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Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan October 17, 2007
SUMMARY: Gov. Bill Richardson is taking one of the hardest lines on getting the U.S. out of Iraq, which lately has meant criticizing a withdrawl proposal he once said had potential.

New Mexico's Richardson and Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware may be lagging behind the Democratic frontrunners, but they recently got into an interesting tussle over their positions on Iraq.

A little background first:

Richardson has tried to break away from the Democratic front-runners by positioning himself as the most aggressive candidate on withdrawal from Iraq. One of his campaign web sites – – is devoted to promoting his position for a fast withdrawal, leaving behind no residual troops. It even features a chart comparing himself to other Democrats who want a slower approach.

On October 12, 2007, Richardson released a statement attacking Biden's plan for Iraq. The centerpiece of Biden's proposal is a negotiated peace between Iraq's Sunnis, Shias and Kurds that includes a decentralized government so each group has a measure of autonomy within their regions. Richardson attacked that point along with Biden's proposal to leave about 20,000 troops behind to help manage things. Richardson's statement said in part:

"No settlement or political agreement can be reached until we get all our troops out of Iraq, with no residual forces left behind. Senator Biden's plan to leave troops in Iraq means his plan has very little chance to succeed. … Hastily devised, foreign imposed partitions have had catastrophic results in the past."

(Read Richardson's entire statement here .)

Richardson's attack came just months after Richardson publicly praised the very same Biden plan during a Democratic debate and an interview.

So, Biden hit Richardson that same day with a charge of flip-flopping:

"Governor Richardson's remarks today on my Iraq plan were surprising. First, he was in favor of my plan, now he's attacking it. First, he said he would take all of our troops out in six months, and now he acknowledges it would take a year. First, he said he would leave residual forces in Iraq, and now he says he wouldn't. … I suggest that Governor Richardson go back and review his record and statements and reconsider today's remarks."

(Read Biden's statement here. )

We can't fact-check Richardson's claim about what might happen in Iraq if Biden's plan is implemented. (For our previous examination of Biden's plan, click here. )

But we can look at Biden's charges against Richardson. His claims of Richardson flip-flopping seem to hit close to the mark.

• Richardson has praised Biden's plan specifically at least twice before attacking it.

• Richardson has stopped using the specific time frame of six months for withdrawal, though he does say withdrawal should take place in months, not years, and it should happen "as quickly as they can safely exit the country."

• Richardson suggested before entering the race for president that a residual force should be left in Iraq. He now says as a point of distinction from the fieild that no residual forces should be left behind.

Both Biden and Richardson lag significantly in the polls – an October 2007 USA Today/Gallup Poll found Richarson at 4 percent and Biden at 3 percent, compared with the frontrunners of Hillary Clinton at 50 percent, Barack Obama at 21 percent and John Edwards at 13 percent.

But Biden and Richardson also both have solid foreign policy credentials. Biden is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Richardson was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under the Bill Clinton administration. Political speculation says that either could earn a place on the foreign policy team of a Democratic president. Their argument over Iraq is definitely campaign politics, but it showcases their policy positions Iraq as well.

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Our Sources

Bill Richardson campaign website, Richardson: No way forward in Iraq unless all troops are withdrawn, Oct. 12, 2007.

Joe Biden campaign web site, Statement on Richardson's "Irresponsible" Position on Iraq, Oct. 12, 2007.

ABC News, Democratic Debate Transcript, Aug. 19, 2007.

Christian Science Monitor, The Monitor Breakfast: Bill Richarson, Sept. 27, 2006.

Bill Richardson campaign website, Richardson: No way forward in Iraq unless all troops are withdrawn, Oct. 12, 2007.

Joe Biden campaign web site, Statement on Richardson's "Irresponsible" Position on Iraq, Oct. 12, 2007.

Richardson campaign website,

Boston Globe, How to Withdraw Safely and Quickly, by Lawrence J. Korb and Max A. Bergmann, Sept. 9, 2007.

CNN, CNN/YouTube Debate Transcript, July 23, 2007.

MSNBC , Democratic Debate Transcript, Sept. 26, 2007.

Bill Richardson campaign, The Choice on Iraq YouTube video , Sept. 25, 2007.

Hardball with Chris Matthews Transcript, Oct. 6, 2006.

This Week with George Stephanopoulos Transcript, April 15, 2007.

Bill Richardson campaign website, How do the candidates compare on getting the troops out?

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