- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 19, 2010

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Sunday defended what he acknowledged as a “morally troubling” decision by President Obama to extend tax rates for all Americans as part of wide-ranging interview on key national and international issues.

Mr. Biden said the president still thinks extending the George W. Bush-era rates for the country’s highest wage-earners, along with everyone else, is “morally troubling.” He said the president broke his 2008 campaign promise on the issue to help only the middle class.

“We couldn’t get it done,” he said in a pre-taped interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We had to make a decision.”

Mr. Biden said the president will try over the next two years to have the rates revert to Clinton-era levels. The tax-cut extension was part of a deal with Republicans that also provides tax credits to businesses and extends jobless benefits to millions of Americans.

“This compromise was to help people who were drowning,” he said. “There are people out there who cannot afford a Christmas tree, much less gifts.”

He said the legislative package could stimulate the economy by as much as 4 percent, and he repeated an administration warning that delaying a bill and causing a big tax increase on Jan. 1 could result in a “double-dip recession.”

The vice president said confidently that his years as a U.S. senator make him the administration’s chief Capitol Hill negotiator. He said the president would sign an omnibus congressional spending measure, which would cover defense and other agencies, even if it includes lawmakers’ pet projects known as “earmarks.”

He said Mr. Obama would not use a presidential veto in a way that could jeopardize the safety of U.S. troops.

Mr. Biden also acknowledged that the WikiLeaks postings of classified U.S. documents - including diplomatic cables - have damaged foreign relations.

He said he considers WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange closer to being a “high-tech terrorist” than those involved in the leaking and publication of the Vietnam-era Pentagon Papers - especially if Mr. Assange conspired with a member of the U.S. military to get information, as is widely suspected.

Mr. Biden said the Justice Department is looking into the issue but declined to comment further.

Of the U.S. plan to remove troops from Afghanistan, Mr. Biden said that a withdrawal next summer would be more than a “token” and that U.S. military forces will be out of that country completely by 2014, “come hell or high water.”

• Joseph Weber can be reached at jweber@washingtontimes.com.old.

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