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Witcover: Biden’s foreign policy experience vindicates VP choice

By Jules Witcover - National Columnist | Aug 8, 2022

Jules Witcover

WASHINGTON — When former President Barack Obama picked Joe Biden as his running mate, he did so to fill a gap in his own political experience. Biden’s 36 years in the Senate included long service on its Foreign Relations Committee and eventually as its chairman.

Now the wisdom of that choice has been emphatically confirmed in President Biden’s dramatic disclosure that he had just overseen and ordered the CIA drone assassination of top Al-Qaida leader Ayman-al-Zawahiri on the balcony of his home in Kabul.

The significance of the location was said to be in terms of the intelligence and planning for the attack, attributed to Biden’s previous experience in the field of dark arts.

Particular mention was made to the fact that no members of the victim’s family were targeted or injured, enabling the White House spokesman to take note of the president’s sense of selective compassion amid the deadly operation.

The Washington Post reported that on July 1, Biden was briefed by CIA director William J. Burns, who showed him a small wooden model of al-Zawahiri’s safe house in Kabul and explained how he was sure of the identity of the target. Biden was said to have pressed Burns on how he could ensure that no one else would be harmed, including the target’s family members or civilians in a precise surgical strike.

The mission on July 31 was described by CIA operatives as firing two Hellfire missiles from a drone in which there were no other casualties.

More significant politically was the compassionate light shown on an otherwise bloody exercise, at a time when President Biden’s popularity was eroding in public opinion polls. One survey found that half or more of all Democrats surveyed said they would favor some other presidential nominee in their party for the 2024 election.

Nevertheless, the dramatic foreign policy news came at a time of other news developments favorable to Biden. They included his highly effective monitoring of the anti-COVID vaccine program by the pharmaceutical industry for most Americans and millions more foreign patients, as well as new expansions of the highly popular medicare assistance program popularly known as Obamacare.

Will the sudden reminder to voters of another dimension of Joe Biden as an experienced leader in foreign affairs materially alter the broad public opinion of him in terms of his re-election in 2024? It certainly can’t harm him.

Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at juleswitcover@comcast.net.

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