The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

National News

September 16, 2013

In Iowa, Biden touts diplomatic progress

INDIANOLA — Vice President Joe Biden, speaking to a decidedly anti-war audience in Iowa on Sunday, played down the Obama administration’s pledge to use military force to rid Syria of chemical weapons.

Biden, weighing a run for president in 2016, instead touted the U.S.-Russian diplomatic proposal for Syria to relinquish its chemical arsenal under international supervision.

“We’re going to the United Nations with a resolution this week that will in fact call on the United Nations of the world to put pressure on Syria to have the confiscation and destruction of all those weapons,” Biden told hundreds of Iowa’s most devout Democrats at Sen. Tom Harkin’s annual steak picnic and fall fundraiser.

Biden touched only lightly on the administration’s continued insistence that “there are consequences should the Assad regime not comply.” National public opinion polls show a military strike on Syria is unpopular, especially with Democrats.

The vice president worked to stoke hope that the diplomatic solution would work. Making the administration’s first trip outside Washington since Obama’s speech to the nation Tuesday, Biden said Obama “is the reason the world is facing up finally, finally to this hideous prospect of this largest stockpile of chemical weapons.”

There was no applause for his Syria comments from the audience, supporters of Harkin, a veteran Democrat popular with his party’s anti-war activists.

But listeners rose to their feet and cheered loudly when Biden ticked through the economic gains the country has made since Obama took office, improvements the vice president could benefit from, should they continue, if he runs for president in 2016.

Biden praised Harkin as the “conscience of the Senate,” and the senator also raised hope the U.S.-Russian proposal would resolve the Syria issue, which is dominating world headlines.

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