Ben Smith reports:
Answering questions after a meeting with Biden and national security advisers, Obama insists that Joe Biden intended to say that the next president will be tested by foreign powers, regardless of who is elected.
"Joe sometimes engages in rhetorical flourishes, but i think his core point was that the next administration is going to be tested, regardless of who it is," he said at the Richmond, Va., event.
"I think the point that Joe made is actually very similar to the one that Secretary Chertoff made today or yesterday, which is that whoever is the next president is going to have to deal with a whole host of challenges internationally, and that a period of transition in a new administration is always one in which we have to be vigilant, we have to be careful, we have to be mindful that as we pass the baton in this democracy, that others don't take advantage of it.," Obama said, stressing that either he or McCain would be tested.
Read the the full Biden quote in context, and decide whether Biden was merely saying that the next president will be tested "regardless of who it is" (emphases mine):
"And here's the point I want to make. Mark my words. Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. And he's gonna have to make some really tough - I don't know what the decision's gonna be, but I promise you it will occur. As a student of history and having served with seven presidents, I guarantee you it's gonna happen. 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. Because all these decisions, all these decisions, once they're made if they work, then they weren't viewed as a crisis. If they don't work, it's viewed as you didn't make the right decision, a little bit like how we hesitated so long dealing with Bosnia and dealing with Kosovo, and consequently 200,000 people lost their lives that maybe didn't have to lose lives. It's how we made a mistake in Iraq. We made a mistake in Somalia. So there's gonna be some tough decisions. They may emanate from the Middle East. They may emanate from the sub-continent. They may emanate from Russia's newly-emboldened position because they're floating in a sea of oil."
After again touting Cantwell's judgment, Biden told the crowd to "gird your loins."
"Only thing I'm asking you is, you know, gird your loins. We're gonna win with your help, God willing, we're gonna win, but this is not gonna be an easy ride. This president, the next president, is gonna be left with the most significant task. It's like cleaning the Aegean stables, man. This is more than just, this is more than - think about it, literally, think about it - this is more than just a capital crisis, this is more than just markets, this is a systemic problem we have with this economy."
Is there any doubt that Biden meant that our foreign adversaries would seize the unique opportunity to "test" the "mettle" of the untested 47-year-old Obama? McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann acknowledged on Monday that "the next president of the United States will be tested," but he argued that Obama's weakness on foreign policy "invites testing."
"In foreign policy, it is weakness real or perceived weakness that is provocative. Weakness invites challenge, invites testing, invites attack," Scheunemann said, as he went on to point out that Obama has shown signs of weakness repeatedly. Obama said Georgia should "show restraint" after it had been invaded by Russia. He opposed trade pacts with our allies. He opposed the surge and would have accepted a defeat to Al Qaeda in Iraq rather than alter his plan for withdrawal. He pledged to meet with Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il, the Castro brothers, Hugo Chavez, and Bashar al Asad. Even if Obama intends to give all these tyrants a good talking to a la Lee Bollinger, does he really think that presidential summits--without precondition--will do anything but embolden our enemies?