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Publish Date: 9/11/2005

Biden: We need better leadership
Senator blasts Bush at Longmont speech

LONGMONT — U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden came to Boulder County on Saturday to blast the Bush administration’s responses to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, its handling of the war in Iraq and its reaction to Hurricane Katrina.

Even so, “I am an optimist,” said Biden, a Delaware Democrat considered a possible contender for his party’s presidential nomination in 2008.

“I am still incredibly optimistic about the prospects for this country,” Biden said, even on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks and the more recent tragedy on the Gulf Coast.

However, America’s best chance of achieving the future it deserves is with Democratic leadership, Biden told a gathering at the Radisson Conference Center.

Biden’s audience — about 500 people attending the Boulder County Democratic Party’s $100- a-head 30th annual Truman Dinner — greeted the senator’s criticisms of the Republican White House and GOP-controlled Congress with enthusiasm.

Biden said that after both 9/11, “a terrorist-made catastrophe,” and Hurricane Katrina, “a natural catastrophe,” he saw “the immediate, spontaneous and ungrudging response of the American people.

“We need leadership as good as our people, and we don’t have it,” Biden said.

Biden related reports of the hurricane aftermath from his family members, who said carloads of people from around country were showing up with water, medicine and clothing — “and they got there before FEMA,” the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Biden questioned whether the administration will stick with what he called “its new-found commitment” to post-hurricane relief and recovery efforts, which the senator predicted will cost as much as $250 billion.

After 9/11, Biden said, one of Bush’s initial public responses was to advise Americans “to fly and go to the mall” in the wake of those terrorist attacks.

Biden told Boulder County Democratic officeholders and activists that after Katrina struck, the president made a point of congratulating FEMA director Michael Brown for the job Brown was doing.

“And so, ladies and gentlemen, after arriving late in the face of obvious mismanagement” in response to the hurricane, “after seeing the devastation several years ago in New York, this president had the opportunity and has an opportunity to summon an America united in a way that it hasn’t been united since he’s been president,” Biden said.

The senator asked his audience to imagine what the White House’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks would have been had the president been either Franklin Delano Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy, both Democrats, “or even Ronald Reagan,” a Republican.

Biden suggested that any of those presidents might have convened a meeting of the world’s leaders “to determine on a joint venture how we’re going to deal with the rise of radical Islamic fundamentalism.”

Biden further said he thought any of those presidents would have immediately gone to Congress “to deliver an energy package to free us from the iron grip of the oligarchy” controlling the sources of oil.

Biden charged that Bush, by contrast, “said that we’re going to engage in a long-term war against terror. And, by the way, here’s the biggest tax cut in the history of America.”

John Fryar can be reached by e-mail at jfryar@times-call.com.

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