Last I checked, our former colleague Jay Carney was still Joe Biden’s communications director, but I’m wondering if he might be on vacation this week. Even as Barack Obama travels abroad, it has twice fallen to the Top Guy to
clean up after clarify his Vice President’s comments.
There was this*:
President Obama, issuing an unusual clarification of his vice president’s words, said Tuesday that his administration had “absolutely not” given its blessing for an Israeli attack on Iran.
Obama said that although Israel had the right to defend itself, U.S. officials had emphasized the need to avoid “major conflict in the Middle East.”
Vice President Joe Biden created a stir Sunday by suggesting the U.S. would stand aside if Israel wanted to attack.
“Israel can determine for itself — it’s a sovereign nation — what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else,” Biden said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Biden’s words set off a debate over whether the White House was hardening its line on Iran or whether Biden had simply committed a gaffe.
Asked in a CNN interview Tuesday whether the U.S. was giving Israel “a green light” to launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear sites, Obama replied, “Absolutely not,” adding that Biden was merely stating “a categorical fact, which is that we can’t dictate to other countries what their security interests are.”
But Biden left out another part of the administration’s usual formulation: that the U.S. wants to avoid a military strike because it could destabilize the entire Middle East.
And there was this:
The administration is trying to tamp down talk that it didn’t get it quite right — talk created by Vice President Biden. On Sunday, he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “We and everyone else misread the economy.” But he insisted that the stimulus “is the right package given the circumstances we’re in.”
Obama, in Moscow yesterday, tried to modulate the impact of the vice president’s words that the administration had somehow miscalculated. “No, no, no, no, no,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “Rather than say ‘misread,’ we had incomplete information.” To ABC’s Jake Tapper, he said, “There’s nothing that we would have done differently.”
Then again, Obama should be used to it by now. Remember this?:
Pity poor Joe Biden. His “there’s still a 30 percent chance we’re going to get it wrong” quote is put straight to President Barack Obama during the White House press conference just now and his boss seemed to want to say: “Vice-President Who?”
As reporters started giggling, Obama came close to conceding that Biden was indeed a joke. “You know, I don’t remember exactly what Joe was referring to, not surprisingly.”
UPDATE: *Full disclosure–this link is to a story that was written by my spouse, because it was the clearest and most straightforward one I found. (Mr. Swamp covers the State Department for the LA Times.) Other links include this, this, this.