution grants the president the authority to negotiated treaties with foreign governments. Yes, those 47 senators also represent their constituents and they, too, have a voice. However, the Constitution doesn’t give them the right to undermine the president’s power to negotiate a treaty. It does grant them the power to ratify or reject a treaty once it’s presented to the Senate for consideration.

I happen to agree with the vice president on this one. The Letter is “beneath the dignity” of the Senate.


Run, Joe, run for the White House

Hillary Clinton is looking suddenly a bit less invincible as she ponders whether to run for president next year.

Is it time, then, for Vice President Joe Biden to ramp up his own interest in seeking the Top Job?

Sure. Why not?


That’s the case being made by Matt Bai, a veteran political reporter, who writes that Biden should run “and run now.”

There’s something so very un-Democratic Party-like in anointing someone to the presidential nomination when there’s so much over which to argue.

Hillary Clinton does present a formidable record to present to Democratic voters. But as we’ve learned in recent days, she does present some vulnerabilities. The email kerfuffle has revealed an apparent penchant for secrecy that can be exploited.

Biden, given his own penchant for garrulousness, would seem to be the anti-secrecy candidate.

He’s also an experienced politician. Biden served more than 30 years in the Senate before being elected vice president in 2008. He’s held key Senate chairmanships, leading the Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees. Biden is known to be a foreign policy expert and one who has built many relationships over the years with key foreign leaders.

The political equation, though, is getting murky. Clinton is going to speak about the email matter later today. Perhaps she’ll put the controversy to rest — although no one believes the right-wing mainstream media will let the matter go so quickly.

Meantime, the vice president of the United States — who’s let it be known that he’s interested in the working in that Oval Office — should get ready to rumble.


Note to Dems: Don't boycott Bibi's speech

The upcoming speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a joint session of Congress is taking an interesting — and unfortunate — turn.

Some leading Democratic lawmakers say they’re going to stay away from the March 3 speech. They won’t hear what Bibi has to say to them, including whether to impose stricter sanctions on Iran while the U.S. is leading a negotiating effort to end Iran’s nuclear program.

Vice President Biden won’t attend; his office said the VP will be traveling abroad when Netanyahu speaks to the joint session. I can’t help but wonder: Did the vice president schedule the overseas trip before or after Netanyahu’s speech was scheduled?

Don’t go there, Democrats.


Yes, Netanyahu is wrong to have accepted the invitation from Republican House Speaker John Boehner — who also was wrong to invite him without advising the White House. What’s more, Netanyahu is wrong to pressure Congress to act over the objections of the White House, which believes increasing sanctions now would undermine its efforts to disarm the Islamic Republic of Iran.

But is staying away from the speech the right approach to protesting? I’m inclined to think Democrats ought to hear — in person — what the prime minister has to say. They don’t have to stand and cheer when he delivers an applause line; Republicans undoubtedly will do enough cheering to fill the House chamber.

Come on, Netanyahu is the head of government of a leading U.S. ally, after all, and he deserves an audience — even if the invitation he accepted was not in keeping with American diplomatic and political tradition.


A mistake, yes; a disgrace, no

Ron Fournier of the National Journal has managed to put the kerfuffle over the White House’s error in not sending a high-profile marcher to the Paris “unity rally” in its proper perspective.

President Obama and the White House senior staff made a mistake, he writes, but there was no “disgrace,” as some of the president’s critics on the right have called it.


I’ve stated already that the White House needed to have sent a high-level emissary to march in the rally that commemorated Western resolve in the face of terrorism in the wake of that horrifying massacre at the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices.

The error of omission, though, did not signal a lack of resolve or a lack of support for France of other nations victimized by these hideous monsters.

Fournier notes that the U.S. ambassador to France did attend the rally. But then he adds: “Personally, I’ve got no problem with the U.S. ambassador representing my country in Paris. If it was my call to make, I would have put (Vice President Joe) Biden on a plane. But did Obama let the world down? Take a breath. After all this country has done for Europe in the last century, let’s not confuse a mistake with something more meaningful.”

Let’s understand, though, that we’re about to embark on another presidential election campaign. I’m virtually certain that Republicans running for the White House are going to ensure that this episode doesn’t fade away.

For all any of us know, they’re likely to blame Hillary Rodham Clinton — the presumptive Democratic frontrunner — for all of it.


Where were POTUS and VPOTUS?

The right-wing media are going to have a serious field day with this potential error of omission.

Still, the question persists: Why weren’t the president and/or vice president of the United States among those attending the “unity rally” in Paris today?

The rally held in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre was meant to demonstrate western resolve in the fight against terrorist madness. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was there, along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu … among many others who joined the throng of hundreds of thousands of French citizens.

The U.S. ambassador to France was there. OK. That’s good, too.

It might be that critics will have a point that if a rally was important to draw heads of state and government from around the world, it would have added amazingly poignant symbolism to have the leaders of the Free World at the front of the pack of dignitaries.

Secretary of State John Kerry happened to be in India attending an important meeting there with our Indian allies. I’ll give him a pass.

President Obama and Vice President Biden? They well might have been able to adjust their schedules to attend this rally to demonstrate against a murderous rampage that has shaken the world.


Officers' death 'touched soul of nation'

Vice President Joe Biden said this week that the deaths of two New York City police officers “touched the soul of the nation.”

I’m not entirely sure what he means by that, but the deaths did spark an additional — and much-needed — national conversation about the right and wrong ways to respond to controversy involving law enforcement.


The vice president attended the funeral of Rafael Ramos, one of two officers gunned down in Brooklyn the other day by a goon who was responding to the choking death of Eric Garner in a Staten Island confrontation with officers. Garner’s death and the grand jury decision not to indict the officer who choked Garner to death, coming on the heels of the Ferguson, Mo., shooting of Michael Brown, has contributed a lot of unrest, violence and further criminal activity.

Ramos’s death along with fellow officer Wenjian Liu has touched many Americans at many levels. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the shootings “an attack on all of us.”

There can be no silver lining to be found in this incident, other than to call attention to the lawless response to perceived wrongs done by the criminal justice system.

The grand jury — in my view — erred on not indicting the officer who choked Eric Garner to death. No responsible individual, though, responds by attacking other police officers in the cowardly manner that resulted in the deaths of Ramos and Liu.

It does my heart some measure of good to see these officers honored. They were heroes of the first order. And yes, their deaths have touched our soul.


Hagel bids awkward adieu at Defense

Talk about an awkward moment.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigned today amid media reports that he was forced out by the White House that reportedly was unhappy with the way he communicated foreign policy strategy. Then, in an extraordinary attempt at trying to look happy about his departure, he stood with President Obama and Vice President Biden, both of whom heaped praise on their “friend.”


This is how you play the game in Washington, or I suppose in any government power center.

Hagel will stay on until the next defense secretary gets confirmed by the Senate.

And here is where it will get real interesting.

A cadre of bomb-throwing Republicans are vowing to block future presidential appointments in retaliation for Obama’s executive order on immigration this past week. The bomb thrower in chief, of course, is the Texas loudmouth Sen. Ted Cruz, who did qualify his threat by saying he wouldn’t object to key national security appointments.

Well, someone must tell me if there is a more important national security post than that of defense secretary. I can’t think of one.

I have zero confidence that Cruz will step aside and let this next appointment get the kind of “fair and thorough” confirmation hearing he or she will deserve.

But let’s hope for the best.

As for Hagel, I’m sorry to see him go. I rather liked the fact that an enlisted Vietnam War combat veteran was picked to lead the Pentagon. I also appreciated that Obama reached across the aisle to select a Republican former senator for this key post. I thought Hagel acquitted himself well under extreme pressure when the chips were down. He was at the helm during a time of enormous change at the Pentagon.

Our military force is still the strongest in the history of the world. I am quite certain we will maintain or position as the world’s pre-eminent military power.

Now, let’s find a successor and get the new person confirmed.