An interesting moment passed in Chattanooga yesterday during the memorial service for the five servicemen killed by Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez. Vice President Joe Biden was on hand to speak during the services and chose to break with prevailing White House policy, calling Abdulazeez out for exactly what he was. (Reuters / Financial Express)
Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday called the man who fatally shot four U.S. Marines and a Navy sailor a “perverted jihadist” during a eulogy for the servicemen at a memorial in Chattanooga, Tennessee…
“When this perverted jihadist struck, everyone responded,” Biden said. “We have a message for those perverted cowards around the world. America never yields, never bends, never cowers and never stands down.”
First of all, my hat is off to Vice President Biden for taking time out while still grieving the loss of his own son and participating in this event. You can watch and listen to the full remarks he delivered here, and it was an inspirational address. Given the circumstances and the heartfelt nature of his delivery I’m hesitant to read too much into this, but we’re in the middle of campaign season and it’s simply impossible to ignore totally. Compare and contrast Joe’s “perverted jihadist” description with what SecDef Ash Carter had to say at the podium shortly before him. (CBS News)
Speaking before Biden, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said officials may never know “what combination of disturbed mind, violent extremism and hateful ideology” was behind the shooting, but vowed that the United States would present a strong response.
“The few who threaten or incite harm to Americans – violent extremists or terrorists, wherever they are – will surely, very surely, no matter how long it takes, come to feel the long arm and the hard fist of justice,” Carter said.
Carter was sticking at least somewhat closer to the usual White House line, where the words “Islamic terror” never cross the lips of the President or his Press Secretary. Everyone gets the benefit of the doubt and it’s always easier to either blame it on domestic radicalism or hate groups or whatever else is in the progressive word salad du jour.
With that in mind, Biden’s choice of words is rather jarring. Now, given the mix of circumstances I mentioned above, perhaps Joe was just feeling particularly emotional and ready to lash out at our enemies in grief for the loss we sustained. (And watching the video, I do not doubt for a moment that his grief was sincere.) At a moment like that, particularly if he sees himself in the twilight of his political career, perhaps he felt more free to cast caution – and politics – to the wind and let fly with an expression which obviously reflected the anger of the community.
But I still have to wonder if, while fully sincere, it was also a bit more calculated. Biden has done nothing to tamp down the rumors that he’s at least considering a run for the Democrat nomination, even if it was only for one term. With Hillary’s prospects beginning to dim under the possibility that she might, if elected, spend a significant portion of her first term behind bars, Biden surely must be thinking about it more seriously. But he’s serving as second fiddle to a President who has faced enormous criticism both at home and abroad for his lack of both vision and execution when dealing with ISIS. Were Biden to run, he probably wouldn’t want to march onto the stage offering a third Obama term when it comes to foreign policy.
Is Biden staking out a more hawkish, aggressive stance of his own toward ISIS in particular and Islamic terrorism in general? It would be a curious and rather subtle setting to break out a new policy stance, but in retrospect there likely couldn’t be a more appropriate one than a memorial to service members killed by an agent of terror. And nobody is going to criticize the guy much for anything patriotic said during a eulogy. If he’s taking this more hawkish face for a test drive, it’s possible that Joe may be ready for one last grab at the brass ring.