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Home/Daniel Larison/Biden Knows a Thing or Two About Embracing Despots

Biden Knows a Thing or Two About Embracing Despots

Vice President Joe Biden in 2017 By Drop of Light/Shutterstock

Joe Biden has joined in the attack on Sanders’ unremarkable Cuba comments:

The Biden campaign’s statement is obviously cynical and desperate. It comes just before the last debate before the South Carolina primary, which Biden absolutely has to win and win convincingly if he is to have any chance of rescuing his dying campaign. Sanders has been a vocal critic of authoritarian regimes and rulers for decades, so it is preposterous to claim that he has been embracing these figures. Sanders does have a history of speaking out against aggressive and destructive U.S. policies that mostly hurt innocent people in the targeted countries. That doesn’t mean that he embraced the governments of those countries, but it showed that he was willing to hold our government responsible for the things that it did and still does overseas. We have seen him do the same thing with his opposition to U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen and our government’s indulgence of the Saudis and their allies there. Sanders comes under attack not because he “embraces” authoritarian governments, because he doesn’t do that, but because he questions and rejects U.S. interventionist and coercive policies that harm the people of other countries in the name of undermining their governments. His opposition to those policies is then dishonestly spun as proof of “support” for other governments.

Like Bloomberg, Biden has a lot of gall attacking another candidate for “embracing autocratic leaders” when he has done this much more frequently. It’s worth recalling Biden’s 2011 remarks about Hosni Mubarak, the former dictator of Egypt who died today:

When asked if Mubarak was a dictator, Biden responded, “Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things and he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interests in the region, Middle East peace efforts, the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing the relationship with Israel … I would not refer to him as a dictator.”

“I think the time has come for President Mubarak to begin to move in the direction that — to be more responsive to some of the needs of the people out there,” Biden said after stressing that he shouldn’t resign.

Refusing to call Mubarak a dictator in the midst of the 2011 protests that led to his overthrow, calling him an ally, and saying that he shouldn’t leave power sound a lot more like embracing an authoritarian leader than anything Sanders said about Cuba. Of course, Biden’s statement has been all but forgotten, just as the Obama administration’s acquiescence in Sisi’s coup in 2013 has also been mostly forgotten here in the U.S. Indulging and embracing dictators in Cairo are not grounds for outrage in Washington. It is taken for granted and even expected. It also shows that Biden’s attack on Sanders can’t be taken seriously. Biden is grasping at anything he can use to attack Sanders, and so we are treated to this hypocritical and false accusation of “embracing” despots against someone who has been leading the effort to cut off U.S. support to despotic war criminals.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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