Vice President Joe Biden’s speech critiquing former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s foreign policy positions has received a range of responses. Dan Senor, a Romney adviser who served as the spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, commented that Biden offered a “fantasy narrative” of President Obama’s accomplishments. Another Romney foreign policy adviser, Pierre Prosper, charged that, under the Obama administration, “The United States abandoned its missile defense sites in Poland and Czechoslovakia” — of which the latter dissolved nearly 20 years ago after the fall of the U.S.S.R.
But the strangest criticism came from former U.N. ambassador John Bolton who claimed that a laugh-line in Biden’s speech showed that New York University (NYU) students, where the speech was delivered, don’t believe the president is strong on foreign policy. Bolton explained to Fox News’ Greta Van Sustern:
BOLTON: But I thought the best part of it was at one point, trying to appropriate yet another Republican president, Biden said, ‘you have to speak softly and carry a big stick.’ And then he said, ‘I promise you, President Obama has a big stick.’ And the audience broke out laughing, which is some measure of their belief about how assertive Obama is on behalf of our interests internationally.
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, it’s — apparently, that’s also going to — that’s made a couple — a lot of — a lot of jokes, too, on the Internet. It is — apparently, that is something that’s not going to go away, at least for a while, for Vice President Biden, that remark.
BOLTON: Yet another one.
It’s unclear if the NYU audience was laughing at, or with, Biden. The Vice President maintained a dead-pan expression during the brief outbreak of laughter.
Indeed, Van Susteren is correct that the “big stick” comment has generated a great deal of attention, although not all of it negative, on the internet. CBS, ABC, NBC and The Huffington Post all published articles with headlines incorporating the statement “Obama ‘has a big stick,’” in the minutes and hours after the speech was delivered.
The fact that Bolton interpreted the laughter as a critical response to the administration’s foreign policy doctrine is bizarre considering the former U.N. ambassador’s penchant for bellicose rhetoric when describing his domination-focused foreign policy positions. Last summer, Bolton opined that the U.S. “should be squeezing and disciplining Moscow, not caressing it.”