National Press Club

Biden and Obama Speeches in NPC Archives

August 28, 2008

The Club is where news happens, and sometimes "old news" is important to "new news." Sen. Joe Biden's luncheon speech on Sept. 10, 2001, is a case in point.

In speaking about the missile defense system, Biden said:

"Sure, we'll do all we can to defend ourselves against any threat -- nobody denies that -- but even the joint chiefs says that a strategic nuclear attack is less likely than a regional conflict, a major theater war, terrorist attacks at home or abroad, or any number of other real issues. We'll have diverted all that money to address the least likely threat, while the real threat comes to this country in the hold of a ship, the belly of a plane, or smuggled into a city in the middle of the night in a vile in a backpack. And I ask you, if you want to do us damage, are you more likely to send a missile you're not sure can reach us, with a biological or chemical weapon because you don't have the throw weight to put a nuclear weapon on it, and no one's anticipating that in the near term, with a return address saying "it came from us, here's where we are"? Or, are you more likely to put somebody with a backpack crossing the border from Vancouver down to Seattle, or coming up the New York Harbor with a rusty old ship with an atom bomb sitting in the hull? Which are you more likely to do? And what defense do we have against those other things.

"Watch these hearings we're about to have. We don't have, as the testimony showed, a public health infrastructure to deal with the existing pathogens that are around now, we don't have the investment, the capability to identify or deal with an anthrax attack. We do not have, as ambassador to Japan now, Howard Baker, and his committee said, the ability to curtail the availability of chemical weapons lying around the Soviet Union -- the former Soviet Union and Russia -- because they don't know what to do with it. They showed us a report where they showed us photographs of things that look like outhouses, clapboard -- clapboard buildings with no windows and padlocks on the door, that have been many chemical weapons in that building, could destroy the bulk of the East Coast, and we're not spending the money to help them corral and destroy that in the name of this search. The cost estimate was $30 billion over 10 years in this bipartisan commission and it was listed as the most urgent threat to the United States of America."

Interested in more? See the full transcript in the "members only" section of the web site. You can find Biden's speech as well as an April 26, 2006, luncheon speech by Barack Obama.