The Washington Post

Smooth sailing for Biden in Europe, save for a minor. . .

Vice President Joe Biden with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Warsaw Tuesday, (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz) Vice President Biden with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Warsaw Tuesday, (AP/Alik Keplicz)

Vice President Biden, in Eastern Europe this week to reassure jittery leaders there that the United States will be with them should the neo-Soviets try what he called another “land-grab” such as the one in Crimea, may have calmed down folks in the Baltics and Poland.

And, judging from the news coverage and the transcripts, the gaffe-prone veep was articulate and forceful in delivering reassurances. There was but one minor slip in Warsaw  Tuesday when he met with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

“Fifteen years ago,” he said, “I was honored as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee to lead the fight for Poland’s admission into NATO.” But it turns out Republican Sen. Jesse Helms (N.C.) was chairman back then and led the effort in committee and in the Senate to grant the country’s entry into NATO.

Biden, at the time was the ranking Democrat on the committee and, as Bloomberg News reported, was slow to embrace making that move for fear of alienating the Russians. But he soon became a strong backer of adding Poland and other former captive nations to NATO. In February 1998, he took to the Senate floor to note that “the committee, under Chairman Helms’ leadership, has been holding . . . comprehensive hearings” on that question.

Well, it’s understandable that Biden might have misremembered. After all, he chaired the committee from 2001 to 2003 and from 2007 to 2009. (He also chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995.) So it can be tricky remembering what gavel was in which hand and when.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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