September 17, 2007
By Cliff Kincaid
Senate Republicans have suffered a lot of embarrassment over the antics of Sen.
Larry Craig, a pro-family politician who allegedly played footsy with another
man in a bathroom. But the Democrats have their own embarrassments, and one
of them is presidential candidate Senator Joseph Biden, their leading foreign
policy "expert." His logic was on display on Sunday's Meet the Press, where
the long-time Delaware Senator, who now chairs the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, was asked by host Tim Russert about changing his position on setting
a deadline for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq. Two years ago he said that setting a deadline for withdrawal
would "encourage our enemies to wait us out." Now he says the war must "end
now." Biden replied, "Well, I have changed my mind, but I haven't changed
my mind in any fundamental way."
Over a year ago this double-talker put his name on a plan by Leslie Gelb of
the Council on Foreign Relations to get U.S. troops out of Iraq. Biden calls the plan,
which is only three pages long, the "Biden-Gelb plan." Biden has a habit of
claiming credit for other peoples' ideas. In this case, however, the main
idea isn't worth much. It is to turn Iraq over to the United Nations and the "international community"
and divide the country up.
Biden's knee-jerk response in support of the U.N. playing a larger role in world
affairs is also reflected in his decision to push for Senate ratification
of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). He has reportedly scheduled
a stacked hearing on September 27 to push the pact through. A full Senate
vote could follow quickly thereafter. This treaty would turn over management
of the oceans to the world body. It could jeopardize American access to oil,
gas and precious minerals, and put the legality of U.S. Navy maneuvers on
the high seas before foreign judges running U.N. tribunals and panels.
One has to have sympathy for Biden, who has suffered through some terrible adversities,
including the death of his first wife and a daughter, and a brain aneurysm.
But sympathy should not translate into excusing or rationalizing his public
record and utterances. To cite the most recent example, Biden has just released
a book acknowledging that he wasn't the sole author of the Violence Against
Women Act (VAWA). This bill was Biden's signature legislation. It resulted
in tons of favorable publicity for him. But the book, Promises to Keep, reveals
on page 240 that a female staffer was actually involved in drafting the legislation.
"The staffer, Victoria Nourse, and I wrote" the legislation, says Biden. However,
his presidential website gives Biden sole credit for the legislation. It quotes Biden as saying that
"What I'm most proud of in my entire career was writing the Violence Against
Women's Act because it is evidence we can change people's lives, but the change
is always one person at a time." The term "writing," as commonly understood,
means that he wrote it. His office sent out a release calling
the senator the "author" of the legislation. But "author," like the term "writer,"
has a definite meaning.
Some politicians take credit for the work that their staffers do. But when the
politician is someone like Biden, who appears on Sunday talk shows as a foreign
policy expert and runs the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, the
matter takes on more importance and urgency.
It's true that Biden "introduced" VAWA. It is also accurate to say that he sponsored
it. But to have paraded around the country for many years claiming to be the
"author" or "writer" of the bill diminished the work of the female staffer
who had been doing the bulk of the work behind the scenes. Later in the book,
Biden refers to Nourse as his "lead staffer" on the bill, but that description,
too, diminishes her work in this area.
So why would Biden admit the truth in the book? It was obviously because he
didn't want another controversy to haunt him as he campaigned for the presidency
again. What's more, Victoria Nourse, who is now a Professor of Law at the
University of Wisconsin, says on her website that
she "assisted" in drafting VAWA. So this had become an open secret. Clearly,
she was far more than a mere "staffer." She had the expertise on this issue
that Biden so clearly lacked.
This controversy is relevant because Biden tries in the book to come to grips
with the plagiarism that has dogged him throughout his career. For example,
he says that he "botched" a paper in law school and that "one of my classmates
accused me of lifting passages from a Fordham Law Review article..." Biden says
that he had "cited the article, but not properly" and was told that he would
have to "retake the course next year." In other words, he flunked. This incident
has been written up extensively and the facts are well-known. Biden had cited
the article but had quoted from it extensively, making it seem as though the
words from the article were his own. That's not sloppy work. It's plagiarism.
Biden also deals with the case which figured prominently in his withdrawal from
the 1988 presidential race, in which he plagiarized a speech by a British
politician, Neil Kinnock. Biden used Kinnock's words to describe his own background
and upbringing. Biden insists that he didn't credit Kinnock on only one occasion,
and this was the incident that the media jumped on. But why was he quoting
from a biographical speech by Kinnock in the first place? Didn't Biden have
his own story to tell? In another case, a reporter asked about Biden using
a Bobby Kennedy quote without attribution. Biden blames this on "one of my
speechwriters" who "had inserted an RFK line" into the speech "without telling
This is the closest Biden comes to admitting he doesn't write his own material,
and that he repeats what others put in front of him.
Which is why it is amazing that the Bush Administration is using a flawed vessel
like Biden in an effort to pass the Law of the Sea treaty and give the U.N.
control over the oceans. Conservatives will remember that it was Biden who
helped lead the effort to sabotage President Bush's nomination of John Bolton
as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
One hopes that somebody in the media will ask Biden and other senators whether
they have read the 202-page treaty document and know who actually wrote it.
For that answer, please go to this (PDF) report. This treaty,
negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations, was written by advocates
of world government.