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Joe Biden's gift

Opinion | John McCain should pound away on the Democratic vice-presidential candidate's statements about the inexperience of Barack Obama

In rambling remarks (does he ever make any other kind?) in Seattle, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden guaranteed, like Babe Ruth calling his home run shot, that if Barack Obama is elected president of the United States there will be an international incident to "test him" less than six months after his inauguration. Biden made no such assertion about a testing of John McCain should he be elected. Perhaps that is because McCain has already been tested ... and he passed.

Behind the public's swoon over Obama is the gnawing doubt that we are about to elect the wrong man, an inexperienced man who is more fluff than substance, more personality than resume, more idealist than realist. Obama, himself, said he lacked experience and was not ready to run on a national ticket shortly after his election to the United States Senate just four years ago.

And from where, exactly, will this test come? Biden mentioned the Middle East and Russia as possible administrators of such a test. Might Iran's Ahmadinejad test Obama by following through on his repeated threat to wipe out Israel? Would terrorists living in this country get a signal to blow up shopping malls and government buildings?

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Two historic events offer instruction about what happens when foreign leaders believe an American president might not have the backbone or judgment for the job. Nikita Khrushchev twice tested John F. Kennedy after meeting him in Vienna in 1961. Khrushchev believed Kennedy was out of his league and that his youth and inexperience on the national stage made him and the United States vulnerable. So Khrushchev approved plans proposed by East German leader Walter Ulbricht to build the Berlin Wall and nearly caused a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Biden referred to Kennedy and Khrushchev in his Seattle remarks.

The other teachable moment came on Jan. 20, 1981, when Ronald Reagan took the oath of office and Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini immediately released 52 American diplomats held hostage for 444 days. Khomeini likely believed some American press accounts that Reagan was a "cowboy" and might bomb Iran back to the Stone Age, if that were possible, since the religious fanatics had already taken the country there.

Why shouldn't a President Obama be tested by the world's tyrants and wouldn't it be better if they feared a President McCain and decided not to put him to the test? Not having a president tested in this way would benefit America, the fragile economy and world order.

Biden said something else that was bizarre. He said that it could appear in response to such a testing that Obama responds in the wrong way, but he appealed to the crowd to stick with he and Obama because even though the decision might appear wrong, it will actually be right. What kind of logic is this? The "messiah" can make no mistakes, because he is anointed, so even if a decision appears to be the wrong one and disaster occurs, let not your heart be troubled. It will actually be the right decision and to say otherwise makes it our problem and not his because of our lack of faith in Obama.

This is beyond hubris. This is cult-like devotion and dangerous. No politician enjoys angelic status and anyone who beatifies one in this way is setting himself up for more than disappointment.

What will John McCain do with this gift he has been given? At first, he dropped it. Instead of tagging Biden with the quote, he said that Obama had said it. He's recovered from his own gaffe and he should now pound away on Biden's statement, which is not a gaffe at all, but one of those rare moments in politics: a statement that reveals what a politician actually believes.
© 2008 Tribune Media Services Inc.

Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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