The Corner

Biden Unbound

Joe Biden is at it again, accusing the president’s opponents of hoping for bad news and the Republicans in particular of rooting for dismal economic reports, by virtue of opposing legislation of the sort they supposedly earlier would have supported. I am sure, as in every campaign, there are such hyper-partisans. But like most Americans, conservatives have lots of friends and family members out of work, and, in the more important and larger sense, can see first-hand how 41 months of more than 8 percent unemployment (or even higher in dysfunctional states like California) have wrecked their communities. Wishing for a different approach is far more compassionate and disinterested than doubling down on the Greek model because of blinkered ideological orthodoxy. I don’t know anyone who does not want the economy to rebound fast, especially given the toll it is taking on the larger society; I would have been delighted at news of a 5 percent unemployment rate, and 3.5 percent GDP growth — whatever the political ramifications. 

But this charge of unpatriotic partisanship for political advantage is vintage Biden hypocrisy: Remember in 2007, at the moment in the spring and summer when the surge was being implementing and just starting to work, and thousands of American lives were at stake in implementing it? Biden and Harry Reid were assuring the world that the surge was already a failure; and in Biden’s case, he kept at it all year long, especially before and during the September 2007 Petraeus hearings, when he kept insisting that trisecting Iraq was our only hope. In fact, as in the case of candidate Barack Obama, he would only cease his blanket dismissals of the surge in 2008, when conditions on the ground had so improved that the surge vanished as a campaign talking point and earlier denunciations were largely scrubbed from campaign websites. 

Remember, Biden in August 2002 had been a vehement supporter of regime change in Iraq (“I think Saddam either has to be separated from his weapons or taken out of power.”), and voted to authorize Saddam’s removal in October of that year. Would Vice President Joe Biden say that in 2007–2008 presidential candidate Joe Biden was not behind the national effort to secure Iraq through a surge (e.g., “In continuing the surge of forces for another six months, is that likely to change that reality? The conclusion I’ve reached is no.”)? And would he suggest further that candidate Joe Biden had assumed that bad news, and partisan commentary on supposedly bad news, would only enhance his own political fortunes? And would he say that such opportunism explained his abject reversal in damning something that he had earlier so wholeheartedly endorsed—and yet mysteriously would come full circle again to praise as perhaps his administration’s “greatest achievement”? 

But, of course, to suggest all that, in Biden fashion, would be demagoguery of the worst sort.

Quite simply, sometime after January 2009 the commandments on the barn wall abruptly were altered, as things like filibusters, voting against the debt limit, or sharp dissent with an administration became cynical obstructionism, while everything from renditions, raising lots of campaign money, presidential golfing, supporting administration orthodoxy, and asserting executive privilege became correct.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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