Joe Biden: America's reassurer-in-chief

Anyone notice how you can describe almost any international trip by the vice president with the following madlib: "Vice President Joe Biden traveled to [U.S. ally] to reassure leaders that they had not been abandonded despite [larger foreign-policy priority.]"?

Check out these examples from the New York Times:

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. left Washington on Tuesday for a three-day swing through Eastern Europe, hoping to reassure NATO allies that the United States has not abandoned them despite the decision to reshape a planned missile defense system.

-Peter Baker, Oct. 20

Wrapping up a diplomatic mission to Baghdad, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Iraqi leaders told him privately that they feared President Obama had pushed Iraq “to the bottom of the shelf” to make way for other, more pressing concerns like the war in Afghanistan.

But, Mr. Biden said, he reassured them that was not the case.

-Sheryl Gay Stolberg, July 5

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will travel to Ukraine and Georgia after President Obama visits Moscow next month in a trip designed to reassure Russia’s embattled neighbors that the new administration will not abandon them as it seeks to improve ties with the Kremlin.

 -Peter Baker, June 22.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived here for a seven-hour visit on Friday to assure Lebanese leaders that the sovereignty of this small but strategic Middle Eastern state would not be sacrificed in any future regional peacemaking efforts.

-Robert F. Worth, May 22

Mr. Biden met with top Bosnian leaders on Tuesday, on the first day of a trip through the Balkans that is intended to draw attention to the unfinished business in the region and the Obama administration’s commitment to helping the countries move beyond their recent history of violence and into the European mainstream.

The Balkans all but fell off the American agenda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. “We are back,” Mr. Biden said. “We will stand with you.”


-Nicholas Kulish, May 19.

Kulish loses some points for not using the word "reassure," but we'll cut him some slack since it was early in the adminsitration.  

It does make one wonder, at what point are U.S. allies no longer going to be reassured when Biden shows up?

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Why are scientists such bad spies?

It appears astrophysics isn't a good prerequisite for espionage. Hot off the heels of this month's arrest of an alleged al-Qaeda operative at the CERN lab, a U.S. scientist was brought down yesterday for trying to sell state secrets to Israel.

Stewart David Nozette, third from the left in the photo, once had top security clearance during his tenure with both the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA. While he worked in the George H.W. Bush administration, he had access to top secret and secret information about U.S. satellites. When approached by an undercover FBI agent, he offered to spill this information if Israeli intelligence could pony up the cash. (The sting's details are here)

The Department of Justice says Israel is in no way implicated in the sting, however Politico points out that Nozette said he expected to be contacted by Mossad at some point, and his former company, Israel Aircraft Industries, has had several employees charged with espionage.

In a statement, Nozette said he thought he was already working for Israeli intelligence while employed by Israel Aircraft Industries, as he thought they were a front. He will be in court today; if convicted, he could face life in prison.

These recent scientist-turned-spy stories remind one of when the two professions interfaced seamlessly.

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