Biden’s boners

I thought Joe Biden did a good job in his debate with Sarah Palin this past Thursday. He sounded articulate and knowledgeable, especially for those who might have been unaware of his liberties with the truth. He seemed to me occasionally to look on Governor Palin’s performance with admiration, smiling with a professional’s recognition of the job she was doing. It made me think more highly of Biden as a man.

In some respects, however, Senator Biden’s performance was disturbing. Senator Biden unleashed so many errors, misstatements, stretchers, whoppers, fabrications, and the like that it was hard to keep track. Jim Geraghty has counted 24 Biden lies/errors/hallucinations.

Perhap most striking was the conviction with which Biden conveyed his whoppers. Yuval Levin aptly notes that every time Biden sounded especially confident, he was saying something that wasn’t true.

Take, for example, Biden’s forceful denial that Barack Obama had never committed to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Biden’s denial was of course mistaken. During the YouTube Democratic primary debate last July Obama was asked if he would meet the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea without “precondition” during his first year in office. Video of the releavnt portion of the YouTube debate shows that the picture of each country’s president including Ahmadinejad was displayed on the screen to illustrate the question that Obama proceeded to answer. “I would,” he replied.

On Thursday night, however, Biden denied that Obama had ever said he would “sit down with Ahmadinejad.” Rather, Biden seemed to assert that Obama’s commitment applied only to “the theocracy.” According to Biden, Obama’s commitment therefore referred to the mullahs who wield the ultimate authority in Iran, not to Ahmedinejad, who is only the country’s president. (Obama himself has subsequently hedged his commitment to meet with Ahmaedinejad by implying he was referring to Iran’s Supreme Leader rather than to Iran’s president. How would meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader be an improvement over meeting with Iran’s president? We await the One’s illumination.)

In August 2007 Biden attacked Obama for making the very statement to which Governor Palin referred. While Biden was challenging Obama for the Democratic nomination for president Biden said he would not support such a pledge. “Would I make a blanket commitment to meet unconditionally with the leaders of each of those countries within the first year I was elected president?” he said in an appearance at the National Press Club. “Absolutely positively no.”

Moreover, in September 2007, it was widely reported that Obama cleared up any lingering doubt on the subject, not that there ever was any such doubt. USA Today and other news outlets reported that Obama would happily meet with Ahmadinejad as president in order to protect American interests.

Considering Senator Biden’s misstatements in toto together with his conviction asserting them, one begins to wonder if Biden presents something worse than an extreme case of Senatitis. I don’t know. I only note that last year we commented on Biden’s revisionist history in explaining how the Iraq war started to a group of fourth graders at the statehouse in Concord, New Hampshire. Biden compared the war in Iraq with the invasion of Afghanistan:

“Osama bin Laden set up camps there, and he was getting a lot of help from folks running that country called Afghanistan. And that’s where he planned an attack on America to bring the World Trade Towers down and kill all those innocent Americans. We had a right to, and we should’ve gone, to Afghanistan to try to get bin Laden and those people who’ve done very bad things to America,” he said.

“But the president, I think, he got a little confused,” he continued. “I think he thought the folks in another country, way, way far away, far from here, it’s also far from Afghanistan, called Iraq. He said, ‘The guy in Iraq he helped bin Laden do bad things to us,’ and he didn’t. He wasn’t a good guy, but he didn’t help. So we used that kind of as an excuse to attack Iraq.”

President Bush never said that Saddam’s Iraq had anything to do with the September 11 attacks. One would think that Biden knew this. At the time John Hinderaker wondered whether Joe Biden was really willing to lie to a group of schoolchildren. In the fullness of time, I think it is fair to say that we can now answer that question with some confidence.

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