"Watch. We're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy"The McCain campaign, the RNC, the right-wing talk radio personalities and pundits think they've struck gold with Sen. Biden's comments about Obama being tested with an international crisis within the first six months of his presidency. Likewise, we see a lot of people on the left pulling their hair out, aggravated by Biden's declaration. I say both of them are getting a little too caught up in the hyper-sensitivity of the homestretch of this election, but the republicans need to tread cautiously on this one... They may have struck fools gold!
I just want to take a moment to put Biden's comments in perspective; something that no one on the right or the left has done. First of all let's look at the historically relevance of his comments, after all the Senator said to mark his words as a student of history. We know that JFK was tested early in his presidency with the Cuban Missile Crisis, that Reagan had to deal with the Air Traffic Controllers Strike, that Clinton had to deal with the 1st World Trade Center bombing, and "W" (George Bush) had to suffer through the 2nd World Trade Center Attack on 9/11. So from an historical perspective Joe Biden was absolutely right.
Next we should take into account his expertise as Charmian of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said that he could think of at least 4 scenarios that could arise, which would require a response. In his role on the Foreign Relations Committee, Biden is briefed daily on potential and emerging threats and situations developing around the world that could impact us. In other words, his statement was not only looking back on history, but it was also forward looking considering the way world events are shaping. The world hasn't stopped moving because America is in the midst of a Presidential campaign.
Lastly, and probably most importantly is Biden's statement that "... he's going to need help . . . to stand with him. Because it's not going to be apparent initially; it's not going to be apparent that we're right." John McCain seized upon this part of the statement saying:
"Forget apparent. Senator Obama won't have the right response, and we know that because we've seen the wrong response from him over and over during this campaign. He opposed the surge strategy that is bringing us victory in Iraq and will bring us victory in Afghanistan. He said he would sit down unconditionally with the world's worst dictators. When Russia invaded Georgia, Senator Obama said the invaded country should show restraint."
This is where the right wing and John McCain need to pump the breaks a little. What we the republicans, the media and we should be asking ourselves is, not why Joe Biden said what he said, but what has this election taught us about Barack Obama that might have lead to say it? What has Joe Biden learned about Barack Obama that would cause him make such a definitive assertion about hypothetical events that may or may not occur?
The answer (on so many levels) is that Barack Obama tends to be right (if not spot-on) about the positions he takes on issues, and while conventional wisdom leads many to call him "naive" or "reckless", it never seems to take long for history to prove him correct; That he tends to be the smartest guy in the room, if not the wisest; That we, in all of our "real American" wisdom and the media in their market share positioning and the right-wing in their sheepish support for all things conservative, don't understand as much as we'd like to think we or they do.
From the beginning of this election, whether you for him or against him, we've come to understand that Obama is resolute, patient and forward looking. He seems to think like a chess player, when the rest of the us play checkers; checkers being a game of maneuvering and chess a game of strategy. Let's look at a few examples.
- If we simply look at his campaign, we can see evidence of his thinking. Take for example his decision to stay clear of racial issues. If you recall SNL did a skit about him not being black enough. He began his campaign with less than 20% of support among blacks, with Hillary sucking up their remaining loyalties. He was criticized by virtually every black figure of prominence from Cornell West, to Eric Dyson, to Tavis Smiley, to Al Sharpton, to Jesse Jackson and even Russell Simmons for not using his campaign to draw attention to black issues... Conventional wisdom said that he wouldn't get very far without their support and that whites wouldn't vote for him... Then Iowa happened... Then South Carolina happened... Now we're here and each of those detractors are supporters of Barack Obama.
- Even as the campaign continued, supporters of Obama expressed their frustrations about Obama not attacking Sen. Clinton, or John McCain for that matter. The media chided him for seeming too cool or "aloof" is the word they chose to use. But Obama's campaign knew from the beginning that the election was about "the math" and whoever gets the most electoral votes. Consequently, he campaigned in every state, even the ones the pundits said he would win and racked up a lot of small electoral states to cushion losses in the larger electoral areas of the map where candidates tended to focus. So while Sen. Clinton and Sen. McCain ran and run conventional campaigns that were tactical, Sen. Obama ran and continues to run an unconventional campaign that's strategic.
- Let's bar his opposition to he Iraq war, although he was absolutley right. Let's take his position on sitting down with Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and all the other "boogie monster" countries without preconditions. I believe that his colleagues including Senators Dodd, Clinton, McCain and Bidencalled this "reckless" and "niave". This doesn't require a long explination. The fact of the matter is that most experts agree with his position that the best (if not only) way for America to influence Iranian activity is to sit down at the table with them in good faith, with "carrots and sticks". Even more, former Secretary of State Henery Kissinger (a McCain advisior) backs direct talks "without conditions" with Iran. Now the McCain campaign will try to "shuck and jive" and say that Kissinger wasn't referring to the President meeting directly with Iran, but in a nutshell Obama's position seems to be the one that most experts agree upon and the Bush administration has shifted their position to follow suit.
- Next lets look at Obama's position on cross border raids into Pakistan. Obama was called "reckless" again for stating that, as President if he recieved actionable intelligence that high level Al Queda targets are beyond the Afghan border, in Pakistan and the Pakistani goverernment is "unable or unwillng" to take them out, then he will. Now while John McCain criticizes Obama's stance, the Bush administration, again changed course and approved cross border raids in Pakistan, on one occaison using a predator drone to take out a high level Al Queda operative. To date, John McCain can't bring himself to say whether or not that he's willing to take out Al Queda officials in Pakistan if they cannot act, but Sarah Palin seems to take Obama's position. Here again, Obama is right although it wasn't "apparent initially", as Biden said in his statement.
Finally, the McCain campaign may want to slow down because it's perfectly plausible and reasonable that the Obama campaign could turn the tables and ask Americans to consider how he (John McCain) would fair under a similar test, given his "erratic" behavior with the economic crisis. Even more damaging to the McCain campaign they could ask us to consider that Sarah Palin might be the one who is tasked with responding to one of Biden's scenarios, with McCain being 72 years of age. That coupled with Colin Powell's concerns about McCains selection of her for the VP slot could be extremely damaging. If they wanted to drive that home, if they wanted to press the argument in terms of John McCain's temperment or his judgement in putting forth Sarah Palin as qualified to handle another 9/11, it would all but cripple the single area of the campaign where John McCain is seen as having a slight edge over Obama...national security.