Republicans and Democrats React to Bhutto Assassination; McCain, Biden Benefit
Written by Rev. Robert A. Vinciguerra Thursday, 27 December 2007 23:05
On Thursday Americans came home from work, turned on the news, and learned about the tragic assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto.
Bhutto returned to her country from a self-imposed exile in October to run for president of Pakistan. Within days, a suicide bombing was made against her. She lived, over one hundred did not. The second time around, she was not so lucky. This time, the 54 year old woman and sole hope for democracy, was pronounced dead, just one hour after the attack.
A world away, in the United States, the crisis in Pakistan is beginning to reshape the political ground game in the upcoming elections. With the January 3rd Iowa caucuses less than a week away at this point, Bhutto’s assassination is having an effect, with both Republican and Democratic candidates attempting to take hold of the issue as an advantage moving into the election.
Mike Huckabee, the Baptist minister and Governor from Arkansas, has come under the most fire recently for his lack of foreign policy knowledge. He made the biggest gaffe on the situation, when he apparently was unaware that that martial law had been lifted in Pakistan two weeks ago.
“But the most urgent thing to do is to offer our sincere sympathies and concerns to the family and to the people of Pakistan, and that’s the first thing we would be doing other than, again, trying to ascertain who’s behind it..” Huckabee said to a crowd of supporters. “…And what impact does it have on whether or not there’s going to be martial law continued in Pakistan, suspension of the constitution.”
Per his usual musings, Rudy Giuliani managed to squeeze in “9/11” into as many statements that he could make about Pakistan, and Mitt Romney downplayed Senator John McCain’s credentials, saying, “Frankly, being elected to the Senate doesn’t make one an expert in foreign affairs.” He went on to compare experience in international politics to “one of one thousand” people working in the State Department. “The ability to listen to data,” Romney argued, as he compared himself to Ronald Reagan, is the mark of a true leader.
John McCain dismissed Romney’s input as juvenile, and played up his service on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I have been involved in every major policy decision for the past twenty years,” he reminded voters, “I have some experience.”
On the Democratic side of events, things were not much better. Hillary Clinton’s campaign claims that recent events will make voters look at her “experience,” which she believes will help her. She then played up the concept that had a long personal relationship with the former Pakistani Prime Minister. “We talked about our children,” Sen. Clinton remarked.
John Edwards and Barack Obama, two of the most inexperienced candidates, got into the game as well. Uncomfortably, Edwards worked into a campaign speech that he spoke with President Musharraf only a few minutes before his event. Obama’s camp disingenuously suggested Hillary Clinton’s senate votes on Iraq are to blame for the “emerging crisis” in Pakistan.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson perhaps made the most ignorant statement of the evening, perhaps except for Republican Congressman Ron Paul who blamed US foreign policy for Bhutto’s murder and proposed cutting off all aid to Pakistan.
Richardson said that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf should step down, and his government should be replaced by a coalition, to which Joe Biden responded, “What coalition? There isn’t any. What’s he talking about?”
Biden, the democratic senator from Delaware knew Bhutto since 1988. He held an impromptu press conference on the terrible assassination. Statesman-like as always, Biden refused to place blame on the Musharraf administration without knowing all of the facts, instead urging an investigation to move forward, and suggesting that the FBI lend its forensic expertise to the matter.
“I would be holding this press conference were I not a candidate for president,” Biden said. “I doubt there are any of the other candidates who would be holding press conferences were they not candidates.” Biden added, “That's not a criticism, it’s an observation.”
Joe is Right
And, as nearly all other Democrats running against him have previously stated, Joe is right. His opponents have been using phrases like “a new threat” and “an emerging crisis” to describe Pakistan. But really, it’s nothing new. Biden is the only candidate in either party to have made Pakistan a central piece of his campaign. His plan calls for a Pakistan policy that deals with the people of Pakistan, as opposed to the Musharraf policy of the Bush administration.
“It's not hyperbole to suggest the rest of the world is waiting for an American president to be elected who can connect the dots. And I can,” Biden said to a room of 150 of his supporters in Iowa
And he’s right, again and again, especially in the increasingly important realm of foreign affairs. Perhaps the silver lining in the Bhutto tragedy is that it will finally provide the “Mo-Joe” to boost him to a top finish in Iowa that will propel him into the national race as a strong candidate; that is the scenario his campaign has been talking about for months.