(Bloomberg) — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden defended his foreign policy record as he campaigns on the argument that he’s best suited to be commander-in-chief amid President Donald Trump’s escalating threats against Iran.
“It’s not to suggest I haven’t made mistakes in my career but I would put my record against anyone in public life in terms of foreign policy,” Biden said Saturday at a rally in Des Moines, when a voter asked him how he could be trusted given his past positions.
The voter cited Biden’s 2002 vote to authorize the use of military force in Iraq and how he reportedly discouraged President Barack Obama from moving ahead with a raid on the Afghan compound where Osama bin Laden was believed to be hiding.
The former vice president polls far ahead his Democratic opponents on foreign policy but some of his rivals — especially Bernie Sanders — have questioned his history, particularly the Iraq war vote, as evidence of holes in his national security record.
Biden acknowledged that his advice to Obama while in the White House Situation Room with other senior officials was, “I would vote for you to do another pass to determine whether he’s there,” but said he was more bullish once he was alone with the president.
“As we walked out of the room – it’s not public knowledge – I went up to the Oval Office, said, ‘Mr. President, follow your instincts, go,’” Biden said. “But if I said that to the president in front of everyone else and he didn’t go, then in fact it would have been in the news.”
Biden also offered a rare defense of his Iraq war vote, suggesting he’d been misled by President George W. Bush.
“He looked me in the eye in the Oval Office and promised me all he was doing was wanting to get the authority to be able to send in inspectors” to determine whether Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, Biden said. “The president then went ahead with ‘Shock and Awe’ and right after that and from the very moment he did that, I opposed what he was doing and spoke to him.”
Biden’s explanations came after he called on Trump to further justify his threats against Iran.
Trump “has no authority to take us into a military conflict with Iran. Period,” Biden said. “Any further action against Iran requires congressional authorization.”
Biden said earlier Saturday that Trump hasn’t made public any intelligence to support the decision to kill Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, and that he had no idea whether Trump had secured the support of NATO allies.
“It just seems to me to be he’s going off on a tweet storm on his own. And it’s incredibly dangerous and irresponsible,” he said.
Trump tweeted Saturday that the U.S had picked 52 Iranian targets if Tehran takes military action. Trump said any strikes on Americans or U.S. assets would be met with “VERY FAST AND VERY HARD” attacks on Iranian targets.
The White House sent a notification to Congress on Saturday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “raises more questions than it answers,” and that the administration’s unusual move of keeping the information classified means that Americans are “being left in the dark about our national security.”
Biden said that was an inappropriate move. “It can’t be classified – it has to be informed,” he said.
He drew applause as he asserted that “the last thing we need is another war in the Middle East.”
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