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Obama's Running Mate is Respected Voice in Foreign Policy

  • Deborah Tate

Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, newly announced running mate of Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama, is a respected foreign policy expert. VOA's Deborah Tate has a profile of Senator Biden, who himself had waged an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic Party's nomination for president this year.

Senator Biden is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the most influential voices in foreign policy in the Democratic Party. His expertise could help counter Republican arguments that an Obama administration would be inexperienced on foreign policy.

Biden has been a vocal critic of Bush administration foreign policy, including the way it waged the war on terrorism. Although he voted in 2002 to authorize the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which Obama had opposed from the beginning, Biden became a critic of the conflict.

"The administration's basic approach to foreign policy and national security I think has been bankrupted by reality: the fixation on pre-emption, regime change and the simplistic slogans that encompass the war on terror I think literally, not figuratively, made us less secure, made us less secure as a nation, rather than more secure," he said.

Biden told reporters earlier this year that President Bush's decisions on foreign policy will leave a more complicated situation for the next occupant of the White House.

"The next president, Democratic or Republican, hopefully from my perspective a Democrat, will face an almost unprecedented series of challenges with very little margin for error," he said.

Biden will soon have a personal connection to the war in Iraq. His eldest son, Beau, a captain in the Delaware National Guard, is scheduled to leave for a tour of duty in Iraq in October.

Biden himself has traveled widely, including making numerous trips to Iraq. He recently returned from a visit to the former Soviet republic of Georgia, made at the invitation of the embattled country's president - a trip political experts say helped raise his profile as a potential running mate for Obama.

Senator Biden is known as an outspoken politician.

Before he dropped out of the presidential campaign after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses in January, Biden said he did not think Senator Obama was ready for the White House. He said the presidency is "not something that lends itself to on-the-job training."

Biden also generated controversy when he described Obama, in a newspaper interview, as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice looking guy." He apologized for the remarks, which he said were meant to be complimentary to Obama.

Obama said he did not take the remarks personally, but called them "historically inaccurate", citing past African American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

Political experts believe Biden's outspokenness could be an asset for the Obama campaign, and predict he will not hesitate to challenge Republican contender John McCain's positions on the issues. Some Democratic activists believe Obama has not been tough enough on his Republican rival.

Biden ran another brief and unsuccessful campaign for president in 1988, dropping out of the race amid accusations he plagiarized a speech from British Labor Leader Neal Kinnock.

The 65-year-old Delaware Democrat was first elected to the Senate in 1972.

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