WASHINGTON -- Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware announced his candidacy for president yesterday, arguing that when the media buzz fades from Democratic candidates such as Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, voters will rally around his foreign policy expertise.
Saying that President Bush has "dug us in a very deep hole" in Iraq and at home, Biden, author of the lead Senate resolution disapproving of Bush's troop increase in Iraq, said he is the candidate best prepared to "step in and lead this country. There's no margin for error."
Biden said the Bush administration's policies of "pre-emption and regime change have literally made us weaker."
Biden, 64, a six-term Democratic senator, first ran for president in 1988. His campaign was derailed by allegations that he had plagiarized speeches of other politicians, such as Britain's Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock. Asked yesterday what he learned from that experience, Biden said, "I took a real gut punch. I learned how to take it, and I got back up."
Even as he analyzed previous missteps, Biden found himself explaining more recent words. In an interview this week with the New York Observer, Biden criticized rivals, calling Clinton's Iraq policy "nothing but a disaster" and saying that Obama is "offering charming but insubstantial fluff."
He also called Obama, "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. ... That's a storybook, man."
Bloggers pounced on the comment, as some blacks took offense at the word clean. Biden later explained that he meant that Obama was "fresh and new."
Biden is the eighth Democrat to announce plans to run for president in 2008.