Most of the attention from Robert Gates’ new memoir has focused on its impact on Barack Obama and the presumed 2016 campaign of Hillary Clinton. The former Secretary of Defense sharply criticizes both for playing politics with the lives of soldiers, even though Gates’ memoir also includes praise for both in other contexts. The one politician who gets no nuance from Gates, though, is Joe Biden. Gates slams the Vice President for having “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” which Allahpundit joked yesterday constitutes proof of the book’s accuracy.
Oddly, the White House appears to be taking that kind of attack seriously:
The White House voiced its support Tuesday for Vice President Joe Biden, responding to the release excerpts of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s new book in which he slams Biden for being consistently “wrong” over his decades of government service.
“The president disagrees with Secretary Gates’ assessment – from his leadership on the Balkans in the Senate, to his efforts to end the war in Iraq, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and has helped advance America’s leadership in the world,” National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. “President Obama relies on [Biden’s] good counsel every day.”
This was the first, and so far only salvo from their rapid-response political team, Politico noted:
While the White House was quick to stick up for Biden, officials have not yet weighed in on some of the more serious claims made against the president and his first-term secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Gates contends that Clinton and Obama both freely admitted that their opposition to the 2007 surge in Iraq was driven by political considerations.
One might understand why the White House wouldn’t act to defend Hillary Clinton, since she’s not in the administration any longer. But why defend Biden ahead of Obama? The White House went so far as to schedule a rare opportunity for anyone else but official photographer Pete Souza to take pictures of the President … having lunch with Joe Biden.
They are taking this seriously, even if no one else takes Biden seriously. Biden has made noises about running for the presidency himself in 2016, but Sean Sullivan notes that this line from Gates may spell doom for those hopes, even if those hopes were pretty unrealistic anyway:
Gates’s appraisal of Biden on what is arguably his signature issue — Biden was chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee — stands to feed doubts about seriousness and qualifications that have already been planted in the minds of voters across the country.
It’s the latest piece of discouraging news for Biden, who has been doing the kinds of things one does when they are seriously considering a White House bid. Things like spending time in Iowa and raising money for the governor of New Hampshire, for example.
Nearly one in five Iowa Democrats and almost six out of 10 Iowans said they viewed Biden unfavorably in a recent Des Moines Register poll. Sixty-two percent of Iowa voters (and 33 percent of Democratic voters there) said they did not think he would make a good president in a Quinnipiac University poll. We’re talking about a state where Biden won only about 1 percent in the 2008 Democratic presidential caucuses.
So why leap to Biden’s defense, even ahead of Obama’s? Perhaps because Obama needs Biden as a front for his own foreign policy, a shield that assumes Biden has gravitas in the first place. The only people who seem to think that, though, are Joe Biden and Barack Obama.