Vice President-elect Joe Biden is worried about the “exceedingly high expectations” the world community has for Barack Obama’s presidency.
He believes he and Obama must follow through with action to show how they’re different than George W. Bush, Biden told CNN’s Larry King Monday.
“I have been contacted by so many world leaders. Their expectation for Barack’s presidency is overwhelming,” Biden said. “They are so hungry to have an American leader who they think has a policy that reflects our stated values as well as one they can talk to.”
At the same time, Biden expressed sympathy for Bush over the Baghdad shoe-throwing incident – a day after Biden and Vice President Dick Cheney traded shots on the Sunday shows.
“I feel somewhat badly for him,” Biden said. “I think the incident in Iraq was – was unfortunate, that guy throwing the shoes. It was just uncalled for . . .and I think that President Bush and, unlike Vice President Cheney, is, upon reflection beginning to acknowledge some of the serious, if not mistakes, misjudgments that he made.”
Still, Biden made clear Obama must make a clean break with Bush polices past, starting with shutting down the U.S. terror prison at Guantanamo Bay, Biden said. He said Greg Craig, Obama’s incoming White House counsel, and other members of Obama’s team are working on a strategy for closing Gitmo.
“We’re in the process of drawing up plans right now,” Biden said. “It’s going to be complicated to do it. It’s going to take more than a few months. But close it we must.”
But Biden also signaled that there might be some flexibility in another key Obama campaign promise that world leaders are watching closely, bringing home troops from Iraq. Biden said troops would be out “within the next two years” — longer than President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign promise of within 16 months but “in the same ballpark,” Biden said.
He said Obama would have troops out more quickly than the Bush administration’s agreement with the Iraqi government, which calls for troop withdrawal by 2011.
One of the reasons for troop withdrawal in Iraq is because more combat forces are needed in Afghanistan, Biden said.
In the Middle East, Biden said an Obama administration is “going to invest every bit of capital we have in trying to bring about peace.”
Biden also discussed a range of topics:
• He said Illinois Gov. Rod Blagoyevich seems pretty guilty and should go. “I know in our system you are innocent until proven guilty, but those tapes that were released by the special prosecutor, excuse me, by the U.S. attorney seem incredibly, incredibly incriminating,” Biden said. “It’s a decision for the people of Illinois to make the legislature of Illinois to make, but from where I sit he looks like a guy who is not capable of governing.”
• Biden said he and Sen. John McCain are “still close.” “John has been incredibly graceful,” Biden said. “He is my friend.”
• Obama is committed to equality for gays and lesbians, despite his selection of Rick Warren to give the inaugural convocation, Biden said.
• Of Gov. Sarah Palin, Biden said when he met her earlier this month at the meeting of the nation’s governors he found “she’s a really likeable person.” “I’m confident that she has a future,” he said.
• Biden said he was one of two running mates Obama had narrowed down to before the formal announcement in August, but declined to disclose who he thinks the other person was.
• Michelle Obama might beg to differ, but Biden said the vice presidential residence “is very unlike the White House in the sense that it’s a very livable residence.” He said he and his wife, Jill, are looking forward to using it “as a place to try to bring people together.”