Hillary Clinton Wants Us To Harken To How Sincerely Biden Talks About Women’s Rights

We’re happy to oblige.

Win McNamee/Getty Images
President Trump and Secretary Clinton debate on October 19, 2016 at Las Vegas. Win McNamee/Getty Images

“Mr. Biden is one of the most empathetic leaders we’ve ever had. Listen to how sincerely he talks about women’s rights . . .” So writes Hillary Clinton in this morning’s Times in a piece about how she’s going to watch the Biden-Trump debate on Thursday. She notes that she is the only person to have debated both men. She neglects, though, an astounding example of how Mr. Biden talks about women — when he’s in private.

A glimpse of that was offered by Richard Holbrooke, who is now gone, alas, but who once encountered Mr. Biden, then vice president, in the White House. The encounter is reported in the book “Our Man,” by George Packer. Mr. Holbrooke fell into a private conversation with Mr. Biden. Mr. Packer quotes what Mr. Holbrooke said when he brought up Mrs. Clinton’s concern about abandoning women in Afghanistan.

“When I mentioned the women’s issue,” Mr. Packer quotes Mr. Holbrooke as relating, “Mr. Biden erupted. Almost rising from his chair, he said, ‘I am not sending my boy back there to risk his life on behalf of women’s rights, it just won’t work, that’s not what they’re there for.’” We’ve quoted this in an earlier editorial. Holbrooke tried to outline the position he and Secretary of State Clinton had taken, but Mr. Biden would have none of it.

Mr. Packer quotes Holbrooke as relating that Mr. Biden “thought it was bullshit, and this spiraled into a much larger discussion concerning the whole course of what would happen, and this was quite extraordinary. Joe took the position, plain and simple, that we have to get out of Afghanistan.” Mr. Biden, in the Packer/Holbrooke telling, warned that “we’re facing a debacle politically” and that Afghanistan “could pull us down.”

Mr. Biden insisted that America had to be on its way out of Afghanistan, “that we had to do what we did in Vietnam.” This, Mr. Packer quotes Holbrooke as saying, “shocked me and I commented immediately that I thought we had a certain obligation to the people who had trusted us.” Replied Mr. Biden: “Fuck that, we don’t have to worry about that.” Holbrooke quotes Mr. Biden as adding: “We did it in Vietnam.” 

We first reprised that exchange in an editorial called “Afghanistan and Vietnam,” which was issued in 2021. Our intention is not to embarrass Mrs. Clinton. On the contrary, it’s to mark the way her aide, Richard Holbrooke, captured the shockingly hypocritical self-righteousness of Mr. Biden. That is one of the things out for which we’ll be watching Thursday evening, when Messrs. Biden and Trump go at it in the glare of national debate.

Afghanistan, of course, was not about only women’s rights. The Taliban’s barbaric treatment of women, though, was an issue and was, at least under President George W. Bush, a strategic war aim. If the matter comes up in debate, it wouldn’t surprise if Mr. Biden were to try to blame Mr. Trump for having entered talks with the Taliban in the first place. It was Mr. Biden, in any event, who caved in the end, dooming a new generation of women to oppression.

The New York Sun

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