Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday pinned the country’s rocky negotiations with Iran on the Bush administration, saying only after President Obama took office and made “good faith” efforts toward dealing with the rogue nation did the world realize Iran is the problem.
“By going the extra diplomatic mile, presenting Iran with a clear choice, we demonstrated to the region and the world that Iran is the problem, not the United States,” Biden said at the Rabbinical Assembly's annual convention in Atlanta.
“When we took office, let me remind you, there was virtually no international pressure on Iran,” Biden continued. “We were the problem, we were diplomatically isolated in the world, in the region, in Europe. We were neither fully respected by our friends nor feared by our opponents. Today it is starkly, starkly different.”
The comments immediately drew rebuke from conservatives.
Biden said Obama’s efforts also have created world-wide support for the U.S.’s recent get-tough policies in the face of what appears to be Iran’s expanding nuclear program, including Obama's executive orders punishing those who make financial deals with that country.
“That's why China, that's why Russia, that's why Europe, that's why the rest of the world have joined us in these sanctions, and the president deserves the credit,” the vice president said, painting with a broad brush what actually has been a rather contentious dialogue between the U.S. and those other countries.
Such Obama administration criticism of the president's predecessor is not new, and the Obama re-election campaign has begun to look for ways to tout the president’s foreign policy.
Biden's comment on the U.S. being diplomatically isolated during the Bush years was in reference to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. President G. W. Bush made the decision without United Nations’ approval but with the backing of Britain and, initially, the support of a majority of Americans, according to polls at the time.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign called Biden’s comments “reckless” and criticized the Obama administration for “all too often” trying to first blame America, apparently suggesting that Biden's criticisms of Bush were really aimed at the country as a whole.
"Biden’s reckless statement today blaming America for – of all things – the progress of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, has reached a new low," said Romney policy director Lanhee Chen. “The problem is not America. It is the ayatollahs who oppress their people.”
Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said Biden comments were "outrageous."
"Iran was the problem then and it is the problem now," he said. "It's foolishly misguided for the vice president to blame anyone or any country other than Iran."
Biden also said Iran is not monolithic and bet that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be out of power within two years.