Former Vice President Joe Biden took shots at President Donald Trump’s foreign policy positions in a campaign speech in Iowa on Tuesday, but the Democratic presidential candidate’s judgement in the area of foreign relations has been called into question, even by those within his own party.
Speaking to supporters at an event in Ottumwa, Biden zeroed in on Trump’s imposition of tariffs against China and threats to implement them against Mexico.
“He thinks that being tough is great. Well it’s really easy to be tough when someone else absorbs the pain,” the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said. “To him American workers in my view are just a pawn — pawns in his game.”
“Let’s talk a little bit about China, because China poses real challenges to the United States, and some ways a real threat to the United States, but Donald Trump is only exacerbating the threat and the danger,” Biden added. “We can out-compete China every single solitary day.”
The candidate’s Tuesday remarks represented a change in tone from last month, when he spoke at an event in Iowa City.
Biden on May 1: “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man…They’re not competition for us.”
Biden today: “We are in a competition with China.
We need to get tough with China. They are a serious challenge to us, and in some areas a real threat.” https://t.co/f2C64dAjFZ
— Zach Basu (@zacharybasu) June 11, 2019
“China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man,” Biden said, mocking Trump. “They can’t even figure out how to deal with the fact that they have this great division between the China Sea and the mountains in the East — I mean West.
“They can’t figure out how they’re going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system. They’re not bad folks, folks, but guess what, they’re not competition for us.”
Trump addressed Biden’s criticism of his administration’s foreign policy prior to departing the White House to head to the Hawkeye State for some Tuesday events.
“You look at what the Obama administration did in terms of the military, in terms of security, in terms of other nations, in terms of almost everything. Much of it now fortunately for everybody here has been overturned,” Trump said.
The president argued if he had not threatened the tariffs with Mexico, they would not have agreed to step up enforcement of their southern border.
Regarding China, Trump said, “Joe Biden thought China was not a competitor of ours. Joe Biden is a dummy. Joe Biden thought China was not a competitor,” Trump said, claiming that China “ate our country alive during Obama and Biden.”
“China is a major competitor, and right now China wants to make a deal very badly,” Trump added. “It’s me right now that’s holding up the deal. And we’re going to either do a great deal with China or we’re not doing a deal at all.”
President Trump: “China ate our country alive during Obama and Biden. They ate us alive. And then Biden has some sort of relationship financially — or his son — with China? Tell me about that.” pic.twitter.com/mfSNZE8hMb
— Kyle Morris (@RealKyleMorris) June 11, 2019
Multiple Democratic presidential candidates, including Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, said Biden is wrong to state that China is not a threat, and argued current trade policies with the world’s most populous country must be changed.
“It’s wrong to pretend that China isn’t one of our major economic competitors,” Sanders tweeted the day of Biden’s May remarks.
Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio — a presidential candidate who is a member of the Congressional Manufacturing Caucus — stated that Biden is “stunningly out of touch” to claim China is not competition for the U.S.
Robert Gates, who served as secretary of defense in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, called Biden’s overall foreign policy judgment into question in his 2014 book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.“
Gates wrote that the former Delaware senator — first elected to office in 1972 at the age of 29 — is “simply impossible not to like,” but he “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
In a 2014 NPR radio interview, Gates — who also served as CIA director in the early ’90s — listed as examples Biden’s vote against an aid package for South Vietnam, his belief that Iranians’ human rights would improve following the deposing of the Shah, as well as his opposition to former President Ronald Reagan’s defense build up, the first Gulf War and the surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan in 2009.
“So on a number of these major issues, I just frankly, over a long period of time, felt that he had been wrong.”
Politifact was not able to confirm that Biden spoke positively about the fall of the Shah of Iran (Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi) and the subsequent rise of the Islamic Republic, but found Gates’ recounting of Biden’s positions otherwise to accurately reflect his record.
In an interview on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” last month, Gates stood by his assessment that Biden’s foreign policy discernment is lacking.
Asked if he would make a good commander in chief, Gates replied, “I don’t know. I- I think I stand by that statement.”
President Obama’s former Defense Secretary Robert Gates stood by blasting former Vice President Joe Biden as wrong on every foreign policy issue in the last 4 decades when asked about those statements on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” pic.twitter.com/qSs6o6hF46
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) May 12, 2019
“He and I agreed on some key issues in the Obama administration,” the former Pentagon chief said. “We disagreed significantly on Afghanistan and some other issues. I think that the vice president had some issues with the military. So how he would get along with the senior military, and what that relationship would be, I just- I think, it- it would depend on the personalities at the time.”
Robert Charles, the former assistant secretary of state for President George W. Bush, also found Biden’s foreign policy judgement to be wanting.
“If you go back in time this is a guy who wanted to divide up Iraq. He opposed the (Osama) Bin Laden raid. In favor of the phony Iran deal and sending cash to them,” Charles told Fox News.
Foreign Policy reported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2014 memoir “Hard Choices” revealed that Biden “was one of the few ‘skeptical’ holdouts about launching the raid that killed Bin Laden.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.