Speaking on foreign policy, presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., told a crowd of 350 gathered in Alumni Hall Tuesday that presidential candidates must answer a two-word question after determining their Iraq policy: “What next?”
Before delving into his Iraq plan, Biden set a casual tone for the Dartmouth town-hall meeting, sponsored by the Rockefeller Center and the College Democrats.
“My name is Joe Biden and I used to be a Young Democrat,” he said.
After calling President Bush’s plan of increasing troop levels ineffective, Biden said that his own five-point plan for Iraq can salvage the situation.
Included in his plan were giving regional governments increased power and accountability as promised in the Iraqi constitution, making Iraq “the world’s problem — not just ours,” and reducing troop levels to a 20,000-person residual force while funding reconstruction efforts to protect civil rights and provide jobs.
“If we leave Iraq immediately, the Middle Eastern states will feel compelled to protect what they see as their interests,” Biden said. “This could turn into a regional war.”
After speaking for 20 minutes about his five-pronged plan for Iraq, Biden was questioned for more than an hour on Iran, North Korea, President Bush’s tax cuts, Afghanistan, and universal healthcare.
Speaking about foreign policy in Iran, Biden declared his intention to impeach the president if he started an unjustified war with Iran.
“The president has virtually no credibility at home or around the world,” Biden said. “People have overwhelming doubt about his motives.”
Biden, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, was elected to the United States Senate in 1972 at the age of 29.
Still committee chairman in December 2002, Biden wrote a report entitled “Iraq: The Decade After” with Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., then a senior member of the committee, predicting the challenges of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq that the United States faces today.
In his speech, Biden contrasted President George W. Bush with President John F. Kennedy. When Kennedy informed French President Charles de Gaulle about the Cuban missile crisis, de Gaulle said that he did not need to see the reconnaissance photos, because he knew that President Kennedy would not mislead him in the matter of war. Biden said that the world does not have the same confidence in Bush.
“We tell Iran and North Korea that we want you to cease and desist from your actions,” Biden said about Bush’s policy. “Afterwards, we are still going to persist in changing your regime.”
Doing something somewhat out of character for a Democratic presidential candidate, Biden praised Bush’s actions immediately following Sept. 11, 2001, as responsible.
“Anyone who was president at that time would have made mistakes,” Biden said. “But he was responsible; he was deliberate.”
Biden admitted that his proposed amendment to the $87 billion legislation providing funding for Iraq caused fellow Democrat John Kerry trouble during the 2004 election. His amendment, which Kerry voted for, ordered the U.S. to avoid deficit spending by paying for the $87 billion now, by suspending tax cuts. When that amendment failed, Kerry voted against the $87 billion funding, which Bush later used to call Kerry a flip-flopper.
No stranger to frankness, Biden said that he confronted Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 during his war crimes trial, about his alleged ethnic cleansing crimes in the Balkans.
“I told him, ‘Mr. President, I think you’re a war criminal,'” Biden said. “That’s not what you usually tell a president.”
In an interview with The Dartmouth, Biden said that there are two main issues that make him unique.
“One — my life experience, my track record,” Biden said. “Two — I’ve learned how to take a punch.”
“It’s not about how hard you’re knocked down, but how quickly you get up,” Biden said.
Also in the interview, Biden said that his favorite television show is Fox’s “24,” a show some recently have accused of promoting the use of torture, but going on the campaign trail prevents him from watching most of the show’s episodes. He also enjoys watching Comedy Central’s “Daily Show with Jon Stewart” to relax.
Adam Patinkin ’07, president of the New Hampshire College Democrats, said that getting Democratic candidates to Dartmouth is conditional on three factors: candidate event attendance, the Democratic student voter turnout — currently 75 percent — and Dartmouth’s position as the only Ivy League school in any of the primary states.
When Biden shook hands, he reached out and pulled in closely, leaving some with a charismatic impression.
“I wouldn’t say he’s my frontrunner, but I certainly like him a lot,” attendee and College Democrat Mike Brasher ’10 said.