Guard should have seat on Joint Chiefs, Biden says

The Baltimore Sun

The National Guard should have a seat at the table with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Sen. Joe Biden told a convention of National Guard members at the Baltimore Convention Center yesterday.

With a presidential debate on foreign policy set for Friday, the Democratic nominee for vice president focused his remarks to Guard members on national security, military resources and veterans benefits. But speaking to the group a day after Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, addressed them, Biden threw in some barbs for his opponents, as well.

He rejected McCain's claim Sunday that Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, would pull U.S. troops out of Iraq in defeat. Biden said the vision of victory he and Obama share involves leaving an Iraq "where terrorists are not in control, where terrorist organizations are not alive and well, where there is, in fact, peace and security."

"That's as good as it's going to get," Biden said. "If you can take that, take it now. ... If you go by John's definition of what constitutes success and victory, hang on - you're there for a lifetime."

A day after McCain questioned Obama's leadership abilities and motivations, Biden defended his running mate.

"We can question each other's judgment. That's what elections are all about," Biden said. "But we have to stop questioning each other's motives and each other's patriotism."

Biden vowed that the Democrats would better support the National Guard. The Guard, he said, should have an increased presence and stronger voice among the military branches, saying Lt. Gen. Craig McKinley, director of the Air National Guard, should be seated among the Joint Chiefs of Staff. McKinley is slated to become the Guard's first four-star general.

"Your men and women are serving and dying. Your voice needs to be heard," he said.

Biden's son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, is scheduled to deploy to Iraq with the Delaware National Guard this year.

While his running mate was in Green Bay, Wis., speaking about the economic crisis and the need for reform, Biden devoted most of his 45-minute speech to distinguishing the candidates' positions on military and security issues, chiding McCain for his record on veterans affairs and admonishing him for his comments a day earlier.

McCain had charged Obama with making decisions "as a politician and not as a leader."

Biden responded: "John is my friend. John is one of the bravest men I have ever, ever met in my life. Ladies and gentlemen, I do not think it's appropriate to question a man or a woman's motive." The McCain campaign responded, drawing into question Obama's record on veterans issues and questioning the extent of his role on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. "Time and again, Barack Obama's running mate is tasked with the impossible chore of inflating a record where one does not exist, and today's speech was another attempt to make up for Obama's failed leadership," Ben Porritt, a McCain spokesman, said.

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