Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Indispensable Voice

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 389

There aren't words - and believe me, every one of us with a keyboard and an internet connection, or a typewriter, or a pen and paper, have spent hours today trying to come up with some - to describe the utter chaos, hopelessness and despair arising from today's assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Such incidents have occurred in our own country, decades past, and we are still dealing with the after effects.

There are some leaders who speak to their people in a voice heard but once in a generation. For Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto was one of these. She was human, with vices as well as virtues, blindness as well as vision. But at this moment in history, her voice was indispensable, and, echo though it may in time to come, its absence now dooms her country to turmoil and the wider world to further uncertainty.

Here at home, far away in America, and, as it can often seem, farther away still in Iowa, these events strike at a pivotal moment in our own process of choosing our next leader. This is a somber and sobering moment, calling for leadership, and wisdom, and sound judgment. And, most inconveniently for many of us here in Iowa, it troubles our assumptions, our inclinations and our decisions exactly one week before we're required to render the first binding judgment on the field of candidates seeking to lead us in these times.

To those of us confronting our choices in light of these events, I commend to you Joe Biden, and his statements and bearing at a press conference in Des Moines today addressing the situation in Pakistan. The clip below is about twelve minutes long, but more than worth the investment of your time in watching.

What makes this clip extraordinary is that it marks but the latest chapter in Joe Biden's deep engagement on Pakistan, going back not weeks or months, but years. He knows Pakistan's leaders and the issues confronting them, and as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has long worked to help the people of Pakistan regain their democracy. Biden is not, by any means, the only candidate in this race who has given thought to Pakistan, but he is, perhaps, the only one who has been obliged to reckon with it as a regular part of his day job.

Pakistan has lost an indispensable voice today. In America, Joe Biden is an indispensable voice of our own. I don't know what the future, political or otherwise, holds. I don't know if my hopes will be fulfilled and Joe Biden will be elected president. But I do know we are all the stronger for his running, all the wiser for his speaking, and all the braver for his courage. Joe Biden is the indispensable American voice in these times.

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