Vice President Joe Biden was at his Biden-est at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) this morning. He shouted a lot. He told many stories about himself. He quoted President Obama quoting Biden. He told (as he does whenever he speaks to Jewish groups) Golda Meir stories. He gave predictable applause lines (e.g.”no debate ” about U.S. support for Israel; committed to preventing Iran from getting bomb). At times he veered off the Obama line, for example saying it takes “two to tango” in the peace process.
He told Ehud Barak stories, featuring himself. He said he was jealous of Obama going to Israel at Passover time and being able to say, “This year in Jerusalem!” (But will he admit it is the capital of Israel?)
Biden explicitly stated he wouldn’t steal the president’s thunder. So he was left to cheer Obama’s support for Israel’s physical security. He repeated the platitude that the United States was committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. (“Period,” he added in case you doubted him.) He gave the empty lines (“No debate” about support for Israel.)
But he also gave some jaw-dropping lines. He asserted when they took office “Iran was in ascendancy ” but now it wasn’t. This is preposterous given Iran’s nuclear -weapons progress and its influence in Iraq and budding relations with Egypt and Turkey. With 70,000 dead Syrians, Biden said the administration was determined that Bashar al-Assad had to go. And he bragged about rebuffing attempts to delegitimize Israel, even boasting about the reaction to the flotilla. (In fact, Obama allowed the United Nations Security Council president to put out a statement critical of Israel and joined in pushing for an international investigation.) Moreover, the president was recently quoted as saying that Israel doesn’t know what is in its own interests. That is precisely the sort of comment which casts Israel as incompetent and unfit to determine its own course like other countries.
Biden was folksy and self-serving. Unfortunately his words and sentiments in large part don’t match the record of the administration. In the wake of news of Iran’s alarming progress on its nuclear weapons program and Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as secretary of defense, he wound up seeming more out to lunch than usual.