Election 2008

On The Road With Joe Biden

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Democratic vice presidential nominee Joseph Biden has been campaigning non-stop since being named Barack Obama's running mate. This week the Delaware senator has been stumping in the battleground states of Ohio and Michigan, attacking Republican John McCain.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Israel's governing party has a new leader today. The woman who may become Israel's next prime minister is named Tzipi Livni, although President Bush prefers to call her Tzipi. She's a political moderate, and she was Israel's lead negotiator in peace talks with the Palestinians. Let's talk about her more with Mark MacKinnon, the Middle East correspondent for the Toronto Globe and Mail. Welcome to the program.

MARK MACKINNON: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: Who is she?

MACKINNON: Well, Tzipi Livni is as you've said a moderate, at least within her Kadima party. She was the foreign minister, of course, for the last few years and lead negotiator with the Palestinians. Nine years ago, she was the head of a state company and put there by her now rival Benjamin Netanyahu. And she barely squeaked into the Knesset, the parliament here, in her first try. She's sort of become the fresh new face.

INSKEEP: Well, what does it mean that this party - and we should mention, this is not a nationwide election, right, it's a party contest - what does it mean that the Kadima party chose her?

MACKINNON: Very important to point out that this is an election that was by the 74,000 Kadima members, barely half of whom voted. The fact that they chose her probably means that more than anything else, that they were looking at the opinion polls. If they had chosen any of her rivals, I think the Kadima Party, the party that was founded by Ariel Sharon three years ago, would have found itself in very difficult times when the election came up.

So while she had a lot of - she made a lot of enemies in the party because she effectively had been in the opposition to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the last, more than the last year, anyhow. But the polls kept saying that Kadima with Livni leading it has a chance to if not win the next election, for it to be very competitive in the next election. Had they chosen her closest rival, Shaul Mofaz, I think they would have found themselves on the outside looking in after the next vote.

INSKEEP: Well, let's take a second to just take stock of the situation here. You've got this political party that was founded by Sharon that was all about finding some sort of middle way forward for Israel, which had gotten trapped by some people's estimates. Then you had a situation where the party was captured by corruption scandals. Where is this centrist party going now?

MACKINNON: Again, with Tzipi Livni it's - they hope it's a return to the root. They're trying to, sort of, put this corruption era behind them and hope that this is a fresh start. They can return to the idea of the centrist Israeli party, this new direction that will - if it can't make peace with the Palestinians, it will impose a unilateral peace. So the idea that Tzipi Livni represents is returning to what Ariel Sharon had set out to do in the first place before he was felled by a stroke.

INSKEEP: Is she someone who could restart the peace process in the Middle East?

MACKINNON: Restart might not be the right word for it. She's certainly the person who will carry the Annapolis peace process, the one that George Bush launched a year ago, to the end. A lot of Israelis and most of the Palestinians have given up on this peace process. But she's the one who's been in the room every day. She's the lead Israeli negotiator, as we mentioned. And so she knows precisely where the process is at, and she believes in this process, which makes her a rarity in the Israeli political stage right now.

INSKEEP: Well, now, wait a minute, if she believes in it but Israelis at large don't, isn't that irrelevant what she believes? She can't bring her country with her?

MACKINNON: Well, that's the question, is that, you know, especially having only been selected by half of a small party membership, whether or not she can deliver the Israeli public behind a peace deal is very much in question.

INSKEEP: Mark MacKinnon is the Middle East correspondent for the Toronto Globe and Mail. He's in Tel Aviv. Thanks very much.

MACKINNON: Thanks, Steve.

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In Michigan, Biden Likens McCain Tactics To Rove's

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Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden has been overshadowed so far by his Republican rivals. But Biden is fighting back now, saying that Sen. John McCain's campaign is defining new lows in American politics.

On Monday, Biden continued his strong criticism of McCain by linking him to President Bush. He pointed out that during his first presidential election, Bush ran as a reformer, promising to change the tone in Washington and reach out to Democrats. Now, he says, McCain is taking the same route.

"We've seen this movie before, folks," Biden said from a rally in Michigan. "But as everyone knows, the sequel is always worse than the original."

Biden said no one should have believed Bush when they saw his previous campaign, just as he says no one now should believe McCain's "change" rhetoric. Biden also condemned ads that the McCain campaign has run that have been called misleading and inaccurate by independent monitoring organizations such as Politifact.com and FactCheck.org.

"The McCain-Palin campaign has decided to bet the house on the politics perfected by Karl Rove," Biden said. "Those tactics may be good at squeaking by in an election, but they are bad if you want to lead one nation, indivisible."

Speaking in a high school gym in suburban Detroit, Biden sadly recalled that it was McCain who was the victim of false ads and other such attacks during the primary season of 2000.

Biden recalled what he did when he saw his friend John McCain dealing with such tactics eight years ago.

"I picked up the phone and I called John McCain as his friend. I said, 'John, where do you want me. I will show up in public to testify to your character.' And now, and now, some of those very same people and the tactics that were used against John and deplored by him, his campaign is now employing against Barack Obama," Biden said.

Biden says McCain of 2008 has decided to do whatever it takes to win.

"Like the McCain advertisements that misrepresent a vote by Barack Obama to protect young children from sexual predators," Biden said. "Like Sen. McCain's effort to obscure the fact that Barack Obama's tax cuts will benefit 95 percent of all working people. Like John McCain's attempt to cloak himself in reform by misrepresenting his running mate's record."

Biden then added, "Ladies and gentlemen, it's disappointing to me to think that John McCain really does approve this message as he says at the end of every ad."

Biden's broader goal is to make McCain and Palin's basic credibility an issue, thus damaging McCain's previous brand as a practitioner of straight talk. The Obama campaign says this will allow the candidate at the top of the ticket to get the focus back to the economy and foreign policy.

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