Biden: Get serious about Pakistan

Joe Biden, speaking at Saint Anselm College today, criticized President Bush's handling of Pakistan's constitutional crisis, faulting what he called unenlightened leadership. He said the next American president has no room for error in foreign policy and promised, if elected, to rebuild America's moral standing in the world.

Biden said the administration has supported General Pervez Musharraf with too few conditions. He also faulted Bush for taking four days to speak with Musharraf, after the general suspended the constitution Saturday, arresting thousands of lawyers, human rights activists and political opponents.

In fact, Biden said, he spoke with Musharraf before the president did. Biden said he told the general in no uncertain terms that he needed to hold elections, as scheduled, in January, step down as head of the military and restore the constitution as soon as possible. He told the group gathered at Saint Anselm's that the United States needed to increase its non-military funding of Pakistan, to build schools and lasting aid, rather than talk about invading Iran. Pakistan already has nuclear weapons, he reminded the audience, and is home to a larger population than Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea combined.

"This is a time for genuine diplomacy," he said. "That's what good presidents do."

UPDATE: The text of Biden's speech is here.

- Ethan Wilensky-Lanford