All eyes are on the Warren-Sanders contretemps today, but one other thing to watch heading into tonight’s big debate is whether Joe Biden will finally pay a price for falsely claiming he opposed the Iraq war right when the war began.
Following the killing of Iranian Quds Force general Qasem Soleimani, Biden has been running hard as the Democratic candidate ready to handle foreign policy on “day one,” and that message may be working out for him (if this Monmouth poll of Iowa is right). But the focus on foreign policy has also prompted renewed scrutiny of Biden’s support for the Iraq war, and Biden has responded to these questions by evading the truth.
“Immediately, the moment it started, I came out against the war at that moment,” Biden said during an interview in September. As CNN’s Daniel Dale points out, Biden’s campaign said he “misspoke” and only meant to say that he opposed the manner in which the war was conducted, but a week ago Biden made a similarly dishonest claim when asked by a voter in Iowa about the Iraq war. He falsely claimed he merely voted for the authorization of force to give President Bush diplomatic leverage to get weapons inspectors back into Iraq.
But Biden said in June 2003, three months after the war began, in an interview on CNN: “I, for one, thought we should have gone in Iraq.”
The Sanders campaign has telegraphed that it’s itching for a fight on the issue. One campaign staffer has been circulating this video of Biden from July 2003:
BREAKING: Video emerges of @JoeBiden criticizing antiwar Dems, praising Bush for leading America into the Iraq War & promising he will support Bush's continuation of the war
"The president of the United States is a bold leader & he is popular…I & many others will support him" pic.twitter.com/Sx2zsdbSJV
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) January 12, 2020
In the July 2003 speech, Biden said:
Some in my own party have said that it was a mistake to go to Iraq in the first place and believe that it’s not worth the cost, whatever benefit may flow from our engagement in Iraq. But the cost of not acting against Saddam I think would have been much greater, and so is the cost, and so will be the cost of not finishing this job. The President of the United States is a bold leader, and he is popular. The stakes are high, and the need for leadership is great. I wish he’d use some of his stored-up popularity to make what I admit is not a very popular case, but I, and many others, will support him when he makes the case.
Whether Sanders successfully follows through with the attack at tonight’s debate, and whether that attack really resonates with voters, remains to be seen. There is, after all, a recent example of another presidential candidate who misled voters about his opposition to the Iraq war and nevertheless won his party’s nomination.