While the networks scrutinize Republican Sarah Palin’s every comment for evidence that she’s a dimwit unqualified for the vice presidency, there’s been barely any discussion of how alleged foreign policy expert Joe Biden was dreadfully wrong in 2006-2007 in his fierce objection to the troop surge strategy in Iraq, which has led to a massive reduction in U.S. and Iraqi casualties and prevented a complete collapse and civil war.
When Biden was picked in late August, the networks touted Biden’s “wealth of experience” and “long record of accomplishment” on foreign policy (CBS); his “deep foreign policy experience” (NBC); and “foreign policy expertise” (ABC). But only NBC’s Tom Brokaw, interviewing Biden on the September 7 Meet the Press, actually confronted the Democratic vice presidential nominee with his strident opposition to the surge, telling Biden: “All the indications are the surge has worked up to a point.”
Biden lamely tried to argue that it did not matter whether the surge worked: “The bottom line here is that it's--let's--the surge is over. Here's the real point. Whether or not the surge worked is almost irrelevant now. We're in a new deal....We can argue about whether the surge was good, bad or indifferent. Let's assume it was all good. The truth of the matter is, what do we do now?” No network reporter followed up on Brokaw's attempt to press Biden on the issue.
As Palin and Biden head into tonight’s debate, moderator Gwen Ifill might want to review the Democratic candidate’s repeated arguments against the surge and then ask him about his supposed foreign policy “expertise.” And journalists who might be tempted to denigrate Sarah Palin as far more inexperienced than Biden should familiarize themselves with Biden’s contribution to the last big foreign policy debate the country has had.
For the three broadcast networks, it should be a fairly simple task, since Biden’s long string of vehement comments denying that the surge could work were made on their airwaves:
■ “The idea that we're going to have 140,000 troops in Iraq this time next year is just not reasonable. We'll either be home because it's gotten a lot better, or we'll be home because it's beyond the pale....The time for more troops is long past in Iraq.” — Biden on NBC’s Today, November 20, 2006.
■ Reporter Jeannie Ohm: “Meantime, one top Democrat says the president should start withdrawing troops before 2008.”
Senator Joe Biden: “If it doesn't buy into that, there is no possibility in my view of success in Iraq, meaning doing anything other than trading a dictator for chaos.” — NBC Nightly News, December 10, 2006.
■ “If every Jihadi, every terrorist in all of Iraq was eliminated [and] the Lord came down and sat in the middle of this table and said they're all gone, we still have a major war in Iraq that has nothing to do with terror.” — Biden on ABC’s This Week, December 10, 2006.
■ “If we stay the course, add more troops, try what we've done before, it seems to me we're in the worst of all circumstances. The continued attrition and death of thousands of American soldiers, and wounded American soldiers, no end in sight, no political agreement, nothing forcing them to have to reach an agreement among themselves. And we have to make clear they have to have a – I'm not saying pull everything out. I'm saying what the Baker Commission said, start a drawn-down, and make it clear to them by the end of next year we're not going to be there to save them. They have got to begin to make some hard political decisions. We can't solve it for them with 30,000 more troops.” — Biden on CBS’s The Early Show, December 26, 2006.
■ “If he [President Bush] surges another 20, 30, or whatever number he's going to, into Baghdad, it'll be a tragic mistake, in my view...it will not work...we need a political solution first, not a military solution....All the king's horses and all the king's men will not put Iraq together again absent Maliki making some very hard decisions about what he's going to do....This is a prescription for another tragedy.” — Biden on NBC’s Meet the Press, January 7, 2007.
■ “I believe the president's strategy is not a solution. Secretary Rice, I believe it's a tragic mistake.” — Soundbite of Biden at a Senate Foreign Relations hearing shown on the January 11, 2007 NBC Nightly News.
■ “Deepening America's military involvement in Iraq by escalating our troop presence is a mistake.” — Soundbites of Biden played on CBS Evening News, January 17, 2007.
■ Mr. President, do not send more troops. It'll have the exact opposite impact you intend.” — Soundbite of Biden played on NBC’s Today, January 18, 2007.
■ “Mr. President, you're making a mistake. You're making a mistake.” — Biden at a January 24 2007 Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, soundbite played on all three evening newscasts.
■ “The president's policy is an abject failure. It continues to be a failure.” — Biden on ABC’s This Week, June 17, 2007.
■ “The truth of the matter is that, that the – America's – this administration's policy and the surge are a failure.” — Biden on NBC’s Meet the Press, September 9, 2007.
■ “The President's strategy in Iraq is not, is not succeeding. It is not making America safer. And doing more of the same, as I expect him to propose tonight, will be a disaster.” — Biden at a Foreign Relations committee hearing in a soundbite shown on ABC’s World News, September 13, 2007.
Meanwhile, thanks to the surge, the rate of U.S. troop deaths in Iraq has fallen by two-thirds, from an average of about 90 per month from October 2006 through September 2007, to about 30 per month for the past 12 months.
Will Biden be asked about his questionable foreign policy judgment at tonight’s debate? And will reporters give Biden’s policymaking record the same scrutiny they’re giving Sarah Palin?