White House: Biden has ‘character’ to admit ‘he’s made a mistake’

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Vice President Biden “has enough character to admit when he’s made a mistake,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said amid a string of high-profile gaffes that have required public and private apologies to key international allies.

“The fact of the matter is the vice president is somebody who continues to be a core member of the president’s national security team,” Earnest said when asked about Biden’s missteps. 

{mosads}”He is somebody who has decades of experience in dealing with leaders around the globe. And the president is pleased to be able to rely on his advice as we confront the variety of challenges that are so critical to American national security.”

Over the weekend, Biden apologized to the United Arab Emirates for saying the country had supplied militants to jihadi groups fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, including al Qaeda.

“They were so determined to take down Assad and have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad,” Biden said during a forum at Harvard University. “Except that the people who were being supplied were [Jabhat] al Nusra and al Qaeda, and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”

That apology came a day after he also apologized to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after suggesting at the same event that Turkey had allowed foreign fighters to cross the border into Syria to take up arms alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“President Erdogan told me, ‘You were right. We let too many people through. So we’re trying to seal the border,’” Biden said.

Both the Turks and the UAE have proven key allies in the U.S. alliance now fighting ISIS, and Biden’s comments earned angry condemnation from leaders there.

Pressed on whether the White House believed what the vice president said was wrong, Earnest appeared deliberately evasive.

On Turkey, Earnest said Biden had “mischaracterized” Erdogan’s “private remarks” while staying away from the question of whether foreign fighters had crossed the Turkish border at an unacceptable rate.

Earnest did say the U.S. was “pleased” by “the cooperation of Turkey and other countries in the region to help confront the threat that’s posed by foreign terrorist fighters.”

Asked directly if the Emiratis had facilitated or supported ISIS, Earnest again equivocated, merely restating that Biden had not meant to insinuate as much.

“What the vice president did was clarify his remarks to indicate that he was not attempting to imply that the UAE has facilitated or supported [ISIS], al Qaeda or other extremist groups in Syria,” Earnest said. “The fact of the matter is — and again, the vice president noted it in his phone call with the crown prince — that the UAE continues to be a strong partner with the United States in this effort.”

But the vice president’s apology tour might not be done.

In addition to insinuating that Saudi Arabia had helped fund jihadi groups in Syria, Biden also drew comparisons to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin when asked about the Arab country’s civil rights record.

Saudi Arabia has provided key support for the U.S. campaign against ISIS, including an offer to host a training camp for moderate Syrian rebels battling the terror network and the Assad regime.

“We knew Stalin was [a] no-good SOB from the beginning,“ Biden said. “But there is a thing called self-interest.”

Earnest said he did not “have anything to say more about those particular comments at this point.”

The trio of foreign policy gaffes don’t do much to shore up a tough September for the vice president. 

Biden drew criticism when he called predatory lenders “shylocks” and referred to Singaporean politician Lee Kuan Yew as “the wisest man in the Orient.”

Later that same week, Biden said he missed working with Republicans like Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) while addressing a Democratic women’s forum. Packwood resigned from Congress amid allegations of sexual harassment. 

Tags al Qaeda Biden ISIS Islamic State in Iraq and Syria Josh Earnest Saudi Arabia Syria Turkey United Arab Emirates
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