Biden flaunts foreign policy chops at Iran event

Biden flaunts foreign policy chops at Iran event

Vice President Biden put his foreign policy chops on full display Thursday while defending the Iran nuclear deal to Jewish leaders in South Florida.

Biden spoke to a small gathering at a community center in Davie, Fla., located in a district represented by a key undecided lawmaker, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

In remarks that lasted nearly an hour, the vice president gave a wonky, detailed and long-winded defense of the Iran deal, a top priority for President Obama.

But it doubled as a chance for Biden to show off his decades of foreign policy experience as he considers challenging Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPaltry wage gains, rising deficits two key tax reform concerns Trump pressed Sessions to fire FBI agents who sent anti-Trump texts: report DNC sues Russia, Trump campaign and WikiLeaks over alleged election interference MORE for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“I’ve traveled, as of today, 992,894 miles for the president,” Biden said. “I’ve met with virtually every major leader in the world. I know these guys. I know them better than anybody in the administration, because I’ve been hanging around so long.”

Biden’s comments offered a view of the foreign policy arguments he might make if he enters the 2016 presidential race.

Without naming Clinton, the vice president offered a subtle reminder that he’s more well-traveled. Clinton racked up 956,733 miles as secretary of State, albeit over a shorter period of time.

Biden sought to soothe concerns over the Iran deal, which is deeply unpopular among many American Jews.

Several hundred protesters demonstrated against the deal outside the David Posnack Jewish Community Center, where the event was held.

The vice president pitched himself as a converted skeptic who has come to believe the international agreement is a “good deal” that will “make the U.S. and Israel safer, not weaker.”

“I doubt that you can find a single elected official … at any level who has been more consistently supportive of the state of Israel” than me, Biden said.

He expressed confidence the U.S.-Israel relationship will remain strong, stressing his three-decade friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a fierce critic of the agreement. Several times, Biden referred to the Israeli leader, who has clashed with Obama, by his nickname “Bibi.”

Point by point, Biden answered arguments offered by critics. He said Iranian leaders are more likely to pump billions of dollars in sanctions relief back into their economy and not toward terrorist groups that threaten Israel.

He said the inspections regime is tougher than many realize, adding Tehran will not be allowed to self-inspect sensitive military sites.

"As one person once said, read my lips, ‘not true,’ ” Biden said. “We can inspect any place in Iran if we believe there is illegal activity taking place."

Even though Obama has the votes he needs to prevent Congress from blocking the deal, Biden warned the international sanctions regime would unravel if the U.S. walked away from the deal.

“Imagine if he president cannot deliver on an agreement that the world thinks is important,” he said.

And he lamented the rancorous congressional debate over the deal, saying he cannot think of another time in his four decades in government “where our ability to conduct foreign policy has been so strained because of the dysfunction in Washington and the Congress.”

Wasserman Schultz, who faces a difficult decision on whether to back the deal, said she would decide with her head and “my Jewish heart.”

"I am not afraid to make this decision,” she said. “I am never afraid to stand alone.”

But the Florida lawmaker, who invited Biden to the forum, had nothing but praise for him, calling him “the best vice president of the United States of America we have ever had.”

She said she has “grilled” Biden during several meetings in his office, adding she considers him a “mensch," a Yiddish term for a good person.

Biden returned the favor, calling Wasserman Schultz a personal friend who “has been an incredible partner for the president and me."