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US Senator Biden Defends Comments About Rivals As Presidential Bid Begins January 31, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.

NEW YORK (AP)–Sen. Joe Biden spent his first day as an official presidential candidate explaining why he had described Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama as “clean,” and why he harshly criticized Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The six-term Delaware lawmaker, who has said for months he would be a candidate in 2008, formally establish his presidential committee Wednesday and launched a campaign Web site. It is the second presidential bid for Biden, who pursued the White House in 1988.

But in a conference call with reporters to discuss his candidacy, Biden was peppered with questions about remarks he made to the New York Observer, a weekly newspaper.

In the article, published Wednesday, Biden took Clinton and candidate John Edwards to task for their proposals to end the Iraq war. He also questioned the credentials of another leading candidate, first-term Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, while calling him “a mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean.”

Biden told reporters that he’d used the word “clean” to describe Obama as “fresh and new,” and that the choice of words was not meant to disparage other black candidates who had run for president in the past, such as civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

Obama, Biden said, “is probably the most exciting candidate the Democratic or Republican parties have produced since I’ve been around. He’s fresh, new, smart, insightful. Lightning in a jar.”

Biden also said he had called Obama after the controversy surfaced to patch things up.

“He said, ‘Joe, I knew what you meant,”‘ Biden said.

At a Washington news conference earlier in the day, Obama said: “You’d have to ask…Sen. Biden what he was thinking.” But an Obama aide confirmed the two senators had indeed spoken.

“Sen. Obama said that he didn’t take the comment personally,” spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

Biden was also grilled about comments he made regarding proposals offered by Clinton and Edwards to stabilize the situation in Iraq.

A 34-year Senate veteran known for his foreign policy expertise, Biden called Clinton’s proposal – which would cap American troops and threatens to cut funding to Iraqi security forces – “nothing but disaster.” He also criticized Edwards, who has proposed immediately removing 40,000-50,000 U.S. troops from Iraq.

“I don’t think John Edwards knows what the heck he is talking about,” Biden said.

Pressed to explain, Biden reiterated his claim that his rivals’ Iraq plans were a mistake. He also said that while the Democratic field has a number of well-qualified contenders, he was the best qualified to serve as president.

“I believe I’m the best prepared of all the candidates,” he said. “That I can say someone is qualified but can’t take issue with their ideas is a strange phenomenon.”


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