Biden: Fire Cheney
After pictures emerged from the Abu Ghraib prison showing mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners in April 2004, Sen. Joe Biden told reporters he would fire Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld if he were president. According to the senator's new book, Biden then found himself with some explaining to do.
"Why do you keep picking on Rummy," President Bush asked Biden in a meeting that also included Vice-President Dick Cheney.
"I looked at Cheney," Biden writes. "Mr. Vice-President, I said, full disclosure, were you not a constitutional officer, I'd fire you too. Simple reason, Mr. President, can you name me one piece of substantial advice given about the war in Iraq that's turned out to be true? That's why Mr. President."
Cheney did not respond to Biden's broadside. Three years later, the longtime senator finds himself lagging in the polls and fundraising in his quest to be Bush's successor. His aides hope that the release of "Promises to Keep" this week, along with a book tour that includes interviews with Jon Stewart, David Letterman and Charlie Rose, will infuse some life into his bid for the Democratic nomination.
Much of the book covers Biden's life story, including his youth in Delaware, the death of his first wife Neilia and their infant daughter shortly after he was elected to the Senate at age 29 in 1972. It also delves into the pair of brain aneurysms he suffered in Feb. 1988, only months after he had dropped out of the Democratic presidential race after it was discovered he had used lines from a British politician in his speeches without crediting him.
But he also details his work in a Senate career that has lasted virtually his entire adult life. President Bush isn't the only Oval Office occupant who the Delaware Senator has had tense relations with. In 1999, Biden had criticized President Clinton for not being more aggressive against Serbia for attacking neighboring Kosovo.
After U.S. airstrikes against Serbia lead the Serbs to withdraw from Kosovo, Biden congratulated President Clinton for intervening in the conflict. But according to Biden, Clinton was not eager to accept the Delaware Senator's praise. In a meeting between the pair, Clinton told Biden that he had been unfair to him. In his criticism, Clinton offered a message that Biden's campaign would love other Americans to hear. According to Biden, who has long been involved in foreign policy issues in the Senate, Clinton said, "I was a governor, you've been doing this your whole adult life."
--Perry Bacon Jr.
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