From NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli [in Manchester, N.H.] and NBC's Lauren Appelbaum [in Washington, D.C.]
Biden and Richardson leaned on their experience during separate foreign policy speeches this morning, with each calling for a new approach to Pakistan. Biden later accused Richardson of changing positions on international issues in order to curry favor with the Democratic electorate.
Speaking at the Impact '08 summit at St. Anselm's College this morning, Biden in particular sought to highlight what he said were his prescient comments on Pakistan before the current crisis developed. "People don't get it. All these dots are connected folks," Biden said in what was billed as a major speech. "There is no way to discretely deal with any nation in that region without understanding the repercussions, good and bad, for every other nation in the region. Neither the Democratic nor Republican candidates seem to understand that."
Biden accused Pervez Musharraf of imposing a coup against his own government, and warned that without swift resolution, the world may see a repeat of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. "That moderate majority must have a voice in the system and an outlet with elections," Biden said. "If not, moderates may find that they have no choice but to take common cause with extremists, just as the Shah's opponents did in Iran three decades ago."
Biden also criticized the Bush administration for waiting days to contact the principals in the region. By comparison, he noted that he spoke with Benazir Bhutto the day the state of the emergency was declared, and was in contact with Musharraf days later. "President Bush's first reaction was to call on President Musharraf to reverse course. Given the stakes, I thought it might be more important to actually call him -- than rather call on him."
Biden called for dealing "proactively" with the current situation, but also for a long-term plan to strengthen Pakistan's moderate majority, and to create conditions in the region that ensure a real democracy thrives in the region.
Richardson, who spoke first this morning, also drew comparisons between Pakistan today and Iran in 1979, saying that the United States cannot support what is essentially a military dictatorship. "We made the mistake years ago of backing a dictatorship in Iran and we are paying for it today," Richardson said. "At this very juncture, unless we shift our policy in Pakistan, in two of the more crucial parts of the world, unless we advocate democracy and human rights and a dramatic change in Pakistan, we are in danger of making the same mistake."
The convergence of Biden and Richardson today brought together decades of foreign policy experience -- Biden as chair of the foreign relations committee, and Richardson as a former U.N. Ambassador and negotiator. Talking to reporters after his speech, Biden said he was confident that if foreign policy remains a top concern, he would do well. Asked if he and Richardson might split up those votes, he acknowledged it was possible, but took aim at the New Mexico governor's campaign positions.
"Bill has been sort of all over the board on his foreign policy," he said. "First he endorsed the Biden plan for getting out of Iraq, then he said he'd get them all out in three months. Then he said it will take six months. Then no, it'll take a year. And now it's back to whatever it is."
"I think Bill is banking on that portion of the Democratic Party that just wants to hear, 'I'll get out tomorrow,'" he continued. "I just think he has decided on a different tactic, and I'm not so sure that tactic is working."
He also noted that despite Richardson spending millions on advertising, he has started to pull ahead of him in the early states. "I think people are going to start making discriminating judgments about whether we know what we're talking about," he said. "I'm operating on the premise that the American people are looking for someone tell the truth ... just lay out the facts, state what the facts are. Not attempt to sugarcoat where we are. ... You're not going to get the troops out in three weeks or three months or six months."
Richardson spoke about environmental issues in Portsmouth this afternoon, and was not available after for a response. A campaign spokesperson also declined to comment.