A means to an end - GulfToday

A means to an end

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.


Biden is the standard bearer of the anyone-but-Trump camp, instead of being a candidate due to his own qualities as politician and person.

Although a poor potential candidate, former US vice president Joe Biden remains front runner for the Democratic party’s nomination to stand against Republican Donald Trump in the November 2020 presidential election. Writing in New York Magazine, Olivia Nuzzi argued Biden “is the least formidable front-runner ever.” Then she asked, “Will it matter?” Certainly not for the “never-Trumpers.” For the “always Trumpers,” it does not matter that another four years of Trump would be a disaster and a disgrace for the US and a debacle for the world.

Biden is a poor choice for several reasons. He is not a winner. Biden tried and failed to secure the Democratic party’s nomination in 1998 and 2008. He became former President Barack Obama’s vice president because he is white and a Washington insider, and his main failings had been exposed during earlier campaigns for office.

Biden is 77. Although his grandfatherly demeanour appeals to some, Biden does not carry his years gracefully. He is not a gifted speaker and is forgetful during debates and campaign speeches. Trump is forceful and convincing even when telling lies and accusing others of relying on “false news.”

Biden has a history of making inappropriate remarks that harm his cause and image. In response to queries over whether he would testify in Trump’s coming impeachment trial in the US Senate, Biden initially said he would not because his appearance would take the focus off Trump. Consequently, Biden appeared ready to “obstruct” the work of Congress, one of the two charges on which Trump has been impeached by the House of Representatives.

Biden later “clarified” his remark by saying he would obey any subpoena to appear at the trial because he has always “complied with a lawful order.” Republican lawmakers, who are the majority in the Senate, have threatened to call Biden and his son Hunter to answer questions over the latter’s appointment to the board of directors of a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, while it was under investigation for corruption. This coincided with Obama administration and European Union pressure on Ukraine to clean up corruption. The US emissary to Ukraine was Joe Biden.

He is seen as weak for failing to deter his son from forming an association with Burisma. The fact that Hunter Biden, who had no experience or expertise in the natural gas field, was paid $50,000 (Dhs183,658) a month by Burisma just because he is the son of the vice president should have rung alarm bells due to its flagrant impropriety. The younger Biden apologised only after he resigned last year after five years on Burisma’s board.

In addition to obstructing Congress, Trump is accused of violating the US constitution and harming US national interests by demanding that Ukraine dig up dirt on the Bidens in exchange for the release of $400 million (Dhs1.5 billion) in aid to buy weapons for the Ukrainian army while it is fighting Russian-backed rebels in the east.

Biden is front-runner simply because it is believed there is no one else who might be able to defeat Trump. For many centrist Democrats, independents and Republicans no longer enamoured with Trump, Biden is viewed as a “safe” choice. Biden’s rivals are either too “leftist” or unknown. His support in opinion polls remains a steady 25-27 per cent well ahead of the two other leading competitors, Bernie Sanders (18 per cent) and Elizabeth Warren (14 per cent). The rest of Biden’s rivals secure single digit results in polls. Biden has support within three critical constituencies: African-Americans, 52 per cent; seniors, 42 per cent; and moderates, 38 per cent.

Unfortunately, Biden is the standard bearer of the anyone-but-Trump camp instead of being a candidate because of his own qualities as politician and person. He has the advantage over Trump, however, of being a man who would surround himself with good advisers and who would listen to their advice. Biden could be expected to try to recoup allies alienated by Trump and sign up to agreements he nullified or breached. The offended allies include NATO partners, while among the key pacts Biden would likely rejoin would be the Paris Climate Change Accord as he has been a longstanding environmentalist.

Biden was born in 1942 into a middle class family in Pennsylvania and raised in Delaware, the second smallest state in the US. He had an undistinguished academic career, did not serve in the Vietnam war due to asthma, took a law degree toward the bottom of his class and was admitted to the Delaware bar where he practiced law and joined the Democratic party. He ran for the Senate on a shoestring in 1972 and became the youngest person to secure a seat in the upper house of the US Congress. He served six six-year terms in the Senate, stepping down in 2008 when he became Obama’s running mate. Biden was a member of various committees, including foreign affairs where he adopted a “liberal interventionist” approach.

His Senate record was mixed. He made his first visit to Israel in 1973 ahead of the October War and has been a strong supporter of Israel throughout his career, although Delaware has a tiny Jewish community. During the 1990s, Biden called for training and arming Bosnian Muslims and supported NATO’s intervention in the Balkan wars. He voted against authorising the 1991 Gulf War but supported the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan and the 2003 US war against Iraq. He came to see the Iraq War as a “mistake” but continued to vote for appropriations to pay for the occupation. Pre-Trump but like Trump, Biden argued that the US bore a disproportionate cost of these wars, although they were initiated by Washington. In 2007, he called for the creation of three “ethnic states” in Iraq: a policy of arrogant neo-imperialism if it had been adopted. In 2011, he backed NATO’s military intervention in Libya. Recently, Biden slammed Trump for withdrawing US troops from northern Syria, calling it a “betrayal” of US-backed Kurds and “taking the boot off the neck” of Daesh. Biden said, Trump “is the most reckless and incompetent commander in chief we’ve ever had.” This does not seem to worry Trump’s “base” of supporters.

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