While it is still unclear whether the clear victory by Mitt Romney in the first presidential debate two weeks ago will amount to a more than a mere bump in terms of his popularity, or whether Vice President Joe Biden’s aggressiveness in last week’s vice presidential debate stanched the bleeding, we certainly have been witness to some troubling developments over the past couple of weeks.
We fully understand why President Obama would have wanted to take a different approach this week in his second go-round with Mr. Romney, but was that the most significant issue facing the free world in the past two weeks? Is that the message we want to send?
One would think so, at least from the scope of the media attention devoted to the nuts and bolts of the president’s debate preparation – attention eagerly abetted by an administration eager to portray the president as training hard for the second bout.
One is almost embarrassed to ask this, but how could the president of the United States have functioned these past several days as leader of the free world if he has been devoting all his time and energy to cramming for his encounter with Gov. Romney? Does he really require that much preparation? What will world leaders think of our president the next time he sits opposite them?
And then there was the matter of Vice President Biden’s performance in his debate with Congressman Paul Ryan. There was much politicking by both of them on the issues, as would be expected. Yet certain things emerged that seemed beyond politics.
First and foremost, Mr. Biden’s odd demeanor did nothing to enhance the image of the office of the vice president of the United States. His odd gesticulations, strange grins, wild head-shakes and countless interruptions made us wonder if this is someone who can be taken seriously – or whom we should feel comfortable with a heartbeat away from the presidency.
But it was not just the theatrics that were troubling, though troubling they certainly were. He made statements that he had to know were at best inconsistent with the public record.
Mr. Biden lambasted Mr. Ryan for having voted for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and said that he himself voted against them:
And by the way, they talk about this great recession like it fell out of the sky, like, oh my goodness, where did it come from? It came from this man [Cong. Ryan] voting to put two wars on a credit card, to at the same time put a prescription drug plan on the credit card, a trillion-dollar tax cut for a – very wealthy. I was there, I voted against them. I said no, we can’t afford that….
Yet the Congressional Record lists one Joseph Biden as having voted on September 14, 2001, for the resolution that authorized “the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.”
And on October 11, 2002, then-Sen. Biden is listed as having voted for the resolution authorizing unilateral military action in Iraq.
When asked about the president’s relationship with Israel’s prime minister, Mr. Biden waxed effusive, despite the fact that Mr. Obama’s periodic snubbing of Mr. Netanyahu has been widely reported:
Now, with regard to Bibi, he’s been my friend for 39 years. The president has met with Bibi a dozen times. He’s spoken to Bibi Netanyahu as much as he’s spoken to anybody. The idea that we’re not – I was in a – just before he went to the UN, I was in a conference call with the – with the president, with him talking to Bibi, for well over an hour in-in-in-in-in stark relief and detail about what was going on….
At one point Mr. Biden responded to Mr. Ryan’s charge that a requirement in Obamacare – that employers other than churches provide coverage for contraception – infringed on the rights of church-affiliated institutions:
With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy – any hospital – none has to pay for contraception. None has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.
The real fact, however, is that a number of Catholic institutions are currently suing the federal government over this very issue. Indeed, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement the day after the debate saying Mr. Biden’s claim “is not a fact.”
The vice president also said, in response to a question about why the White House erroneously maintained for more than a week that the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muhammad film, that the administration had relied on the latest intelligence information.
Yet the State Department now concedes that the nature of the attack as a planned terrorist operation was known soon after the attack.
And as to why the well-documented requests for additional security from embassy personnel were denied, Mr. Biden said “we didn’t know” and went on to challenge Cong. Ryan over cuts to the State Department’s security budget voted by Republicans in Congress.
But it is inconceivable that money would not have been found in the multi-billion dollar State Department budget had the security threats been taken seriously. Indeed, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa reports that the State Department has several billion dollars of unspent funds already allocated by Congress in its accounts.
The day after the debate, the administration clarified that Mr. Biden was referring to the president and himself, not the administration as a whole, with his “we didn’t know” response. At best this was grossly misleading and a strange concession on behalf of a head of state and his next-in line who like to tout their grasp of foreign policy.
Ironically, the administration sent out Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take the heat, but that just made matters worse. She told Fox News that she assumed total responsibility for the Benghazi disaster; that the security at all of America’s diplomatic missions abroad is her job, not the White House’s; and that she is responsible “for the more than 60,000 people around the world.” But if she is responsible for the failure of her underlings, why aren’t the president and vice president responsible for those of theirs?
Are President Obama and Vice President Biden to be taken seriously? Do they call to mind the glory that once was the United States of America? Do they command respect for themselves and the rest of us? We think the events of the past few weeks indicate that the answer to all of these questions is a resounding no.
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