VP Biden argues the government must focus more heavily on solving unemployment problem

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Biden: Time to turn attention from Iraq to economy

WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday he’s confident the various factions in Iraq will form a workable coalition and bring stability to the country, now that the U.S. combat role there has ended.

Interviewed on network news shows from Iraq, Biden said the Obama administration owes it to America’s troops to “make sure transition works.” He said he wouldn’t want to have to explain to parents that the battle wasn’t worth it.

Answering a question, he said it was appropriate — and necessary — for President Barack Obama to also address the economy in his speech to the nation Tuesday night.

“Our ability to maintain our national security is in fact dependent on the economy,” Biden said.

The vice president noted in one interview that he had met with “every one of the groups” that had won portions of the vote in the parliamentary elections and said “I am absolutely convinced they are near the ability” of forming a government.

Asked what the administration envisions for the troubled U.S. economy, the vice president replied: “A continuation of what we’re doing now, which is to stimulate the economy, which is to continue to focus on infrastructure by giving tax breaks to small businesses.”

“I just hope we begin to focus more on job creation,” Biden said, and he urged Republicans to stop delaying tactics on legislation aimed at creating jobs.

On Iraq, Biden was asked what contingency plans the administration has in the event violence spikes after the troop withdrawal has been completed.

“We have a written agreement with the Iraqi government, signed by George W. Bush, binding President Barack Obama to withdraw all troops by the end of next year,” he said. ” … We still have 50,000 troops in place who can shoot straight, who are totally capable of combat if that became necessary in the interim.”

“But we have faith that the Iraqi troops who our sacrifices have allowed to be trained are in fact ready and will be increasingly able to supply total security to this country by the end of next year,” Biden added.

With the pullout of combat troops, fewer than 50,000 American servicemen and women remain in Iraq, down from more than 165,000 who were based there at the height of the fighting. Although the administration has said the end of the combat role signals a new era in U.S. involvement, there is no assurance the fighting has ended, even though the troops still there will have mostly an advisory and trainintg role for Iraqi forces.

In his prime-time speech Tuesday night, Obama declared the end to the U.S. combat role in Iraq after seven long years of war.

“It’s time to turn the page,” he said from the Oval Office.

Fiercely opposed to the war from the start, he said the United States “has paid a huge price” to give Iraqis the chance to shape their future — a cost that now includes more than 4,400 troops dead, tens of thousands more wounded and hundreds of billions of dollars spent.

In a telling sign of the domestic troubles weighing on the United States and his own presidency, Obama turned much of the emphasis in a major war address to the dire state of U.S. joblessness. He said the Iraq war had stripped America of money needed for its own prosperity, and he called for an economic commitment at home to rival the grit and purpose of a military campaign.

Biden was interviewed on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” and NBC’s “Today” program.

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