Joe Biden's alternative history of the bin Laden raid
A funny thing happens when a candidate decides to run for president: embarrassing or controversial actions in the candidate's past are magically altered or reinvented entirely to make him look good.
And that's what happened when Joe Biden decided to give an alternative history account of his role in the decision to attack the compound in Abbottabad, where Osama bin Laden was eventually killed.
Previously, several participants – including President Obama and then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton – said that Biden was opposed to the raid. But yesterday, we learned that Biden actually told the president (in private) to go for it.
His remarks come as he considers facing off against the former secretary of state in the 2016 presidential race, and they seem to signal that he sees his earlier stance on the raid as a potential liability.
At an event honoring former Vice President Walter Mondale, Biden said he had privately advised the President to pursue the raid on bin Laden's compound after initially advising a more cautious approach at a Cabinet meeting.
"We walked out of the room and walked upstairs," Biden said. "I told him my opinion: I thought he should go, but to follow his own instincts."
The new account is a significant departure from what he said at a Democratic retreat in January 2012.
"Mr. President, my suggestion is, 'Don't go,'" Biden said, according to an ABC News report from that time.
Vice presidents by the numbers
"'We have to do two more things to see if he's there,'" Biden recalled, though the story did not include what those two things were.
The Cabinet meeting Biden referred to has been described by several people in the administration, including President Barack Obama himself.
The President asked his closest advisers for input on how he should respond to intelligence that bin Laden was holed up in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan -- intelligence that was anything but certain.
The proposed raid by Navy SEALS was risky, particularly without notifying Pakistan of the plan.
"Those decisions are not always popular. Those decisions generally are not poll-tested," Obama told moderator Bob Schieffer in a 2012 presidential debate. "And even some in my own party, including my current vice president, had the same critique" about the risk of the operation as did some outsiders.
Clinton has also characterized Biden has having been openly skeptical in the meeting.
I don't think the American people care much whether Joe Biden was in favor of or opposed to the raid. But the vice president's comments give us a peek of what we can expect from candidate Biden. He's a gaffe machine who tells lies about his past. This astonishing account of Biden's lies about his schooling from the 1988 presidential campaign is instructive:
Biden also seems driven in no small part by a staggering intellectual insecurity. The figurative evidence room is full of examples. The most notorious comes from Biden’s 1988 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. He had been hounded about his law-school record and plagiarism problems (among other things, he copied five pages from a law journal for a 15-page paper and then claimed it was a footnoting error), and he was asked a question about his academic record by a resident of New Hampshire.
He responded: “I think I have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect.”
He went on: I went to law school on a full academic scholarship, the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship. In the first year in the law, I decided I didn’t want to be in law school and ended up in the bottom two-thirds of my class and then decided I wanted to stay, went back to law school, and, in fact, ended up in the top half of my class. I won the international moot-court competition. I was the outstanding student in the political-science department at the end of my year. I graduated with three degrees from undergraduate school and 165 credits — only needed 123 credits. And I would be delighted to sit down and compare my IQ to yours."
Most of these statements were outright lies. Biden graduated from college with just one degree, not three. Yes, he did win a moot-court competition, but he graduated 76th in his class of 85. He wasn’t the outstanding political-science student. And why is he still talking about how many credits he graduated with? Who does that?
This time, the media does not seem disposed to giving him any cover. And isn't it ironic that many of those who have been begging him to run for president will fall on him like a pack of wolves once he's in the race?