Joe Biden: The Inconvenient Truth Teller. I like him. A lot.

After reading this article in Newsweek, I have a renewed respect for Joe Biden.  The article starts:

Joe Biden had a question. During a long Sunday meeting with President Obama and top national-security advisers on Sept. 13, the VP interjected, “Can I just clarify a factual point? How much will we spend this year on Afghanistan?” Someone provided the figure: $65 billion. “And how much will we spend on Pakistan?” Another figure was supplied: $2.25 billion. “Well, by my calculations that’s a 30-to-1 ratio in favor of Afghanistan. So I have a question. Al Qaeda is almost all in Pakistan, and Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And yet for every dollar we’re spending in Pakistan, we’re spending $30 in Afghanistan. Does that make strategic sense?” The White House Situation Room fell silent. But the questions had their desired effect: those gathered began putting more thought into Pakistan as the key theater in the region.

Back in March, Biden stood alone. When Obama announced that he was launching a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan—to develop the country and make its civilians safe from the Taliban—Biden was the only one of the president’s top advisers to seriously question the wisdom of this course. The vice president even authored a short paper, called “Counterterrorism-Plus,” outlining his case for a better-defined, more limited mission.

The article goes on to say that he asks the tough questions and makes the pointed remarks that others are simply unwilling to do.  His unbridled honesty sets him apart.

“He says the things that others at the table don’t want to talk about, or which they find uncomfortable,” says White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

Across the board, Biden’s real value to the president is not really his specific advice. It’s his ability to stir things up. Senior government officials who have participated in small meetings with the president and vice president have noticed Obama and Biden engaged in a duet. “The president will lean over, and they will quietly talk to each other. Biden will then question someone, make comments, and the president just leans back and seems to be taking it all in before he speaks,” Attorney General Eric Holder tells NEWSWEEK. Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, describes the interaction like this: “President Obama is one of the world’s greatest listeners; you can’t tell what he is thinking. He’s able to watch the VP ask tough questions and doesn’t have to do that himself. [In that way] he doesn’t have to reveal what he’s thinking. That’s very valuable.”

I found that last paragraph particularly interesting.  Obama having Biden do the talking so he can do the watching and the listening.  Very interesting.

And then there’s this:

Biden and Obama did not instantly bond. As a junior senator, Obama was not an intimate of Biden, a six-term veteran and committee chairman. The two men were rivals for the Democratic nomination until Biden dropped out in the early primaries, and Obama chose Biden as his running mate partly because he was a safe political choice, reassuring to Joe Six-Pack voters who might find Obama a little haughty. But Obama knew that Biden could be a shrewd and pointed questioner, particularly on foreign policy. In the spring of 2008, when candidate Obama was regarded as a greenhorn on foreign policy, he surprised and impressed the pundits by deftly probing Gen. David Petraeus on Iraq policy at a congressional hearing. No one but Obama knew at the time that Biden had advised him on his line of questioning.

It’s a very interesting article, one that really made me like Joe Biden.  More than I already did.

biden close up

4 thoughts on “Joe Biden: The Inconvenient Truth Teller. I like him. A lot.

  1. Yes, I like Joe Biden. I like Obama too. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with either of them, or just for once, you.

    Yes, Biden is very useful and clever (and apparently honest in his way too) and Obama does indeed make very astute use of his talents.

    Worryingly though, the fact that Gordon Brown in the UK has left our troops ill-equipped and undermanned to do their job as properly and as safely as is reasonably possible, starts to take on a new look when you realise how limited the US strategy in that area is.

    Al Qaeda is in Pakistan because they were pushed there from Afghanistan and that wouldn’t have happened if similar money and effort was being put into Pakistan, which is clearly now becoming less stable by the day.

    The filthy cancer that is the Taliban and which Al Quaeda uses as a shield can only be defeated by cutting it out and destroying it.

    The problem the UK forces are facing, apart from their lack of proper equipment, is the lack of manpower, which means that they root out the Taliban in an area and then move on, but once they do that, the Taliban moves back in behind them and continues enslaving the villagers again just as before, or worse. How can you expect the people to trust the West when we simply create more and more grief for them and don’t stay to protect them?

    THAT is exactly what the US and the UK did in the first gulf war and we still haven’t learned the lesson – stay out, unless you are prepared to go in, do the job properly and then stay and finish it. Anything else is a huge waste of money, resources and lives.

    The cost is, to me, totally irrelevant. It’s the moral obligation to the people that is important. If we clawed back the huge bonuses and golden handshakes that people like Goldman Sachs are paying themselves for the work they have done, paid with public money, to correct the situation THEY created in the first place, it would pay for the war in Afghanistan and support the Pakistan regime properly too.

    In my opinion the superficially simple statement that the majority of Al Qaeda is in Pakistan is the key thing that so glaringly highlights our joint failure in so many areas and ways both there and elsewhere. We poke at things, take a shot at them, often make things ten times worse and then get tired of them and walk away congratulating ourselves. How juvenile is that? What a load of rubbish! We (the West) should learn to do the job (the WHOLE job) properly from the very start, or don’t begin it at all!


  2. I don’t think we should have been there in the first place. Now that we’re there we can’t just say, “We don’t feel like doing this anymore.”

    They’re killing each other for Christ sake. They have to have an exit strategy and while I am not in the room when they are making their case for their decisions, I would guess that sending more troops is not going to end it sooner.


  3. You may be right that we shouldn’t have been there in the first place and I understand that and the ‘don’t send more troops’ sentiments – particularly in view of America’s experience in Vietnam.

    An exit strategy would be nice, but is difficult to define. Nevertheless, we do all need to work on that because when ‘they’re able to do it for themselves’ doesn’t look promising at the moment.

    However, the reason we more troops are need is, in my opinion not because the job’s getting tougher (although it is). It’s because NOWHERE NEAR enough troops or support equipment for them was ever committed in the first place (Bush and his sidekick’s fault). Which is why the Taliban was able to just melt away and re-group. They should have been utterly and swiftly destroyed and coordinated and fully supported effort from Pakistan to create a ‘pincer’ was essential to achieve that.

    Now, as you say, we can’t just say ‘We don’t feel like doing this anymore’ so I don’t know what we do, but I do strongly be;ieve that the guys already there deserve and are due ALL the support their country can give them.


  4. Hey Girl! Nice blog! I landed here Loogling for Biden’s White Paper, “Counerinsurgency Plus.” Didn’t find it (of course). But I’m hoping for a elitist, stand-up policy that leads with an exit strategy.

    If America is to remain a global Leviathan, and make safeguarding globalization’s evolution its primary task, why not just go back to the pre-9/11, “limited regret” strategic management style? You know, we come, we kill, but we don’t clean up.


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