Joe Biden on having the juice to get thing done

Why should voters in South Carolina’s Democratic primary skip the front-runners to pick Joe Biden as their nominee for president?
    Because, he explained to our editorial board last week, he’s the guy with the juice. He’s got the experience to have the knowledge, he has sound ideas based on that knowledge, and he’s got the credibility to sell the ideas.
    Today, he says, there’s no juice in the White House.
    Take the immigration issue. Why, we asked, did the recent comprehensive bill fail?
    “Bush,” said Sen. Biden.
    “That’s not a criticism,” he added.
    “I think Bush was more right on immigration than he’s been on any other national issue. But he had noBiden_019
credibility. He could not carry any of his base.”
    He said it was a failure of presidential leadership. “You’ve got the lamest lame-duck president in modern history now. And it is actually a shame. No fooling. Because the few things where you could generate a consensus with him, he’s not of any help.”
    So who has the juice? Joe Biden does, as he had demonstrated a few days earlier.
    The previous week, he had pulled off the apparent miracle of getting 75 members of the U.S. Senate — which meant getting a bunch of Republican votes — to vote for the centerpiece of the Biden platform: A plan to divide Iraq into three semi-autonomous regions under a loose federalist system.
    After all those pointless votes about timetables and such that other Democrats kept pushing, in full knowledge that they would not find their way into law, all of a sudden a consensus approach had emerged.
    How did that happen?
    First, “I don’t think there are 12 Republicans that support this president’s position,” which can be summed up in two sentences: “Stand up an Iraqi army so American troops can stand down. Two, strong central democratic government in Baghdad that will act as the first domino to fall through the middle east, generating the end  — if not the end, a fatal blow  — to terror.”
    Under that approach, the purpose of the surge was “to give the warring factions breathing room… to make a political accommodation.”
But there’s no such accommodation. Sen. Biden says a lot of senators have been over to Iraq and talked to real people. And what have they learned?
    “Nobody  — nobody, nobody, nobody — thinks there’s a possibility of establishing a strong unity government that can gain the support of the Iraqi people and bring security and economic prosperity to Iraqis. Nobody.
    “Every success that exists in Iraq has been at the local level. That’s where the successes come.”
The only ways the surge has worked, he maintains, is where it has enabled local, homogenous authorities to run things their way, without interference from Baghdad.
    Last year, only 1,000 Sunnis stepped forward in Anbar province to join the national police force run by the Shi’a-led government in Baghdad. “The national police force is corrupt,” says Sen. Biden. “It is zero; it’s worse that zero. They’re death squads.”
    “Eliminate it.”
    The surge worked when Americans “said to the tribal leaders, look guys, you can patrol your own streets. You mean we don’t have to have the central government here? Absolutely. Good.” So “10,000 people show up from the tribes…. They’re patrolling the streets. They still haven’t gotten it under control. But it’s a lot further down the road, and no one’s talking about a national police force.”
    Look at Kurdistan, he says, which has had local autonomy for some time. “And so everyplace you look to, it comes down to devolving power, where there’s any possibility of it working.”
    How did he sell the Senate on this? First, “I’ve been working these guys and women for a year on it; I’m like a broken record on it.” He sold it on the merits, but it was also appealing because it didn’t involved the constitutional problem of trying to tell the commander in chief how many troops he can send where when.
    But it also came down to juice, to credibility: “I think if you ask Lindsey or you ask other Republicans, they trust me; I don’t ever play a game with them. I think that they think I know something about thisBiden_022
issue, and I have not been one who is saying things that they know is not rational.”
    As opposed to certain other people seeking the Democratic nomination: “How can you say on stage, almost to a person, that I will not withdraw troops; I’ll have to have troops there, combat troops there for X amount of years, maybe to 2013, and by the way, I’m voting to cut off funding for those troops, yesterday?”
    So unlike certain people named Clinton, Obama and Edwards, “I have some credibility with these guys that I’m not playing a political game with them.”
    What about bringing troops home? “What I don’t want to do is fly under false colors here. I don’t want to tell the American people that if this plan is adopted, all Americans come home,” he said.
    “If this plan were adopted, it’s the only way in which you could justify keeping American forces there.”
    But if it weren’t adopted, unlike his rivals, he’d get the troops out right away.
    “I would not withdraw from the region. But I’ll be damned if I’m gonna continue to have my son’s generation stuck in a position where they’re on the fault line, and the only thing they’re there to do is keep things from getting worse,” without any prospect of them getting better.
    So that’s his deal: He’s the guy with the plan, and the juice to get it done. And last week, he had the cred to make folks believe it.

For video from this editorial board interview, click here.


13 thoughts on “Joe Biden on having the juice to get thing done

  1. Des O'Dwyer

    Great article on Joe Biden. He is the most experienced candidate of either party, his knowledge of Foreign Relations is unrivalled, he has a which is the only viable political solution, he has just unveiled major reform for Education and looks out for working Americans. I think he can win South Carolina – just watch Iowa.

  2. The 7-10: Anthony Palmer

    Mr. Warthen,
    This is an excellent column. I’ve been paying attention to Joe Biden for quite some time now and am now convinced that he is the strongest Democratic candidate in the field. He’s a competent pragmatist, and the way he defended his Iraq proposal while discrediting the proposals of Hillary Edbama without being petty shows how much sense he’s making.
    Biden is absolutely right. How can you vote to cut off funding for the troops one day and then say you can’t guarantee withdrawing troops by 2013 the next day? Such statements reek of political pandering and opportunism, both of which exhibit a lack of presidential leadership. This would be a good line to use in a future debate to attack the credibility of his rivals.
    And his criticism of Bush is a legit one that does not reek of partisanship. As angry as it may make the Tancredo/Hunter wing of the Republican Party, Bush’s “comprehensive” approach is the most pragmatic one out there, given the circumstances. However, he did not have the credibility to get it done because his “political capital” had been wasted on Harriet Miers, Katrina, and misjudgment after misjudgment on Iraq. Biden stayed away from the traditional Democratic/liberal attack points of “Bush being the worst president ever.” Such statements almost assure that the person making them would never receive any crossover support. Biden seems much more mature in his assessment of the current president.
    So in short, I think Joe Biden is the candidate best able to deliver the White House to the Democrats in 2008. He’d attract a lot of Republican support because of his Iraq position alone, as none of the Republicans (save for Sam Brownback, who supports Biden’s plan) are talking about this issue pragmatically. And the longer the Republicans keep talking about Hillary Clinton, the greater the risk they will be woefully unprepared in the general election should she not win the nomination.
    Good column, Mr. Warthen. Do you plan on making any endorsements before the Iowa caucuses?

  3. Michael Rodgers

    I just heard that some members of Britain’s parliament have decided that the US government isn’t living up to its promise. They propose to partition our country into three regions based on ethnicity & skin color. They propose three classifications: white, black, and hispanic. They say that anyone who doesn’t clearly fit into any category will have to apply to become a member of one of those three categories, and a draft will be held, like in one skit from Chappelle’s Show. They say that whites will live in the north and the rockies, blacks will live in a line from Michigan down to Louisiana and Florida, and hispanics will have the southwest. All white Floridians will be required to move to New Jersey (unless they wish to apply to be black, and then they can stay if approved by the black caucus, unless they get drafted by the whites first).
    The members of British parliament say that they have the votes to achieve such a resolution, and that it’s only a matter of time. They say it’s necessary to prevent violence between the races in that unstable and fledgling US democracy they created just a few short centuries ago. They cite the recent race violence in Jena, Louisiana and recent gang activity in Mauldin, SC as proof of the unstable nature of the citizens of the US. The parliamentarian’s rallying cry is that “the Americans of all races are just not ready for democracy.”
    Critics in parliament say that there is progress being made, and that this new partition plan should be shelved for 90 days until Washington can deliver on their promises. These critics of the partition plan cite recent convictions of members of the mob by Patrick Fitzgerald in Chicago as proof of progress for justice and the rule of law over sectarian violence.
    American polls strongly indicate that they oppose such a partition plan. Also Washington declares the plan ridiculous on its face. President Bush declared, “America is a stable, unified government that is in complete control of it legal and illegal population. Just because we use vigilante minutemen to patrol our Southern border does not mean we have no respect for the law.” President Bush elaborated, “Before we invaded Iraq, I sent Colin Powell to get the UN to pass a resolution that contained language that I feel allowed me to invade Iraq legally. That’s how I respect international law. And I got the US Congress to give me a resolution authorizing me to invade Iraq. That’s how I respect the US Constitution.” Finally, President Bush declared, “And that’s why the USA is a strong country that shouldn’t be partitioned by Britain.”
    There is support for the partition plan in Washington, though. After all, why shouldn’t an outside force decide how a new democratic government should be formed? Hey, if Britain wants to pay the bills and get access to our natural resources, why shouldn’t they decide how to partition the USA? The British have an excellent history of successful nation building by partitioning. They split the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan, and, while there have been some wars, and now both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers, all in all, it turned out to be a complete success.
    Supporters of the USA partition see it as an example of how the US should partition Iraq. They scoff at the notion that perhaps the United Nations should be the organization that debates such outside actions imposed on fledgling democracies. “That’s a bankrupt institution,” they say, “that can’t even organize a plan to help Darfur.” Critics counter that it was Colin Powell’s efforts with the United Nations that gave President Bush’s invasion of Iraq the semblance of legitimacy that it has. They say that Condoleezza Rice should report back to the United Nations, and that the Security Council should decide whether to recognize or reconstitute the Iraq government. With the US, as well as Russia, Britain, China and France, holding veto power on the Security Council, perhaps neither partition plan will pass there.
    But the British parliament may go it alone and partition the USA. And perhaps the US Congress will go it alone and partition Iraq. Hey, at least it’s a plan.

  4. Karen McLeod

    Why does Mr. Biden think that the Iraqis will accept partition? They might say that they will, but in all liklihood fundamentalist Shiites will take over violently as soon as they get a chance. I agree that it’s the best chance they’ve got, tho. And I also agree that if they won’t agree, and abide by the decision, we need to get out.

  5. Wally Altman

    Thanks for the column, Brad. I will definitely be giving Biden more consideration than I have thus far.

  6. Doug Ross

    Having “the juice” with a dozen Senators from another party doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have “the juice” with the American public. Biden’s had ample opportunities to make his case to the people as to why he would make a good President. The people have spoken (resoundingly) and said, “No, thanks”.
    Biden’s juice factor with the voters is somewhere between “pickle” and “carrot”.

  7. weldon VII

    I like where Michael went with this one, but I don’t think he’s pointed out all the hypocrisy.
    It strikes me as odd that a Democrat like Biden can spearhead a bill to suggest partitioning Iraq ethnically after Democrats have been de-partitioning America ethnically for the last 50 years.
    I can’t quite grasp how segregation can be wrong here but right there.
    Of course, I’ve never been in a position to think of 12 million illegal immigrants as 12 million more potential votes for me.

  8. Uncle Elmer

    Hey Doug, that’s uncalled for. I like carrot juice! Biden rates a “Clamato” for me.
    I’m not impressed with the Balkanization plan as an imposed solution. It encourages tribalism, and I don’t see how that helps anything in the Persian Gulf.

  9. Scott H

    The Federalization is in their constitution. Their smartest people stormed into Baghdad and voted for it…remember the purple fingers? The current Iraqi “governement” is failing miserably to get the job done. This is our best chance to save the country.

  10. Stacy Shaw

    If you think that this plan is forced segregation – it is not. It calls for a decentralized government with very limited federal power. That’s what their own constitution calls for – the same constitution that they wrote and voted into power. It’s Bush who is trying to force a strong central government run out of Bagdad. If you’re going to criticize the plan, as is calling it segregation or think of it as the building of walls to separate people by race or religion, please at least know what the plan says. You can read it at

  11. weldon VII

    I quote from Biden’s introduction on the Website, where he notes the plan would be “giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis breathing room in their own regions.”
    “…The plan is not partition. … This plan is consistent with a strong central government, with clearly defined responsibilities. Indeed, it provides an agenda for that government.”
    “… The example of Bosnia is illustrative. Ten years ago, Bosnia was being torn apart by ethnic cleansing. The United States stepped in decisively with the Dayton Accords to keep the country whole by, paradoxically, dividing it into ethnic federations. We even allowed Muslims, Croats and Serbs to retain separate armies. With the help of U.S. troops and others, Bosnians have lived a decade in peace. Now, they are strengthening their central government, and disbanding their separate armies.”
    If having different ethnicities in different regions isn’t segregation, what is it? Segregation doesn’t require walls. It only requires that everyone have a sense of place.
    Why did you say the plan calls for a decentralized government with limited federal power when Biden says the plan includes a “strong central government” — the thing you said Bush is trying to force.
    And me, I wasn’t criticizing the plan. It might work fine, if it gets a chance. I was just taking part in one of my favorite sports, criticizing the Democrats for looking one way, speaking the other and making contradictory motions with their hands all at the same time.

  12. NW Barnes

    Re: Joe Biden
    Twice this campaign I’ve met Sen. Biden in S.C. He’s a silver tongued charmer with a seemingly vast knowledge of foreign affairs.
    But I can’t forget his leadership role on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the attempted lynching of U. S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings some years ago.
    I close my case as to why Biden’s juice is like Jim Jones’ Kool-Aid was—-poison.
    NWB Orangeburg

  13. stew

    “…Joe Biden is now the third best bet for the nomination. I’m hearing a lot of buzz about him from people who pay attention.”
    – Chris Matthews, MSNBC (12/10/07)
    The Biden for President Campaign would like YOU to go to IOWA. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity would allow you to see a caucus and presidential campaign first-hand in the earliest voting state. We need your help, so please join us as we strive to get Senator Biden elected the next PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
    Dates: Anytime between December 14, 2007 – January 4th, 2008
    Accommodations: Provided by the campaign. (Contact for more details)
    Please join us for this INCREDIBLE opportunity. If you would like to find out more information, please e-mail our campaign: Becky McAndrews at or Josh Kagan at with the subject line: IOWA. You may also call the campaign at (302) 574-2008!
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