The Corner

Biden and Iran

Michael Rubin’s op-ed on Joe Biden and Iran today is an important eye-opener. It also brings to mind a scene from a profile of Biden that Michael Crowley did for the New Republic shortly after September 11th.

The entire profile is pretty damning. The exchange at the beginning, where Biden badgers some pilots and flight attendants who have come to seek support for emergency benefits and tells them they have to back his funding for Amtrak (his taxpayer-subsidized ride home every night) or else he’ll “screw” their efforts, is reminiscent of his famous “my IQ is higher than yours, Frank” rant from 1988 (which also turned out to be filled with unbelievable exaggerations). But the most amazing portion, and the one that most reflects on Biden’s judgment, is at the end when Crowley describes a meeting between Biden (who was then, as now, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) and his committee staff shortly after the September 11th attacks:

At the Tuesday-morning meeting with committee staffers, Biden launches into a stream-of-consciousness monologue about what his committee should be doing, before he finally admits the obvious: “I’m groping here.” Then he hits on an idea: America needs to show the Arab world that we’re not bent on its destruction. “Seems to me this would be a good time to send, no strings attached, a check for $200 million to Iran,” Biden declares. He surveys the table with raised eyebrows, a How do ya like that? look on his face.

The staffers sit in silence. Finally somebody ventures a response: “I think they’d send it back.” Then another aide speaks up delicately: “The thing I would worry about is that it would almost look like a publicity stunt.” Still another reminds Biden that an Iranian delegation is in Moscow that very day to discuss a $300 million arms deal with Vladimir Putin that the United States has strongly condemned. But Joe Biden is barely listening anymore. He’s already moved on to something else.

Yikes.

Yuval Levin — Yuval Levin is the editor of National Affairs and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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