Vice President Joe Biden has stirred up controversy again over something he said, which, his spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff asserts, he didn’t really mean to say. On August 21st Biden was in China giving a speech to Chinese leaders. In response to a question about that nation’s one-child policy, the V.P. said, “Your policy has been one which I fully understand—I'm not second-guessing.” He then added that the policy was economically unsustainable. On Tuesday, Mitt Romney’s camp issued a statement saying that “Biden should have condemned it in the strongest possible terms. There can be no defense of a government that engages in compulsory sterilization and forced abortions in the name of population control.” In response to the criticism, Biden’s office issued its own statement, “The Obama administration strongly opposes all aspects of China’s coercive birth limitation policies, including forced abortion and sterilization. The Vice President believes such practices are repugnant.” But this hasn’t stopped the GOP from blasting Biden for supporting China’s “gruesome and barbaric” one-child policy, which was adopted 30 years ago. China’s policy limits most couples to one child, with exceptions made for rural families and for couples whose first child is a girl. Many couples willingly follow the rule, but coercion is common. And couples who break the law face fines or joblessness. Whether Biden supports the policy or not, the kerfuffle begs many questions. Do lawmakers routinely say one thing in one country, and something else altogether upon returning home? Is that diplomacy or duplicity? If Biden does support or “understand” China’s policy, is it right or wrong for him to say so? And moral questions aside, is China’s policy economically unsustainable?
Doyle McManus, Washington Columnist, covering national and international politics, Los Angeles Times