Biden: Bush deserves 'a lot of credit'

Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday night said that former President George W. Bush deserves "a lot of credit" for his handling of the initial Iraq war drawdown.

Speaking to Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, who conducted a rare serious interview with the vice president, Biden was asked what he would say to Bush as the United States meets a preliminary deadline set by President Obama in 2009 for the withdrawal of combat troops this week.

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"Mr. President, thank you," said Biden, addressing a hypothetical Bush. "I've known you for all eight years of your presidency, and I've never known a time when you didn't care."

Asked whether Bush deserves credit for the end of combat operations, Biden said earnestly, "You deserve a lot of credit."

Despite expressing optimism over the end of the Iraq combat mission, Biden rebuffed a suggestion by Colbert that the U.S. had "won" the seven-year-long Iraq war, stressing, "We haven't said we've won it. There are 50,000 troops still there, and until we keep President Bush's commitment to get the guys out by next year, we haven't won it."

Biden was referring to an agreement signed by then-President Bush in 2008 citing the "aspirational goal" of having all U.S. troops out of the country by 2011, provided certain security terms were met.

But Biden's Colbert cameo wasn't all serious. The vice president first appeared on the show wearing a baseball cap and serving hot dogs to the all-military audience while female ushers served cold bottles of beer.

"I got two duties," Biden joked as the cameras panned to him giving out hot dogs. "One is breaking ties in the Senate, and the other one is giving hot dogs to returning warriors."

Biden's son Beau Biden, Delaware's attorney general, served in Iraq before returning home in 2009. The vice president lit up as he described the joy of watching his grandchildren "hanging on their dad" at the airport.

Asked what the greatest challenge of the Iraq mission was, Biden said, "Taking a country that has never had a participatory democracy and electing 325 people to their parliament."

Despite Iraq's failure to form a coalition government after the most recent elections, Biden said, "They're doing it, they're sharing power and I'm confident they're going to do it."