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Exclusive: Beau Biden on Iraq Deployment and His Dad’s Campaign
When Beau Biden isn’t spending his vacation time in Iowa stumping for his father, Sen. Joe Biden, on the campaign trail, he spends his time serving the state of Delaware in two capacities: as a captain in the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps of the Delaware Army National Guard and as the attorney general of Delaware.
Despite his responsibilities as a public servant, Beau’s No. 1 priority is his family. “Above all, I want to be the husband and dad I want to be and should be,” Beau told the Iowa Independent during an exclusive interview. “To the extent I have time, I want to do everything I can to help elect my dad to be president of the United States.”
Beau Biden speaks on behalf of his father at a rally for Homeless Veterans in Cedar Rapids last Thursday
On the campaign trail, Sen. Biden has argued that the war in Iraq is the most important issue and nothing else on the political agenda can be accomplished until the war is ended without leaving chaos in its wake. The immediacy of the war in Iraq holds especially true for Beau, whose unit, the 261st Signal Brigade out of Smyrna, Del., has received orders for training, which is the first step in the deployment process.
Although Beau is somewhat reluctant to talk about his service, except as a means of establishing credibility when addressing veterans (see pic above), he did open up a little to the Iowa Independent. “I’m very proud of my service with the National Guard and proud to be associated with the men and women who serve in our military,” Beau said. “There’s no other service I’m more proud of.”Like his son, Sen. Biden has steered away from talking about Beau’s impending deployment, unless asked point-blank. “I don’t want him going,” Sen. Biden told Radio Iowa in August. “But I tell you what, I don’t want my grandson or my granddaughters going back in 15 years and so how we leave makes a big difference.”
During the same interview with Radio Iowa, Biden criticized Democratic rivals such as Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, who have voted against Iraq funding bills to try to pressure President Bush to end the war. “There’s no political point worth my son’s life,” Biden said. “There’s no political point worth anybody’s life out there. None.”
Beau is in the middle of serving his fifth year with Delaware National Guard, where he serves as one of two JAGs assigned to the 261st Signal Brigade. As a JAG officer, Beau’s primary duties involve upholding and enforcing the United States Code of Military Justice, which includes everything from prosecuting and defending soldiers to completing wills. “In a sense, I’m a combination of a prosecutors’ office and a general practitioner.”
Thanks to his father’s influence and exposure to the military, Beau has always been impressed with the U.S. military and has flirted with enlisting. “While working for the U.S. Department of Justice as a civilian lawyer, I went over to post-war Kososvo as an interim legal advisor and met some JAG officers, who really made an impression on me,” Beau said.
Upon his return from Kosovo, a colleague of Beau’s, a full-bird colonel who ran the legal support office at Ft. Dix for the Army Reserve, persuaded him to join. “The next thing I knew, I was at the MEPs (Military Enlistment Processing) station in Fort Dix, New Jersey.”
In a deployment situation, Beau will serve as a JAG officer with his unit, while still serving as the Delaware’s Attorney General. “My chief deputy, a former AG and JAG who served in Afghanistan, will be on the ground in Delaware and I’ll be in constant contact with him while I’m deployed.”
Eventually, the discussion segued to Beau’s take on his father’s presidential bid:
Iowa Independent: From somebody who is serving in the military and faces an upcoming deployment to the war in Iraq, why do you think your dad would make the best president?
Beau: He’s the single most-prepared to be commander in chief. The most important issue of the day facing our generation, our kids’ generation and our parents’ generation is the war in Iraq. It’s always good in an election, with regard to the most important issue of the day, that we have the best candidate with the best plan to deal with the most pressing issue. Joe Biden not only has the best plan, but has the only plan on how to deal with the war in Iraq without leaving chaos behind.
Iowa Independent: We keep hearing about experience touted on the campaign trail by the mainstream, which has often sidestepped Joe Biden’s experience. Has this caused any frustrations for you and the campaign?
Beau: You bring up a good point. The reality is that it’s not all about experience. If that was the case, Joe Biden has five times more experience than Hillary Clinton. It’s not just about change and hope. My dad actually has a record of change that has provided hope for people.
For instance, on the Violence Against Women Act, he changed the way this nation and law enforcement view violence against women. We prosecute for the heinous crime that it is, when this didn’t used to be the case. That is a change my father, with others’ help, but begun singlehandedly by him, changed how we as a society view violence against women. And this has provided hope for countless women.
But it’s not just about change or hope. One of the other candidates talks about fighting. If it was about fighting, I would put my father in the ring against anybody.
But it’s not about fighting either. It’s about acting and getting things done. There’s no better example of action and getting it done than the Biden exit plan from Iraq, which has now received bipartisan support from the majority of the Republicans from the Senate and the House. Not only is it bipartisan, but it says to the president that he’s going down the wrong path and that he should follow the Iraqi constitution.
That’s action in the context of a war and a presidential campaign. That’s leadership. That’s knowing what you’re going to do the moment you’re sworn into office. The moment the next president steps into that office, he or she will be making decisions that will affect all of us and will possibly have implications for my kids’ future as well.
And with respect to the other candidates, my father is the only one who can act right away. I find it interesting how the portrait has been painted that my father will make a great secretary of state and whoever wins will be lucky to have his wisdom and knowledge.
No. 1: He can effect more changes as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee than he can as secretary of state, not to mention he gets to go home at night and spend time with my mom and be with my kids.
No. 2: The Des Moines Register debate made it clear that there was a president on the stage and then you had potential members of his cabinet. Joe Biden was the president. Barack, Hillary and John Edwards [any of them] would be a great vice president. Chris Dodd would be a great secretary of labor or commerce.
Iowa Independent: If you are deployed to Iraq and your father is elected president, do you think his decision-making process as president will be affected?
Beau: As president, I’m positive my dad would act the same way regardless of whether or not I was deployed with the Delaware National Guard. Of course my being in the military affects my father, because he’s a dad. If I’m half as good a dad as my father has been, I’ll still be a great dad. As good as a senator as he’s been, and as great a president as he will be, he’s an even better dad. It has to affect parents, whether it’s my mom and dad or the parents of members serving in the Iowa units currently deployed. Just the potential of a deployment has an affect on families, because it’s real.