Kristol: What Biden Implied
11:14 PM, Oct 20, 2008 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
John McCain took note Monday of Joe Biden's remarks the day before at a Seattle fundraiser (where Biden apparently didn't realize at first there were media present). But there's more McCain could say.
Here's McCain, in Belton, Missouri:
McCain is right that the last part of Biden's statement is the most troubling--that when Obama is tested, it won't be apparent that his response is correct. But what does Biden mean by this? What kind of response by Obama is Biden forecasting?
Take another look at what Biden said:
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. It'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.
Now Biden presumaby thinks such an apparently weak response would be in our long-term interest. But McCain needs to force that debate: "Sen. Obama, will you in fact do nothing in response to a Putin provocation against Ukraine or a final push by Ahmadinejad toward nuclear weapons? Isn't that what your running mate has forecast? Isn't it awfully dangerous to forecast weakness on the part of an American president?"