KUHNER: Biden the bumbler

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COMMENTARY:

Sen. Joe Biden is proving to be a disastrous pick - threatening to bring down the Democratic ticket. The vice presidential candidate said this week that national leaders should follow the example of President Franklin Roosevelt’s response to a financial crisis.

“When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened,’ ” Mr. Biden told “CBS Evening News.”

But Herbert Hoover, not Roosevelt, was president when the stock market crashed in 1929 - a fact commonly known to many high-school students (but apparently not to Mr. Biden). Moreover, television was barely in existence in those days. Radio was the mass medium of the time.

This is not simply a case of Mr. Biden being historically illiterate. It goes to the core of his candidacy’s problem: He is a buffoon and a bumbler. His list of gaffes is becoming legendary. He recently said Sen. Hillary Clinton is “more qualified than I am to be vice president.” In Missouri, he told a paraplegic state official to stand up to be recognized. He has referred to his wife, a college professor, as “drop-dead gorgeous,” but who problematically has a doctorate. Last year, he described Sen. Barack Obama as clean, bright and articulate. He once said an Indian accent is needed to enter a Dunkin’ Donuts or 7-Eleven in Delaware.

Mr. Biden has become a national joke. And although late-night comedians are lapping it up at his expense, the Democrat’s penchant for silliness raises a very serious issue: How could Mr. Obama have chosen such an irresponsible, vacuous person to be his running mate? Compared to Mr. Biden, Gov. Sarah Palin is the embodiment of mature, seasoned leadership.

Democrats have a ready excuse: That’s just Joe being Joe. He may be gaffe-prone and loquacious, they argue, but he’s substantive on the big issues-especially, foreign affairs. This is false. Mr. Biden is a classic Washington insider: He is full of credentials, sits on numerous panels (including being chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), and boasts of vast experience. He is impressive on paper; in reality, he is intellectually and morally weak.

He has been wrong on almost every major issue during his last 35 years in the Senate. Mr. Biden is a trendy transnational progressive, who votes the liberal line when it is politically convenient - regardless of the costs to the national interest or in human lives.

Along with congressional Democrats, he voted to cut off support to South Vietnam. This ensured America’s defeat, and enabled communist forces to conquer Vietnam. The result was a regional holocaust, in which hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were slaughtered, the country’s Chinese minority was ethnically cleansed, and more than a million citizens were jailed or tortured in Hanoi’s gulags. The decline of American influence in Southeast Asia also led to the brutal Khmer Rouge seizing power in Cambodia, and systematically murdering more than 2 million people.

Moreover, Mr. Biden opposed America’s anti-communist efforts in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Angola. He voted against Ronald Reagan’s military build-up and his Strategic Defense Initiative - pivotal factors in the Soviet empire’s defeat.

Mr. Biden’s Iraq policy has been erratic and inconsistent. He denounced the 1991 Gulf war that repelled Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Following 1992, however, with a Democratic administration in power, Mr. Biden became a leading proponent of regime change. In 2002, he voted for the resolution authorizing President Bush to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. But as the antiwar forces captured the Democratic Party, and Mr. Biden became consumed with his own presidential ambitions, he shifted positions again - coming out against the Iraq invasion and the military surge.

He put forth a reckless 2006 proposal that called for the partition of Iraq along ethno-sectarian lines. This would have led to further violence, encouraged the expulsions of ethnic and religious minorities, and invited foreign military intervention from Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Had it been adopted, Mr. Biden’s initiative would have turned Iraq into another Bosnia and triggered a regional war. America would have been defeated.

Mr. Biden is not a foreign policy guru. Rather, he has shown himself to be a feckless internationalist moralist, who is naive about world affairs. Mr. Biden was wrong on Vietnam, on the Cold War and on Iraq.

That he was chosen for his alleged foreign-policy experience exposes Mr. Obama’s fatal flaw: His lack of judgment and poor leadership skills. Mr. Biden should not be a heart beat away from the presidency. The more he opens his mouth over the next few weeks, the more voters will come to the same conclusion. He is the jester of Congress. This time the joke is on Mr. Obama.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times.

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