Kristol translates Biden

On Sunday Joe Biden committed a Kinsley gaffe with the following observations:

It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking…. Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy….

I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate… And he’s gonna need help. And the kind of help he’s gonna need is, he’s gonna need you – not financially to help him – we’re gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it’s not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right.

Bill Kristol interprets Biden’s remarks as follows:

So Biden expects a test of the kind Kennedy faced after his disastrous meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna in June, 1961, less than five months into Kennedy’s presidency. Biden’s presumably thinking of the Soviet-backed construction of the Berlin Wall a couple of months later. Kennedy did nothing, and was criticized for his weakness back home.

So–leaving aside the merits of what Kennedy did or didn’t do in 1961–Biden is forecasting that Obama will have what seems to be a weak response to a provocation from, say, Iran or Russia, and he’s urging the liberals of Seattle and elsewhere to stand with Obama against the expected domestic criticism.

In other words, Biden is forecasting inaction by Obama in the face of testing by a dictator. I suspect he’s right in this forecast. McCain might want to clarify this point. It’s not just that Obama’s own running mate expects an international crisis early in his presidency. t’s not just that Obama has a weak foreign policy record. It’s that Biden himself expects what will appear to be a weak response from Obama to testing by a dictator.

Those who are rusty on the relevant history may find my Standard column “The Kennedy-Khrushchev conference for dummies” a handy refresher. Judging by his remarks during the primaries, Obama is certainly unfamiliar with the relevant history.

Kristol’s gloss is a reasonable interpretation of what Biden said. It would be instructive to have Biden expand on his remarks. What four or five scenarios did he have in mind? What would be the cause of the domestic criticism that Biden anticipates to Obama’s response?

Biden unfortunately has no events scheduled today. He isn’t talking to the press in any event. Perhaps Joe the Plumber can lend a hand in turning up the heat for an explanation from Biden, or in explaining what Biden had in mind.

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