OTTUMWA, Iowa — Joe Biden on Wednesday argued that he was the Democrat best prepared to face off against leading Republicans, and in an interview following the event, he questioned the depth of experience of his Democratic rivals.
“Who do want in the ring with my friend John McCain debating national security?” he asked a crowd of about 80, crammed into the library of an elementary school here. “Who do you think has enough stature to stand toe to toe with him? Who do you want standing in the ring when Rudy Giuliani starts talking about his experience with terror? The other candidates or the guy who the day before 9/11 occurred made a speech at the National Press Club predicting a terrorist attack…when it came would come in the belly of a plane? I’ve forgotten more about dealing with fighting terror than Rudy Giuliani will know.”
Biden also said he would relish the opportunity to debate “family values” with Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney.
Following the event, I asked Biden why the Democrats who are leading in polls are the ones with the least experience in the field of candidates. He argued that his main problem is that people don’t know him as well, because he hasn’t been getting enough media coverage.
“If I ever get to the point where it’s me and Hillary, me and Barack, me and Edwards, I win that race, because you can’t hide it then” he said, in a reference his broader experience relative to his rivals. “What happens then is you all cover me every day.”
I followed up by asking him whether he thought that Hillary Clinton’s background as First Lady was relevant to her presidential aspirations.
“I don’t discount that experience any more than I discount the experience of someone who’s never played, but who walked into Madison Square Garden in the middle of the game and felt the feel, and knew what it’s like, so when they get into there to play it’s not all of a sudden a shock,” Biden said
“(Clinton) says, ‘you know, I’ve been doing this for 35 years, I was protecting children with the Children’s Defense Fund'” he noted. “That’s when I wrote the Child Predator bill. Her experience was real, but I was actually a United States Senator, actually writing the first child protection legislation.”
He continued, “So the idea that her experience is not real, it is. And it’s relevant, but it is not sufficient. It is not sufficient to claim that she’s ready from day one to sit down behind that desk and make these hard decisions.”
Biden then offered a broader critique of the lack of legislative accomplishments of the three frontrunners in Iowa.
“Hillary’s been there eight years,” Biden said. “I don’t know a single major piece of legislation Hillary has authored, passed, and got done. John Edwards was there for six years, he’s passed three things. He’s passed, I think, four post offices…Barack Obama hasn’t passed anything that I’m aware of. So, you know, it’s not that they’re not making significant contributions, but it’s relative. Is her experience nearly as consequential for being president as the experience I have? Or Chris Dodd has? Or others have? The answer is, I think not.”
He also critiqued some of the positions taken by his Democratic rivals on Iraq.
“John Edwards…said he’d remove every trainer from Iraq immediately–I don’t quite get that,” Biden said. “It’s like when Hillary said you cut off money for funding the Iraqi military forces. I thought the deal was we were supposed to be building these guys up so they could replace us, so chaos is not left behind…The first people you are going to withdraw are the people training an Iraqi military that’s supposed to be helping us?”
Though not by name, he took issue with Edwards’s brand of populism for being too divisive. “The idea that all business is bad, the idea that every corporation is corrupt…,” Biden said, “I’m not saying the guy who is saying it doesn’t believe it, but I don’t believe it.”
Biden predicted a fourth place showing would give him a “ticket out of Iowa.”