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Biden Believes Bush Delayed Action in Iraq Because of Political Concerns

(CBS)
From CBS News' Ryan Corsaro:

(GREEN BAY, WIS.) - Joe Biden says that details in Bob Woodward's latest book on how the Bush Administration handled the war in Iraq correspond with Biden's belief that the president suspended action to protect his political interests.

"If Woodward's assertion as I understand it is correct, it comports with my belief that they knew certain changes that should be made but did not make those changes because it was an election year, and they thought it would reflect on them in a negative way. That's what I understand Bob to be asserting," Biden told a crowd of several hundred at a town hall-style meeting in Green Bay.

"Bob Woodward makes the case that I know... if it's the case he's made is what I'm about to say, I got to make sure I'm precise here, because all I know is what I read…the reports of it... he makes the case that the administration knew that in 2004, as early as 2004, that they should be making some significant changes in policy, but they put it off, as I understand it, because they were worried about the political implications of it," Biden explained.

Biden, who called himself "the most consistent and persistent critic of the administration since they launched forces against Iraq," gave what he said was "generic" information about Iraq and a private meeting he had with President Bush on the matter.

"I actually had a conversation with the president, I met with the president a lot during this period for, you know, a lot of hours. Me alone or me with just two other people and his staff with him, including the vice president, and at one point in one of our discussions, which I never talk about the detail of a White House meeting, or should I with the presidents I've met with. I think that's appropriate. But I pointed out, 'Mr. President, if you're willing to make some of the following changes, I'm willing to stand up and support you.'"

The Democratic vice presidential nominee said his conversation led him to offer bipartisan standing with the president if he agreed to changes, which Biden did not discuss specifically.

"I gave an analogy... I said every single solitary body of a fallen angel, and that's what they're referred to. You go to Iraq as many times as I have, and you watch, you watch the reverence with which our military and our civilian personnel has given to someone who has lost their life. They refer to them as fallen angels. Every fallen angel comes through my home state of Delaware. Every single solitary one, because we have the nation's mortuary there for the military. Dover Air Force Base. I said Mr. President, 'We owe it to those kids who gave the last measure that if we know we can make it better and change it, we must change it.'"

The passage he refers to was an excerpt of from the latest in a series of White House insider books by veteran investigative journalist Bob Woodward.

Woodward writes in "The War Within" that top national security advisers "tried for months in the summer of 2006 to get an Iraq strategy review underway. But they encountered resistance, as well as the inevitable crush of daily presidential obligations. They realized that conducting a review was risky, even under the greatest secrecy. A leak that the White House was questioning its strategy could be devastating. The midterm congressional elections were barely four months away. Iraq was likely to be the main issue, and the Republicans' thin margins in both the Senate and the House were in jeopardy."