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When Will Joe Biden Become Fair Game?

Senator Joe Biden is the ultimate creep Democrat -- happy to attack Rumsfeld when Iraq is polling badly, and arch defender of the credit industries that have put thousands of US troops abroad in bankruptcy.
 
 
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"He is an impediment in this effort."
-- Sen. Joe Biden, on Donald Rumsfeld's Iraq war legacy

An impediment. That's kind of a funny way to describe the architect of the Iraq war, isn't it?

Put a mythical six chimpanzees to work on a mythical six typewriters and one of them might eventually type out Hamlet, but I feel fairly confident that a billion years could pass before any healthy primate would make it even halfway through the sentence Donald Rumsfeld impeded the Iraq war effort . Yet there was Joe Biden, saying it on live television last week.

The Democrats, God bless them, came out with yet another calculated media attack last week, following up Hillary Clinton's August ambush of Don Rumsfeld with the introduction of a resolution calling for the Defense Secretary's resignation.

From almost the moment that Rumsfeld gave a speech early last week comparing Bush's Iraq war critics to pre-WWII Nazi "appeasers," the Democrats started whaling away at him, filling the front pages of big dailies across the country with "Top Dems Blast Rumsfeld" headlines.

Almost the whole roster of prominent Democrats was in on the effort, with everyone from John Edwards to Chuck Schumer to Nancy Pelosi to Ike Skelton to Jack Reed seemingly reading from the same gloatingly self-righteous "Rumsfeld is a real dick" script.

It was one of those groan-out-loud coordinated media-sandbag jobs, now standard procedure in American politics, where the various politicians separately make exactly the same pre-prepared "jokes" in their respective "extemporaneous" public remarks, delivering their message with all the wit and spontaneity of a Speak N' Spell:

Pelosi on Rumsfeld : "If Mr. Rumsfeld is so concerned with comparisons to World War II, he should explain why our troops have now been fighting in Iraq longer than it took our forces to defeat the Nazis in Europe."

Biden: "The most significant comparison with World War II is that we soon will have been in Iraq as long as World War II, with much less success."

Yuk, yuk. In any case, this anti-Rumsfeld broadside is a classic political canard, a perfect expression of everything the modern Democratic party stands for. Politically, it makes perfect sense, as Rumsfeld is much less popular even than Bush; this is a figure whose approval ratings were down in the thirties two years ago, back when Bush was still capable of winning a national election.

The attack will work, because so many voters out there will see in it a reflection of their own animosity towards the hoary Defense Secretary, not thinking about the real underlying meaning of the Democrats' campaign. Because what Rumsfeld actually represents to the Democrats is a means of attacking the Republicans on the Iraq issue without having to explain their own vote in support of the invasion.

Essentially the Democrats will call Rumsfeld a bunch of names for the sound bite, and then, in the fine print, state their real "objections" to Rumsfeld's record, which will amount to something like the fact that he invaded Iraq on a Thursday instead of a Tuesday, used too few troops to needlessly destroy Iraq's national infrastructure, failed to distribute free milk and cookies to the Mahdi army, etc.

A typical comment will be one like Chuck Schumer's of last week: "There are growing doubts about how competently he's conducted the war." (How do you competently invade the wrong country?) And so the Democrats once again will make an effort to sound antiwar out of one side of their mouths, and pro-war out the other side; they will then close their eyes and hope that they pick up 16 seats before anyone notices. If that ain't leadership, what is?

I can take this stuff coming from most of the Democrats, but it's awfully hard to listen to this crap from Joe Biden. Actually, listening to Joe Biden sound self-righteous about anything makes me want to puke my guts out. I don't know what it is about him.

Maybe it's that creepy poof of blow-dried gray pubic fuzz he has now covering up that dime-store plug job on his head. Maybe it's the fact that he's been ponderously wondering aloud about his chances for the White House for 18 straight years, his painfully obvious hard-on for power straining against his suit-slacks, ever since a plagiarism scandal and an aneurysm knocked him out of his first run. Maybe it's that his idea of outflanking the Republican Party is outspending them on the War on Drugs.

Or maybe it's just that Biden, more than almost anyone in American public life, will do or say anything that he thinks will secure him even the most temporary electoral advantage. Two years ago, back when the Iraq war was still a winner politically, Biden spent a lot of his time slamming other Democrats for not being On Board enough with the war effort, and he even went out of his way to bitch out Democrats for criticizing Ronald Reagan.
As he told the New Yorker , "Everybody knew 'Reagan is dangerous,' remember? He talked about freedom, so what do we do? We say it's a bad speech, dangerous speech," Biden said, adding that Democrats were "making the same mistakes again."

Biden at the time also complained that Republicans were getting away with taking credit for the idea of a pre-emptive war, when it was really a Democratic idea. "What is so transformational in the last four years is that these assholes who wouldn't give President Clinton the authority to use force" have now become, Biden said, moral interventionists. He added: "Give me a fucking break."

Of course all of that mine's-bigger-than-yours militarist rhetoric is staying in Biden's garage this election season, as he's chosen to attack the Republicans on Iraq now, not his fellow Democrats, which ought to tell you where the polls on that issue are. But Biden attacking Rumsfeld even on the issue of his conduct of the war is outrageous in itself, for other reasons.

Right around the time Biden and his fellow Democrats launched their Rumsfeld attack, the Defense Department released a study showing that an inordinately high number of military recruits were being disqualified from service in Iraq because of debt problems, often resulting from so-called "payday loans," i.e. very high-interest loans made between paychecks by predatory lenders who set up show outside military bases.

The study made the front page of USA Today and was briefly a media sensation, with many commentators noting the injustice of a system that allows credit companies to prey upon young men and women about to serve in the Iraq bloodbath. Making matters worse was the fact that congress voted specifically to deny debt protection to servicemen a year-and-a-half ago.

Back in early 2005, Senator Dick Durbin proposed an amendment to the infamous S. 256, the Bankruptcy Abuse Protection and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 -- better known as the Bankruptcy Bill, a law pushed by credit companies which made it more or less impossible to declare bankruptcy.

Durbin's amendment, called the GI Protection Amendment, would have exempted U.S. servicemen and women from the so-called "means test," a procedure which under the new law every bankruptcy aspirant must submit to before he is allowed to sue for bankruptcy. It also would have protected soldiers from losing their homes to creditors during their deployments, and would have offered some debt protections to the spouses of slain servicemen. It also would have offered some protections to soldiers in trouble because of payday loans.

Now, the logic of this amendment seemed unassailable. Soldiers sent to war often end up in financial trouble, and reservists sent to war for long deployments have it even worse, often seeing their small businesses fail or bills pile up while they trade in their normal salaries for meager army wages. It seems like a small concession to make to soldiers to offer some relief on these fronts, in exchange for asking them to risk their necks for some pointless military adventure dreamed up by a bunch of half-wit Ivy League trust fund babies who'll never go broke and whose kids will never serve.

So Durbin's amendment made sense, but of course it died, 62-38. Most of the Republicans voted against it, but they weren't alone. Some Democrats voted nay, too, including that great old friend of the credit industry, Joe Biden.

In the election cycle immediately preceding the historic Bankruptcy Bill, Joe Biden collected some $62,125 from the credit industry, putting him in 12th place among all American politicians. To date, for his career, he's taken over a quarter of a million dollars from credit card companies, many of which are headquartered in Delaware. So it was no surprise that Biden was one of the chief pimps for this notorious law.

But what was most disgusting was the blatant hypocrisy of the bill's shepherds. One of the features of the Durbin amendment was that it would have allowed servicemen to apply for bankruptcy in any state where he or she had been stationed -- allowing him or her to choose among the states with the most advantageous bankruptcy laws. This amendment, again, was rejected by Biden and Co. But when Sen. John Cornyn of Texas decided to offer an amendment banning a similar "judge-shopping" loophole in bankruptcy law that had traditionally been used by corporations like Enron (which filed for bankruptcy in New York, where it had 57 employees, rather than Houston, where it had 7,500, because the New York laws were more permissive), Cornyn was blocked? Why? A Cornyn spokesman told David Broder at the time that the Delaware Senators threatened to withdraw their support for the bill if his amendment was in it.

Moreover, when an amendment was offered to close "asset protection trusts" -- a kind of trust that shields millionaires' assets from recovery in bankruptcy proceedings -- that amendment, too, was rejected. Delaware is one of five states that offer such trusts. The only people who got screwed in the bill were people with real excuses for debt problems: the military, people with serious medical issues, people who had been the victim of identity theft, all of whom had amendments to protect them shot down by the likes of Biden.

So I have to laugh when I hear Biden talking about how Donald Rumsfeld is an "impediment to this effort." What effort? Screwing the military? Biden is a typical Democrat; he'll sell himself as pro-war and antiwar, depending on the circumstances, but in reality he's neither. He's just another whore crouched over the front seat of Capitol Hill. When will we stop taking clowns like this seriously? What will it take?

Matt Taibbi is a writer for Rolling Stone .