Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden gave this speech in Cincinatti, Ohio on September 24, 2008. Following are excerpts from the speech.
"Later this week, Barack Obama and John McCain will come together to debate a president's most important responsibility: how to keep Americans safe and America secure. It will be their first presidential debate – but in many ways it's a debate we've been having as a nation for the past eight years. And the outcome of that debate has already been decided. Now, just as most Americans believe we are on the wrong track at home, so too have they come to the conclusion that we've been heading in the wrong direction abroad.
Our country is less secure and more isolated than it has been at any time in recent history. This administration has dug America into a very deep hole around the world at a time our leadership is needed to meet the challenges of the 21st century."A central question for this election is which candidate will keep digging that hole…and which candidate will dig us out of that hole – indeed which candidate has the judgment and the vision to renew the promise of America in the world. It won't surprise you who I believe that candidate is: Barack Obama. But it is equally clear who that candidate is not: John McCain.
… the policies he would pursue as president would be wrong for America – nowhere more so than with our security and standing in the world.
This week, John talked about the judgment required to be Commander in Chief. He's right: nothing is more important than judgment. But time and again, on the most critical national security issues of our time, John McCain's judgment was wrong. Right after the terrorists attacked us on 9-11, John responded by urging that we consider attacking countries other than Afghanistan, including Iraq, Iran and Syria. In the run up to the war in Iraq, John insisted that we would be greeted as liberators… that we didn't need a lot of troops… that victory was imminent. Then, he said he wasn't worried about Afghanistan… that we would "muddle through"… and he declared Afghanistan to be "a remarkable success. In John's judgment, there is nothing to talk about with Tehran. And he has one idea for dealing with Russia: kick it out of the Group of Eight nations.
In John's judgment, it is not the federal government's responsibility to protect us here at home. He voted again and again against fully funding cops and firefighters… against interoperable communications so that our first responders can talk to each other… against screening more cargo on planes and ships… against better security for our tunnels, trains, ports and chemical plants. It is John's judgment that six years into the war in Iraq, we should keep spending $10 billion a month… indefinitely… at a time Iraq is running an $80 billion surplus.
And John McCain continues to insist, against all the evidence and all the facts, that Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism… and not the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan where the people who actually attacked us on 9-11 reside and are regrouping.
John is more than wrong -- he is dangerously wrong. On a question so basic, so fundamental, so critical to our nation's security, we can't afford a Commander-in Chief so divorced from reality and from America's most basic national interests.
Time and again, Barack Obama has demonstrated the judgment we need in our next president… and the vision to see over the horizon.
Seven years ago, Barack Obama opposed one of the most disastrous decisions in the history of American foreign policy: the diversion of our military might, our resources and focus from Afghanistan to Iraq. He was profoundly right. Now, he is right again: Barack Obama will end the war in Iraq responsibly. He will be as careful getting out as George Bush and John McCain were careless getting in. He knows we should not keep spending $10 billion a month indefinitely while the Iraqis are running a $79 billion surplus – which is why he will start to shift responsibility to the Iraqis…bring our combat brigades home over a period of 16 months… lead a diplomatic surge with the world's great powers and Iraq's neighbors to press for a political power sharing agreement… and keep a residual force in Iraq to destroy any remaining terrorists, train Iraqis and protect our personnel.
Barack Obama understands what John McCain does not: the next President must be more than the Commander-in-Chief for Iraq. He must be Commander-in-Chief for America's security around the world.
Mark my words: if, God forbid, there is another major attack on America, it will not come from Iraq. It will almost certainly come from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border – where the Bush/McCain approach let down our guard and let our enemies off the hook.
And unlike John McCain – who opposed Barack Obama's call to take out the high-level terrorist targets in Pakistan and called it "bombing our ally" – we will not tolerate a terrorist sanctuary in Pakistan. If Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights.
Barack Obama has been clear: no country poses a greater security challenge to the United States, Israel and our allies than Iran. Under the policies George Bush has pursued and John McCain would continue, Iran, not freedom, has been on the march. Iran is much closer to the bomb; its influence in Iraq is expanding; its terrorist proxy Hezbollah is ascendant in Lebanon; its ally, Hamas controls Gaza and launches rockets at Israel. Beyond bluster, what would John McCain actually do about these dangers? He doesn't say.
The worst nightmare for a regime that thrives on isolation and tension is an America ready, willing and able to engage. Since when has talking removed the word "no" from our vocabulary? It's amazing how little faith John McCain has in himself and in America.
So ask yourself: based on the judgments they have made and the policies they have proposed, which candidate is more likely as president to end the war in Iraq responsibly… to focus America's full might on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan… to unite our allies in dealing effectively with Iran and Russia…to renew the promise of America in the world? The answer is clear.
There's a short list of the forces shaping the 21st Century. No one country can control these forces, but more than any other country, we have an ability to affect them – if we use the totality of our strength. That means maintaining the finest fighting force in the world – not pushing it to the breaking point… rebuilding our alliances, partnerships and international institutions – not disparaging them… strengthening our diplomacy -- not disdaining it… and using our economic might, not putting it in jeopardy.
Barack Obama understands that strength and wisdom go hand in hand… that the power of our example is as important and the example of our power… and that its only leadership when others join us in the struggle for freedom, security, prosperity, and progress. Barack Obama will keep our citizens safe. He will keep our country secure. And he will answer the yearning, at home and around the world, for an American foreign policy that is once again as good and strong as the American people."