Biden, Brownback unite to talk about Iraq

U.S. Senators Joe Biden & Sam Brownback, both presidential candidates, have just entered the room at 12:10 p.m.  The room is at the Wakonda Club — in the clubhouse for a private golf course in Iowa.  "Hi, folks.  How are you?  I’m Joe Biden.  I work with Senator Brownback," Biden says as he introduces himself to the folks at the table directly in front of me. 

"I’ve seen you all have started piling the corn outside.  I thought that was going to happen you have such a large crop," Brownback says to the person to his left as he sits to eat lunch.  (I doubt any of them have been near a corn field, BTW.)

Lunch is being served in a room that gets a fair amount of use.  It’s the venue where Vice President Dick Cheney and First Lady Laura Bush have appeared several times — the far east room in this golf course club house that sits between the Des Moines airport and downtown Des Moines.  The bowed-out windows on the east end of the room are covered with Biden & Brownback signs, as they are directly behind the stage and the camera shot for all the media here.  The windows which are not covered to obscure the sun reveal trees with fading flumage, in that transition before barrenness.  The lawns & fareways, however, are still that sparkling green. 

It’s unclear how the conversation started, but one of the guys at the table where Biden & Brownback are eating a quick lunch is a doctor and Biden begins his story about his cranial embolism, telling the doctor he’s probably alive today because of folks like him.

The story lasts a few minutes and involves some gesturing toward his (Biden’s) head.  Brownback jumps in to provide the benediction:  "Seems like the good Lord had a purpose for you.  Maybe this is it."

The "this" Brownback is referencing is their joint argument that Iraq should be partitioned into states which then have the lion’s share of political power, with a weak central government.  (But the two bristle at the suggestion the US shouild do the partitioning.)

Biden gets the microphone first.  He jokes with the crowd that they’re getting a preview of the general election nominees for both parties.  There’s laughter.  Now, Biden is talking about the "genuine hope" that there can be a bipartisan plan for Iraq so the US can leave without leaving chaos behind. 

"Our solution is designed to help bring life to what is already in the Iraqi constitution," Biden is telling the crowd.  "…A limited central government….the strong support we won in the United States Senate…is powerful evidence…(according to Biden, people disagree with Bush’s push for a strong central govt in Iraq)."

"A strong central govt in Baghdad is not going to emerge.  It will not happen," Biden says, because he contends there’s no trust on the part of the Iraqi people.  "…Absent an occupation we cannot sustain or a dictator we cannot support…Sunnis, Shi’its or Kurds are just not ready to trust one another at this point in history."

Biden says Bush Administration has mischaracterized the resolution that passed the Senate.  No partitioning, according to Biden.  "Federalism is not a US or foreign imposition on Iraq.  Federalism is in their constitution."

"…These compromises among the Iraqis will not happen among themselves.  They’re at war.  The only way they’re going to happen is with the help of the US or the international community….The Iraqis need our help to bring this common vision for a future to life."

Biden’s talking about meeting with the UN security council.  "Every single solitary ambassador representing the permanent five said ‘absolutely’…(they’d help to do this)….We are pushing on an open door here."

"…A civil war is there.  The idea the Iraqis are spontaneously going to come and put this together is not realistic….The Iraqis are already voting with their feet.  More than four million Iraqis (have already left the country or gone to areas in Iraq that are more secure)….500,000 American troops cannot settle this issue.  The Iraqis have to decide there’s a means by which they can get together….Once Iraqis read what (Biden, Brownback) wrote, they support it."

Biden suggests changing the mission of troops in Iraq to fighting al Qaeda and training Iraqi troops.  73 percent of all the injuries and all the deads are caused by roadside bombs and EFPs according to Biden.  "We should do everything we can to make sure that we leave something stable behind," Biden said. 

Biden refers to Brownback as a "partner" — "changing direction…does not need to be a partisan issue."

"I’d like to yield to my friend, Senator Brownback," Biden says in conclusion.

"Thanks, Joe.  I like these little short, three letter names — Joe, Sam.  I think they sound very presidential," Brownback begins.  "…We can work together on tough topics and we can get them done (Brownback says of his alliance with Biden on this issue)….We can do this….What I call this is a political surge.  We’ve had a military surge….I think the military surge has proved some effectiveness….so now we need a political surge (gives attribution to Thomas Friedman for the phrase "political surge")….I’m urging the Administration to send somebody like James Baker….If we’re going to make the recent military progress count, we have to have political progress."

"…We can sum up this policy in one term….federalism, where you devolve power and authority out to the states and out to the regions….It’s something that can work in Iraq…recognizing the history of that region and the history of that country….One of the most persuasive documents…a series of maps from 1914…when the region was referred to as Mesopotamia….You can see the outline of today’s Iraq in it."

Brownback says they had three regions — one for Kurds, one for Sunnis and one for Shi-ia.

"Now, you are seeing with the removal of Saddam Hussein…you’re seeing sectarian cleansing taking place….We’re seeing within Iraq about 6000 relocating every month generally along sectarian lines…this happens to be a reality on the ground in Iraq today."

"…I want to quote the president of Iraq….as saying when I met with him last week….he endorsed the proposal….Federalism is a way….to hold (Iraq) together….Iraq in many respects has evolved less as a country than as three groups held together….the countries around it do not want to see (Iraq) split up….It will work if you devolve the power & the authority…..Federalism is already at work (in Kurdish north)….This can work.  It may be that the next step will be to give the Sunnis control fo the west….so it doesn’t happen all at once….Joe & I would look differently at the military equasion on down the road.  I do think you’re going to need to see US troops there for some time…..If our people aren’t being killed, we can be there a long time (references Korea, Bosnia)…We can be there if our people aren’t being shot and killed every day."

"…Can’t we have a political solution so not as many people die in the process….and recognize that this is the political reality of our day?"  Referencing Yugoslavia, Tito.  "If you see a straight line border in the Middle East or Africa, you ought to raise a question of whether it reflects demographic reality on the ground….You can try to force a solution…but you’re going to be subjecting a lot of lives to peril or loss and we don’t need to do that."

"….All of this is within reach….We have to come together here in order to win over there.  You can’t sustain a war effort with one party for it and one party against it."

Brownback’s done.  Now the two will respond to questions from the audience (not the media).

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Steve Fallon says

    There is something very different about this presidential campaign that makes it unlike any other in my memory. Specifically, I point to the observation that both print and electronic media outlets seem to be actually trying to discourage the public from voting in the upcoming primary elections and caucuses.
    For the same reason that election results cannot be made public until after the polling places close, in reporting candidates’ standings in the polls, journalists who fail to report on the undecided group are making a deliberate choice to influence the outcome of the election — for the reason that, if people believe that a given candidate has an insurmountable lead, such questionable reportage works to discourage them from participating at all.
    It is my general impression — both from my own observations and from reading many accounts — that sixty to seventy percent of potential voters remain undecided at this point. It is therefore misleading and manipulative for any self-respecting journalist to cite what are in reality “net” results (i.e. the results reflecting only those who have indicated a choice) as some sort of predictor of the outcome, when nothing could be less supportable by logic or fact.
    Yet, with few exceptions, the media outlets of this country continue to influence the election both by reporting “false” predictors, such as only partial polling results, and restricting coverage of the presidential candidates to only those few whose early leads are in fact magnified by a factor of 3 or 4 due to this statistical manipulation.
    To make my point yet even clearer, if the “net” results show Hillary Clinton with fifty percent, the real percentage would be only fifteen percent when the seventy percent “undecided” are factored into the equation.
    Therefore, in the joint interest of journalistic integrity and the preservation of the fundamental principles of a democracy, it would behoove members of the press to expand the scope of their coverage to include such very qualified and statesmanlike candidates as Senator Joe Biden for the Democrats and Senator Sam Brownback for the Republicans–both of whom have taken the history-making action of joining their campaigns in events in the State of Iowa, in a demonstration of bi-partisan leadership at its best.
    To my knowledge, this has never before occurred in the history of this country. However, both Senators Biden and Brownback have said that bringing a responsible end to the war in Iraq, by means of brokering a solution that focuses on federalism, is a matter of such grave importance to this nation as to transcend all political boundaries and politics itself.
    I applaud their efforts and sincerely hope the current obsession with “media stars” falls back to earth. This country needs a President who knows when to lay politics aside for the good of the country and, in this instance, the world as well.

  2. James DiSalvatore, NY, NY says

    I’m a Joe Biden supporter, and would like to commend Senator Brownback, and thank him for the bipartisan support.
    In these troubled and dire time we live in, Joe Biden, to me, encompasses all that we desperately need for our nation. So, what do we expect from our leaders?
    Especially our President?
    1) Intelligence
    2) Experience in ALL phases of government
    3) Strength
    4) Respect from world leaders
    5) Diplomacy
    6) Command of issues
    7) Solutions to problems that face our nation
    8) Honesty
    9) Integrity
    10) Respect and trust from his peers
    11) Respect and trust from the people who follow him
    Joe Biden certainly meets ALL of the criteria above.
    I pray and hope every day that Mr. & Mrs. America, the people of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina know in their hearts, that if we lose Joe Biden, we’ll have lost one of the best Presidents our nation will ever have.
    Please watch a video I produced to show my support for Senator Biden. If you support him, please send the link below to family and friends, and ask them to do the same.