Before Arab audience, Biden talks about 'nasty' US campaign

AP News
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Posted: Mar 08, 2016 7:02 AM
Before Arab audience, Biden talks about 'nasty' US campaign

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Speaking before an Arab audience in this country governed by sheikhs, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden offered his views Tuesday on the "petty, venal and mean" politics in America ahead of the November presidential election.

Biden, a Democrat, blamed gerrymandered congressional districts "where the Lord Almighty could not defeat a Republican" for pushing the GOP toward increasingly more conservative candidates.

Today, Biden told young Emiratis gathered in Dubai, that means the party offers candidates who say they are going "waterboard people ... and indiscriminately carpet-bomb," an oblique reference to leading Republican candidate Donald Trump.

"If Ronald Reagan were alive today, he could no more get the nomination of the Republican Party than I can get the nomination," Biden said. "I'm not joking. So what you see is this movement to the extreme in the Republican Party."

Those gathered to listen to Biden, a mix of young Emirati men and women identified by local leaders as innovators, quietly listened and laughed at times to the vice president's more than hour-long talk. The meeting took place in Emirates Towers, a few floors above the offices of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the United Arab Emirates' vice president and prime minister.

None followed up to ask about Trump's most-explosive comment for those living in the Gulf — his December statement in which he suggested banning Muslims from traveling to the United States. Already, that's seen angry denunciations in the region of the GOP front-runner, whose name adorns a golf housing estate project on the outskirts of the futuristic city, home to the world's tallest building.

The United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven individual emirates, slowly has widened the role of an elected Federal National Council. However, the council serves mainly an advisory role. The country's president is the ruler of oil-rich Abu Dhabi and there has been no widespread dissent in this nation following the 2011 Arab Spring.

Biden went on to discuss "all this chaos" caused by the Republican presidential candidates who have "gone overboard."

"The problem with American politics today is that it has become so petty, so mean," he said. "The American public are not going to let it stand."

The Emirates is one of the most important U.S. military and political allies in the Persian Gulf. Biden visited the country's Al-Dhafra Air Base on Monday, which hosts U.S. and Emirati troops battling the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

The Emirates also hosts regional offices for numerous American companies in industries including aerospace, energy, technology and hospitality. Dubai state-owned airline Emirates is the largest operator of Chicago-based Boeing Co.'s 777 wide-body jet.

Despite those close ties, the Emirates and Saudi Arabia remain concerned about Shiite power Iran's influence across the region following the deal it struck with world powers including the U.S. over its contested nuclear program. Saudi and Emirati troops are now fighting in Yemen against Shiite rebels there.

Biden met with both Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on the trip. In both discussions, "terrorism" came up, according to the state-run WAM news agency, which often serves as a nod toward Iran's activities in the region by the Gulf's Sunni-ruled nations.

Biden is set to visit Israel, the West Bank and Jordan as well on his trip.

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap .