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"Whose Judgment Do You Trust?" By: Kathy Shaidle
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, August 28, 2008


The third night of the Democratic National Convention may be remembered as both its high point and its low point, a night when one speech set a broad campaign theme and injected much-needed energy into the race, while another set a self-defeating theme that may derail Obama’s candidacy altogether. President Bill Clinton made it clear why so many Democrats still love him, giving a well-pitched (if utterly dishonest) speech that helped unite the party around the nominee and play to the broader public watching at home. Then, Joseph Biden ruined it with a red-faced speech that begged voters to compare Barack Obama’s foreign policy judgment with John McCain’s, asking undecided voters to contrast Obama’s greatest weakness with McCain’s greatest strength.

Great concern went into Wednesday evening. With Barack Obama’s poll numbers slipping with each passing day of the convention, Democrats had extra reason to worry about Biden’s turn in the national spotlight. There wasn’t a “Biden bounce” in the polls after the veep announcement. And so far, neither Michelle Obama’s Monday night speech nor Hillary Clinton’s on Tuesday have made much difference, either. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Rasmussen Daily Tracking Poll showed McCain and Obama still tied at 44 percent each.

The Good....
    
Bill Clinton disregarded instructions to give a 10-minute-long speech on foreign policy in favor of a domestic-themed address that lauded his own accomplishments as president. As he ascended the podium, the house band performed his old campaign theme song, Fleetwood Mac’s "Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)," with its now-mocking refrain, “yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.”A flag waving crowd erupted into a long ovation – so long that an impatient Clinton finally raised his hands and bellowed, “Sit! Down!”

“I am here first,” he announced, “to support Barack Obama, and second, to warm up the crowd for Joe Biden. I love Joe Biden and America will, too.” Then he talked about Hillary, reminding listeners (as if they needed reminding) of her “18 million votes.”

He made a less-than-flattering comparison, stating he could give “a perspective that no other American Democrat, except President Carter, can offer.”

Then he offered an indictment of the Bush administration. Clinton painted a portrait of a suffering, broken America with a damaged reputation abroad. Particularly interesting was Clinton’s charge that under Bush, the nation had “refused to take the lead on global warming,” since Clinton himself had neglected to support the Kyoto Accord.         

Clinton then charged Bush with ignoring China’s emergence as a formidable world power, and America’s potentially dangerous reliance on China and other foreign lenders for its economic well being. Of course, Clinton’s own hand in  China’s resurgence has been conveniently forgotten, but during his administration, a so-called “Asian Connection” helped finance both of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns and ultimately affected the nation’s China policies during his term in office. Documents declassified after Clinton left office show that he “personally approved the transfer to China of advanced space technology that can be used for nuclear combat.” ("In all likelihood we will be glowing in the dark before we discover the true extent of the Clinton decade of betrayal," stated Rick Fisher, Asian Security Fellow at the Center for Security Policy.)

Eventually, Clinton got around to praising Obama, as well as Joe Biden, whose name came up with surprising frequency in the speech. He touted Obama as a peacemaker who wouldn’t go to war unless “absolutely necessary.” Clinton also praised John McCain as a great American patriot, but did it with – literally – his tongue in his cheek. After all this time, it’s a familiar Clinton gesture, one that invariably indicates he’s warming up for a sarcastic, negative, finger-pointing rant. Sure enough, he ticked off a litany of negative economic statistics intended to damn President Bush – who, Democrats have not yet understood, is not running again.

And then: he talked about himself some more. He’d been on the “right side of history” 16 years ago, Clinton declared, and now Obama is, too. Obviously, Bill Clinton didn’t end his (half-hour long) address by saying, “a vote for Obama is a vote for Clinton” as Hillary did last night, but he came awfully close.

In all, Clinton gave another rousing speech endorsing Obama’s readiness to lead the country, the kind of speech his wife would have delivered the night before if she really wanted to unite her party.

The Biden....

Then the vice presidential nominee, Joseph Biden, stepped up to the plate and blew it.

Again, the pressure had been mounting for days. The  first pressing question about Joe Biden’s vice presidential acceptance speech at the DNCC was: how long would it be? At Denver’s Pepsi Center, Democratic operatives made “a big behind-the-scenes move... Wednesday night, putting pressure on the typically long-winded” Biden to wind things up by 9 p.m. Mountain Time. He finished with half-an-hour to spare.

The average American of a certain age thinks of Biden, if he or she thinks of him at all, as a self-absorbed plagiarist who never quite knows when to stop talking. With the media widely believed to be “in the bag” for Obama (according to some industry insiders as well as the public), many had asked whether the press would cover Biden’s mistakes this year like they did 20 years ago?

There have been a few helpful signs from the mainstream media, in, of all places, Obama’s hometown of Chicago. On Monday, the Chicago Sun Times reported on Biden’s “30 year friendship” with one Joseph Cari Jr., who is “now awaiting sentencing for his part in an $850,000 kickback scheme overseen by [Barack Obama associate] Tony Rezko.” Biden was reportedly poised to appoint Cari to a high-ranking position in his 2008 presidential campaign before the explosive Rezko trial began.

None of that marred his speech last night; Biden marred it enough himself. Surrounded by a sea of towering red BIDEN signs, Biden took the stage and thanked his fellow Democrats profusely.

He’d been introduced by his son Beau, who was about to deploy to Iraq. Citing an old saying about fathers judging their success by the way their children turn out, Biden noted, “I'm a success; I'm a hell of a success.” Given his infamous narcissism, one isn’t sure it that was a compliment for Beau or himself.

Biden talked about his humble beginnings, and praised his mother, who sat proudly in the stands as he regaled the audience with funny and moving examples of her homespun advice – including her instruction to go out and bloody bullies’ noses in the streets. (One wonders how the pacifists in the audience liked that.)

He soon turned his attention to ordinary Americans, who he claimed were suffering like never before. “That’s the America that George Bush has left us,” Biden declared.

Biden then accused the Bush administration of undermining the Constitution while fighting the war on terror. For his part, Biden favors the distinctly unconstitutional extension of statutory habeas corpus to prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.     

At least Biden’s praise of John McCain’s personal courage seemed sincere – so sincere that the audience burst into applause. Naturally, he quickly dismissed McCain’s record and platform plank by plank, getting the delegates to join him in chanting: “That’s not change, that’s more of the same.”

Having called McCain a patriot and a friend, Biden then turned around and questioned McCain’s judgment on foreign policy. He invited the voters at home to ask the worst conceivable question on foreign policy: “Now, let me ask you this: Whose judgment do you trust?”

He called “Afghanistan and Pakistan, the real central front in the war on terror,” faintly echoing Obama’s previous suggestion that the U.S. invade Pakistan, and ignoring the fact that Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri have repeatedly called Iraq the "front line" in their war against Western civilization.

Blaming the recent invasion of Georgia by Russia on Bush administration “neglect,” Biden vowed, “We will hold Russia accountable for its actions, and we will help the people of Georgia rebuild.” Yet only two weeks ago, while McCain was calling on the Russians to withdraw immediately, Obama was issuing weak calls for “both sides” to stop fighting and hand the matter over to the UN. Biden, in effect, undermined his running mate’s position.

Biden insisted that the American people, not just Obama, want the United States to negotiate with belligerent nations like Iran. However, many Americans disapproved of Obama’s famous remarks during the CNN/YouTube debate:
QUESTION: [W]ould you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?

OBAMA: I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous. And I think that it is a disgrace that we haven't spoken with them.
History shows that such open-ended “dialogue” is viewed as weakness by both America’s enemies and many Americans themselves. President Carter’s inept handling of the Iran hostage crisis, which created the environment that encouraged subsequent attacks on American citizens and property up to and including 9/11, is proof.

Furthermore, if, as Obama insisted earlier this year, Iran was a “tiny” country that didn’t pose a serious threat to the United States, why bother negotiating with them in the first place?

Incredibly Biden also defended timelines for troop withdrawals from Iraq, even though he’d criticized them just months ago during his failed primary campaign against Obama:
My impression is [Obama] thinks that if we leave, somehow the Iraqis are going to have an epiphany” and live in harmony, he said; “I’ve seen zero evidence of that.” As I have noted in these pages, Biden actually made something of a statesman-like defense of Iraq. “We can call it quits and withdraw from Iraq. I think that would be a gigantic mistake,” he told an audience in 2005. “Or we can set a deadline for pulling out, which I fear will only encourage our enemies to wait us out — equally a mistake.
Beneath the homespun hokum and displays of warm family affection, Biden gave the American people a lot of issues to think about in his speech. But does he really want voters to dwell on these themes?

Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury.com. Her new book exposing abuses by Canada’s Human Rights Commissions, The Tyranny of Nice, includes an introduction by Mark Steyn.


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