Asked what he thought about criticisms former Vice President Cheney had made about the Obama administration, Vice President Joe Biden told reporters “Who cares what – ” and then stopped himself.
“Yeah, yeah, I can see the headline now,” Mr. Biden said. “I’m getting better, guys. I’m getting a little better, you know what I mean?”
The loquacious Blue Hen has built a reputation in Washington, DC, for foreign policy expertise and a predilection for the gaffe. Apparently he has been working on the latter.
Vice President Biden said Cheney was “absolutely wrong” in accusing President Obama of “dithering” while formulating a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“I think what the administration is doing is exactly what we said it would do,” Biden said. “And what I think it warrants doing. And that is making an informed judgment based upon circumstances that have changed … to come up with a sustainable policy that has more than one dimension."
As for the review of strategy Cheney said they had given the Obama team during the presidential transition process, Biden called it “irrelevant.”
“That’s why the president asked me to get in the place in January and go to Afghanistan,” he said. “I came back with a different review. I came back with an assessment as to what I thought was, what we were inheriting, okay?"
Biden also noted that the review was dated.
“A whole lot has changed in the last year,” he said. “Let’s assume they left us a review that was absolutely correct. Is that review relevant and totally applicable to today in light of the changes that have taken place in the region, in Afghanistan itself? So I think that is sort of irrelevant. Not sort of – I think it’s irrelevant.”
Biden said of his role advising the president, “I’d be surprised if he publicly dismissed anything I had to say, number one. Number two, look, I knew when I signed on as vice president that he is the president. The only thing, the only guarantee I got, and that he’s kept, is that I get the opportunity on every important decision to be in on the deal, to give him the benefit or lack thereof of my opinion.”
“The truth of the matter is that he has kept that deal. He has sought my opinion not generically but in detail. And if he reaches a different conclusion than I do, that’s okay. He’s the president. But, I am… Anyway, I guess that’s the best way to answer the question.”
On another topic — fulfilling, somewhat, his reputation for candor — the Vice President acknowledged what the White House denied at the time: that there was anything imperfect about the President’s announced change in strategy on missile defense last month, in terms of the consultation of allies.
The announcement was clearly rushed, and allies felt as if the White House should and could have communicated the announcement better. At the time, Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer told reporters that "shortly after midnight, Barack Obama telephoned me to announce that his government is backing away from the intention of building a missile defense radar on Czech territory. The Czech Republic acknowledges the decision."
Said the Vice President today: “Could it have been done better? Yeah. Obviously it could have been done better.”
He continued: “Look, there's always a better way to be able to communicate change than whatever the way you used. But that's the reason for the trip. I think I set out on behalf of the president to convey to three central European allies that we're committed. We've ended the trip, we've ended the meetings, and I'm absolutely convinced that the leaders of the opposition as well as the governments of all three countries have no doubt about the commitment.”
The Vice President made his comments to the traveling pool of reporters at the US Ambassador’s residence in Prague, in the Czech Republic, before departing for the U.S.