Yesterday, Sen. Joe Biden committed the mother of all political gaffes when he all but admitted that Sen. Barack Obama is not sufficiently prepared to handle the inevitable international crisis. Today, in an attempt to limit the damage from Biden's stunning candor, surrogates of the Obama campaign fanned out to try, futilely, to defend both the comments and Obama.
Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright said
Biden was only stating the obvious, namely, that all presidents are tested in office. "Well, I think it's just a statement of fact, frankly, and in my book, I talk about the fact that there are a lot of big issues out there, but that also something unexpected – you always have to be prepared for that," Albright said. The Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) echoed
that line, saying that the testing of a president is a full term occurrence. "Having been in the White House, you're not just tested the first six months, you're tested all four years - as President Bush just saw after being there eight years, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. It's not just the first 6 months. It happens the whole time," he said.
But those explanations do not address Biden's actual words. Biden specified that Obama would be tested in his first six months in office. He did not refer to the general testing and run-of-the-mill domestic and international crises that every president has to deal with. He was speaking specifically about Obama, calling him a "brilliant 47 year-old" and implying that there was something about Obama that would cause a foreign unfriendly government to "test the mettle of this guy." There is no doubt that Biden was not speaking in generalities about all first term presidents.
But perhaps the strangest attempt to defend Biden and Obama came from Obama campaign spokesperson Stephanie Cutter, who implied that the "generated threat" Sen. Biden referred to in his remarks, would come from within the United States.
"A 'generated threat' is like the Iraq War. That is a generated threat. Going into war when there is no threat to the United States. Like the Iraq War. We generated a threat because of John McCain and George Bush's policies and we're living with the after-effects."
If the threat from Iraq was "generated" by the Bush Administration in order to provide the rationale for carrying out its Middle East policy, and the crisis that Biden says Obama will face in his first six months is "like the Iraq War," does that mean that an Obama administration would manufacture a phony crisis for Obama to handle, thus proving his "mettle?" That is the clear implication of Ms. Cutter's words. More likely, the explanation is that Ms. Cutter was trying a little too hard to make lemonade from some very sour lemons provided by Sen. Biden's condemnation of Barack Obama's preparation for an international crisis.
Unsurprisingly, the McCain camp pounced on Biden's remark, claiming vindication of it's central campaign message since the end of the primaries, that Obama's thin resume in comparison to McCain's makes him unprepared to handle the responsibilities of the office from day one. Sen. McCain told a Pennsylvania audience that he has personal experience with a young, untested president. "Sen. Biden referred to how Jack Kennedy was tested in the Cuban missile crisis. My friends, I have a little personal experience in that. I was on board the USS Enterprise. I sat in the cockpit of the flight deck off of Cuba. I had a target. My friends, you know how close we came to a nuclear war. America will not have a president who needs to be tested. I've been tested," he said. Running mate Gov. Sarah Palin continued the pile-on, telling a Nevada rally that the McCain campaign appreciated Biden's help getting its message out. "He told the Democrat donors to, mark his words, it will happen, that there were at least four or five scenarios that would place our country at risk in an Obama administration," Palin said. "I guess we've got say, 'Well, thanks for the warning, Joe.'"
Tagged: 2008 presidential
, Barack Obama
, elections 2008
, foreign policy
, international crisis
, Joe Biden
, John McCain
, Madeline Albright
, Rahm Emanuel