The podium at the front of the room read “A STRONG & SECURE AMERICA.”
It was an appropriate heading, given that the Vice President’s speech at Tishman Auditorium this morning focused on a variety of foreign policy topics, including partnership with Israel, the capture of Osama bin Laden, and the continuing challenges posed by countries like Iran and North Korea.
NYU’s College Democrats hosted the event, and Sara Moe, a campus coordinator with NYU Students for Barack Obama, gave the introduction. In her speech, Moe said that the upcoming election was important “not only for our generation, but for the entire country.”
The room was packed with students and supporters alike, as well as a sizable press contingent. We were grateful for the cozy seating and absence of elbowing; the event wasn’t heavily advertised, and those who came seemed to be there for Biden’s words rather than his celebrity.
Biden took the stage at 10:50, which was 20 minutes later than he was scheduled to appear. He jokingly blamed his tardiness on White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, and made sure to mention that Lew was a former CFO and professor at NYU–a reference made, perhaps, for the crowd’s benefit.
The 45-minute-long speech covered an enormous amount of ground, and discussed everything from Russia to General Motors. Biden continued to hammer home the message of success abroad; he cited the banning of torture, the planned end to missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the successful operation to capture and kill Osama bin Laden as examples. The latter, he said, was a result of “one of the most courageous decisions [he had seen] the President make in his lifetime.”
Biden’s repeated references to bin Laden are well-timed. The anniversary of his capture is next week, and it stands as one of the Obama Administration’s most important accomplishments to date. It’s also one that will no doubt be a centerpiece of his re-election campaign, and Biden used it to drive home the differences between President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. “Nothing,” he said, “speaks more powerfully to the differences between President Obama and Governor Romney…than the hunt for Osama bin Laden.”
Romney, he said, “is stuck in the past.” He noted that the Governor’s foreign policy vision has been “through the glass of a rear-view mirror,” and that his platforms will only “bring us back to dangerous and discredited policies.” Biden was undoubtedly referencing Obama’s predecessor, former President George W. Bush, whose policies, he said, resulted in the mountain of problems Obama was faced with after he took office.
The speech was a strong endorsement of not only the Administration but of Obama himself. “This guy’s got a backbone like a ramrod,” he said, which garnered a laugh from the crowd. Another oft-tweeted line was made in reference to Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “speak softly but carry a big stick” slogan. Biden promised that the President does, in fact, have “a big stick.”
Though the speech was a campaign event, it also drew members from the other side. Loren Oumarova, a sophomore, said that she thought the emphasis upon foreign policy was an interesting choice. “It’s one of the things that the Democrats get a lot of flack for,” she said. Oumarova, who identifies as a Republican, said that the amount of credit the Administration gives itself for bin Laden’s capture was also something she noted. “I think the Bush Administration [also] had a lot to do with it,” she said. Still, she added, Biden did a good job. “He’s a very charismatic speaker,” she said.
Photos by Egle Makaraite