Biden Attacks Obama?

Joe Biden and Chris Dodd are ramping up their criticism of Barack Obama and John Edwards as Obama and Edwards ramp up their criticism of Clinton (and as Clinton ramps up her criticism of Obama).

Biden issued the following statement after Tuesday’s AFL-CIO Debate on John Edwards’ labor record (which he also referred to in the debate):

Statement from Larry Rasky on John Edwards’ right-to-work record:

“Tonight, John Edwards said that he claimed to be a leader on union issues throughout his career. The public record does not square with Sen. Edwards’ memory.”

The Facts:

Edwards Supported North Carolina Right to Work Law in 1998:

· In 1998 the Charlotte Observer reported, “The AFL-CIO endorsed Edwards last spring. Faircloth used that in a TV ad, saying Edwards promised to be “a warrior” for labor. In fact, Edwards said he would be a warrior for labor unions only on those issues on which they agreed. One of those issues is right-to-work laws, which prevent workers from being forced to join a union. Unions oppose such laws. Edwards opposes a national right-to-work law, but favors North Carolina’s right-to-work law. Faircloth has introduced a national right-to-work law.” [Charlotte Observer, 10/18/98, …]

· In 1998 the Charlotte Observer reported, “As it turns out, Edwards doesn’t even agree with the labor group on their most critical issue – North Carolina’s right-to-work law. That law, which the AFL-CIO opposes, means no one can be forced to join a union or pay dues. Edwards says he supports North Carolina’s law. But he opposes a national right-to-work law backed by Republican Faircloth. ‘I don’t think the federal government needs to get involved with it,’ Edwards said. That was good enough for James Andrews, the AFL-CIO’s executive director, who has virtually given up on finding a viable candidate who will fight North Carolina’s right-to-work law. ‘We understand that the Jim Hunts of the world and John Edwards of the world . . . are certainly not going to oppose the current law,’ Andrews said. ‘Politically, I don’t expect to have anyone leading the charge to change that. We understand and accept that. Edwards is not going to be 100 percent with us on all our issues, but he certainly has expressed commitment and understanding of working families.’” [Charlotte Observer, 10/7/98, …]

This coincides with Biden and Clinton agreeing a number of times in the debate. I even wondered during the live blog if Biden was Clinton’s attack dog for issues she found too controversial. That’s not to insinuate any time of formal or informal agreement, but Biden seems ready to attack Edwards and Obama consistently as opposed to Clinton.

I wrote the following in the live blog:

Biden is asked about nurse shortages. Biden talks about getting 100,000 new horses, and the need to insure children and catastrophic accidents while working for universal health care plan. Biden concludes with a long and loud look at his record. Seems to be a sharp attack on Edwards for walking on picket lines while running for president. Is Biden Clinton’s attack dog?

Dodd has been even more aggressive in criticizing Obama. He released the following after Tuesday’s AFL-CIO debate:

In his August 1st speech on terrorism, Barack Obama called for unilateral hostile action against Pakistan, stating that if “…we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.” His comments received criticism from officials in Pakistan and spurred protests, as reported by the Chicago Tribune here. At last night’s AFL-CIO debate, Senator Dodd commented that it was a mistake to suggest that we unilaterally invade Pakistan. Obama backed away from his previous comments, and instead stated that he would take a more cooperative stance with Pakistan: “I did not say that we immediately go in unilaterally, what I said was that we have to work with Musharraf.”

As part of MSNBC’s post debate coverage, MSNBC reporter David Shuster agreed with Dodd, saying that Obama was misleading about his August 1st terrorism speech:

Obama (video of debate): “I did not say that we would immediately go in unilaterally, what I said was that we have to work with Musharraf”

Shuster: “Actually Obama is incorrect and Dodd is right on this one. Watch what Obama said in his speech just a few days ago. ”

Obama (video of terrorism speech, 8/1/07): “It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an Al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will.”

Shuster: “Again, Barack Obama was misleading tonight about his own speech”

“Senator Obama clearly buckled under the pressure last night while being challenged by much more experienced, seasoned candidates like Chris Dodd,” said Dodd spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan. “Senator Dodd’s 32 years in Congress have equipped him with a very nuanced understanding of complex foreign policy matters. That experience showed last night, especially in contrast to Senator Obama retreating from what he said in his speech in order to try to deny the irresponsible comments he had made.”

Far be it from me to speak for Sen. Obama, but there’s a reason this isn’t catching on with the press, and it has nothing to do with Dodd issuing it or Obama being popular. There is little if any difference in practice between the two statements that Dodd finds so contradictory. If anything, it shows that Obama is framing the issue better, emphasizing the work done with Pakistan as opposed to working when Pakistan fails. Obama’s second way empasizes Pakistan as an ally more, but aside from that, there’s little if any substantive difference in terms of the action Obama is proposing (and all of this seems to be pretty much agreed upon across party lines for the most part. Like that last foreign policy squabble over meeting with leaders, the differences are greatly exaggerated.)
Dodd issued a second press release today attacking Obama’s record on the war:

In response to criticism of his recent foreign policy pronouncements, Senator Obama has pointed to his opposition to the Iraq war while he was a State Senator from Illinois. However, he has neglected to mention that he said that he did not know what he would have done if he were in the U.S. Senate at the time of the vote to authorize the war.

“In a recent interview, he declined to criticize Senators Kerry and Edwards for voting to authorize the war, although he said he would not have done the same based on the information he had at the time. ‘But, I’m not privy to Senate intelligence reports,’ Mr. Obama said. ‘What would I have done? I don’t know. What I know is that from my vantage point the case was not made.’” [New York Times, 7/26/04]

“Senator Obama’s position as a state senator rings hollow in light of the fact that he himself says he doesn’t know how he would have voted as a U.S. Senator,” said Chris Dodd. “It’s going to take leadership in the U.S. Senate to end the war in Iraq. That’s why I led the fight for a firm deadline and clearly and unequivocally stated my opposition to supplemental funding for George Bush’s failed policy – something that can’t be said of all the candidates.”

This likewise takes advantage of a differing of policy between Obama and Kerry and Edwards, whom Obama had to support as the Democratic Convention Keynote Speaker in 2004. Dodd takes standard deference and tries to use it for political gain. I’d add in that Obama has since been elected and had the opportunity to actually read the intelligence, presumably, he referred to in 2004.

I’m Not Seeing the Comparison At All

Dodd is languishing in the polls – often behind Kucinich and even occasionally Gravel – despite putting more policy proposals out there than possibly any other candidate. He even launched an education plan today. To date, it’s been speculated that Dodd is just an unknown, or just unable to get traction because of a lack of charisma. But despite what I believe to be a record number of debates, Dodd has been completely unable to generate any charisma of his own. Additionally, his appeals in debates, particularly the AFL-CIO debate, were obviously pandering that the crowd did not take well to. And these critiques are evident to me of Dodd trying to force the issue too much, in ways that will probably hurt him. Changes in how a candidate frames an issue are not changes in the policy beliefs of that issue. Perhaps it’s time the question should be asked: Is Dodd simply a bad politician in terms of running for president?

On the whole, though, I’m reminded of the lyrics of a song that I’m quite certain has never been previously tied to presidential politics: Lobster Bucket, by the Aquabats:Is This What The Candidates Other than Clinton Are Like?

There are times
When you find
Lobsters in a bucket
Can’t climb out
Why won’t they climb away?
Because other lobsters
Pull them down

…..

People too me and you
Can also be like lobsters in bucket
It’s all just one big mess
Please don’t be a lobster
Friends are best

There’s only going to be one candidate who emerges to have a chance against Hillary Clinton in this election. Both Obama and Edwards are behaving as if they are that candidate right now (and in Iowa, they both are, as it’s pretty much a dead heat). Biden and Dodd, though, are dragging down Obama and Edwards at every chance they have. The first reason is obvious: they’re not going to overcome Clinton’s popularity, and any long shot chance they have is determined by them overcoming either Edwards or Obama (which is highly unlikely). The second reason is that there is reason to curry favor with Clinton. Dodd and especially Biden are angling for cabinet posts in the next Democratic presidency, and it behooves them to not cross Clinton during the campaign. Obviously, I have no sources and I’m not saying this is what they are doing … but it does make a lot of sense.

Even if I have to site an Aquabats song to do it… (and fwiw, I hate that band… way too kitsch for me.)