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Biden: US position in world 'never weaker' in last 100 years
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Friday May 23, 2008

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Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has continued to take heat from Republicans for insisting he would talk with the leaders of unfriendly nations. Now Senator Joe Biden, has come to his defense in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal.

"You either talk, you maintain the status quo, or you go to war," Biden writes. "If Mr. McCain has ruled out talking, we're stuck with an ineffectual policy or military strikes that could quickly spiral out of control. ... Equally unwise is the Bush-McCain fixation on regime change."

When Biden appeared on NBC to discuss his op-ed, host Matt Lauer was quick to probe for signs of weakness. "By coming to Senator Obama's defense in this op-ed piece, are you admitting that he is somewhat vulnerable on this?" Lauer asked.

"No," Biden replied. "What I'm saying is I'm sick and tired of Republicans characterizing Democrats generally ... as being weak on national security. The truth is, we've never been weaker in the last hundred years in terms of our position in the world. ... I've never seen a time ... when America's been less respected around the world and has had less leverage, and the idea that we sit there and let this president and my friend John McCain characterize us as weak is just preposterous."

Lauer then cited an op-ed by Senator Joe Lieberman, to which Biden's was in part a response, which claimed that as a result of Vietnam, Democrats began to "drift" away from a resolute Cold War worldview which "was unafraid to make moral judgments about the world beyond our borders" and towards one which blamed America for having "provoked" its enemies."

"As we look at the upcoming election, particularly between a War Hero and Barack Obama, do you think that's going to be a major problem for Democrats?" Lauer asked.

"That's why we've got to fight back," Biden responded, saying that Democrats have tended to avoid arguing against charges that they are weak on national security and that taking a self-confident stand is the best way to end those attacks.

Biden made the same point more strongly when he appeared on CNN. He told John Roberts, "This has been the single most ineffectual, incompetent administration in the conduct of foreign policy in modern history. And the idea that they're asserting that the Democrats would be weak on foreign policy, I find preposterous. ... This should be a central issue."

Roberts quoted a statement that had just been issued by the McCain campaign, charging that Biden's op-ed is missing the point, which is "whether the office of the president of the United States should lend its prestige and dignity to a dictator like Ahmadinejad. ... Those bad actors are emboldened and it threatens the security of the United States and our allies."

In response, Biden cited past presidents who have negotiated with dictators to positive effect. He also pointed out that Obama has said he would sit down with the Iranian leadership, not President Ahmadinejad, and that this reveals "the lack of sophistication on the part of the Republicans in not realizing that Ahmadinejad does not control the security apparatus in Iran."

This video is from NBC's Today Show and CNN's American Morning, broadcast May 23, 2008.

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