Joe's Big Mouth: the Iran Gaffe

Joe's Big Mouth: the Iran Gaffe


It’s hard to know exactly what Joe Biden is thinking when he makes offhanded remarks about Israel, Iran and the economy. (But let’s save the economy for another day, shall we?) There are few things one can really say about a country like Iran without inflaming some sort of Anti-Western backlash. Yet if our VP said nothing, George Stephanopoulos would stare at him with his soulless eyes and try to goad him into another gaffe with his tricky phrases.

“Look, Israel can determine for itself — it’s a sovereign nation — what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else,” Biden said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. Moments later, he added: “What we believe is in the national interest of the United States, which we, coincidentally, believe is also in the interest of Israel and the whole world.”

In no uncertain terms, Stephanopoulos asked the VP, “But just to be clear here, if the Israelis decide Iran is an existential threat, they have to take out the nuclear program, militarily the United States will not stand in the way?”

“Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination, if they make a determination that they’re existentially threatened and their survival is threatened by another country,” Biden said.

That last comment was exactly what Iran had been waiting for. While the administration was careful not to get involved during the initial election and early protests – which was a wise move – they’re now stoking the fires. “We warn the leaders of those countries trying to take advantage of the situation: beware. The Iranian nation will react,” Ayatollah Khamenei announced in a televised speech on Monday. “The leaders of arrogant countries, the nosey meddlers in the affairs of the Islamic Republic, must know that even if the Iranian people have their differences, when your enemies get involved, the people… will become a firm fist against you.” Continue Reading…

  • the Word

    Biden once again stating the truth. This gaffe hysteria is a self fulfilling prophecy. No republican has any right to say that he said anything wrong and after Bush, how can any American? Evil people will twist anything and these religious whacks in Iran are certainly evil.

  • Jim S

    Jennn has a deep hatred of Biden, at least based on what I’ve seen here. Biden simply told the truth. We don’t have control over what another sovereign nation does. What a shock.

  • ExiledIndependent

    Word, you are deliciously partisan. God love ya. But yeah, the problem is that Biden is speaking more plainly than Obama. He’s not making “gaffes,” he’s stating realities that the president doesn’t want broadcast. That’s not a gaffe. He’s off the talking points perhaps, but not misspeaking. Honestly, I’m starting to like Joe–I don’t have to dig through three paragraphs of high school valedictorian-speak to figure out what’s on his mind.

  • mike mcEachran

    Haven’t we had enough of “bring it on” talk? I like Joe, too, but he’s clumsy, and doesn’t seem to grasp that his platform amplifies his words, and has deep ramifications. For someone so experienced with foreign affairs, he acts like a novice. Correction, he acts like a Congressman, trying to get press. Sorry, but I don’t find it refreshing, I find it scary and clumsy, and I think he is going to find himself more and more sidelined in the administration, as he should. It’s not cute anymore. God bless the secret service.

  • the Word

    Well 2 out of 3 ain’t bad…

    Jim agree with what you said in your second and third sentences. I have no knowledge of the first.

    Exiled. I am not sure I know why you think stating a fact is partisan. Perhaps there is the dilemma. If you read what he said, I think it is undeniably true. If Bush had made true statements, I would have had no quarrel with him. We know he didn’t. It also is quite different when you are talking about another country rather than your own. I do realize that his statements of fact are sometimes indelicate to say the least but perhaps they are crazy like a fox. Obama speaking like the mature adult and Biden like a blogger-no holds barred and telling it like it is.

    Mike-Totally agree with the “bring it on” criticism but I don’t see how Biden’s statement can in any way be construed as that. He answered a question truthfully. Probably in the same way almost every single one of us would have done – if we answered truthfully.

    Perhaps —-major perhaps—-the point is to lay it out in black and white so that they know both sides–We really want to constructively solve our problems with Iran(that is our favored course)…but we aren’t the only dog in the fight and we don’t have the other one on a leash.

  • rob

    The President shouldn’t have to hold press conferences to clarify the administration’s position every time the veep opens his mouth.

    When he was a senator he spoke for pretty much just himself so he could say pretty much what he pleased and it’d be forgiven, forgotten or never heard (see GOP senators bitching about a tougher response to Iran), however Biden’s current position necessitates care with his words as he now speaks for us all.

    If he can’t manage that he needs to shut his trap.

  • mike mcEachran

    @ Word – Fair enough, Biden’s intent wasn’t to blatantly provoke as was Bush’s “bring it on”, but I meant to equate the clumsiness. Biden’s statement may have been truth, and even a truth that we can all agree on, but what he didn’t say, i.e., Obama’s clarification that yes, we cannot dictate another sovereign country’s foreign policy, but the US is not giving Israel the green light to attack, was the critical piece. As the VP, he’s speaking for the administration, and nuance matters. It’s fine to tell his kids not to fly for fear of the H1-N1 virus, or to comment on the sovereignty of Israel’s foreign policy prerogatives, but when he’s on national television he’s a spokesperson for the federal government, and he damn better consider all the ramifications of his statements – both what he says, and what he doesn’t say. That’s the definition of good diplomacy – to be mindful of the consequences. Joe doesn’t seem to have that mindfulness gene, or he doesn’t seem to grasp his position, either way it makes me question if he’s qualified to be speaking for us at all.

  • the Word

    We are in general agreement. I’m hoping they are playing chess and we are playing checkers. If that isn’t the case, I would hope Obama reels him in and sets it to the team message. Biden in that case could say no comment to just about everything or never again appear in public because he says what he means-his charm and his curse. (Some of us have difficulty being phony)

  • rob

    There’s nothing phony about considering the ramifications of exactly what you say and to whom and acting accordingly.

  • the Word

    Point taken. But he can’t be attacked on not being honest. He was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer. One we all know to be true and likely the same one we all realize (as do the Iranians) I think it’s a make the story fit the pattern story.

    I’d say it is always a bit phony whenever you don’t say what you know to be true. If you want to say that he should not have given an honest statement based on appearances, that is a different discussion. I don’t think Iran does nuance from what I have seen.

    Biden as bumbling gaffe machine is absurd to my ears. This is the narrative being pushed and I just think it’s an attempt to marginalize someone who does have serious foreign policy credentials.

  • rob

    Being candid is the luxury of people with no skin in the game. Just like an election debate, it’s about denying your opposition the opportunity to steer or change the debate, it’s about forcing them to stay on your point.

    Biden talking out of turn gives the Iranian regime the opportunity to steer the attention to Israel’s right to attack Iran, when for the past month it’s been about the legitimacy of their elections.

    Whether or not they’ll get traction on the issue at home remains to be seen, but Biden providing them that opportunity is bush-league (pun intended).

  • the Word

    We’re both surmising and either of us could be wrong or right. Last line was cute though :-)

  • kranky kritter

    That’s Biden. Ready-fire-aim. How many times must we go through stuff like this to learn that being candid is not all its cracked up to be when it comes to foreign relations.

    And, sure, it’s pretty much true that other nations will do as they feel they must based on their own assessment of external threats. But that’s so true and so obvious, why bother saying it?

    How many folks out there are hoping for the best when it comes to some sort of velvet revolution in Iran…where grass roots protest brings substantial democratic reform, and the power of the dictatorial old guard is diminished?

    The first chapter in the handbook of middle eastern despots involves inflaming the patriotic nationalist sentiments of the populace as a tonic for civil unrest. So it’s very troubling to me that we have a loose-cannon VP making that job easy for the bad guys.

    I understand the appeal of characters who speak the truth and let the chips fall where they may. But such folks will always flunk out of diplomacy school. They belong on talk radio and writing blogs.

  • Joker

    The problem isn’t the comment so much as the timing. If Kohmeini brings down the hammer it can look horrid, BUT if he can make enough of a claim that the Americans are backing, or even the impetus of, the protests he can stop at least some of the grassroots support. As well as also providing a more justifiable reason for a military crackdown, even if untrue other nations can use this to help suppress civil unrest by claiming a pattern of American interference in the middle east.

    It also creates another issue, at least some of the power structure needs to support the revolution or governing after said revolution is complete is going to be unlikely, instead anarchy and a new dictatorship feels more reasonable. I’m hopefully just jumping at shadows, but the fact is that as we have seen in the past, the fear of an external enemy can make people behave irrationally and work against their self interests.

  • matt

    Everyone who is trying to defend Biden’s comments….STOP!! The USA gives BILLIONS of dollars of aid and military equipment to Israel every year, and we have said if they get attacked we will defend them. Do you really think we have no say in whether they attack or not? Israel asked Bush if they could attack Iran in ’08 and Bush said no, so they didn’t. Again, stop defending Biden. He’s an idiot who doesn’t even know what’s going on. If Obama was smart he would tell him to keep his mouth shut and never do another interview for the next 3 and a half years.

  • peter hynes


    Wow, you sound so infuriated with biden. Politics in the US can be as chaotic as anywhere else. I think it’s unfair for you to address Biden as an idiot who doesn’t know what’s going on. It sounds like you’re really anti-politics. President Obama is probably nice not to tell Biden to seal his mouth.

  • Jennn Fusion

    It’s hard to make the case that someone with such a distinguished resume is “an idiot.” However, the VP does have a tendency to speak off-the-cuff, which occasionally gets him into trouble. But he is his own man and it’s his right… and he is a fascinating character to watch! :)

  • Luther

    I think that its best to not make any offhand remarks that would create unrest with other political leaders. I agree with Matt’s comment that Biden should avoid giving bad interviews, but calling him an “idiot” and saying that Obama should “tell him to shut his mouth” is rather unfair.

  • Tim

    It looks like Biden is beating the war drum again with the announcement of the latest plot.