ABC News' Jake Tapper and Matt Jaffe report: After cancelling an appearance in Pittsburgh’s Labor Day parade Monday morning because “today shouldn’t be a day for national politics” due to the onrushing Hurricane Gustav, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., returned home to his Scranton birthplace and talked national politics for an hour with local supporters.
“I’m only going to say one thing political,” said Barack Obama's vice-presidential nominee Biden at the start of a backyard cook-out at his childhood home. “I promise you that people say to me, what’s Barack like? You know, what’s he like? I mean, what’s the deal Joe? I promise you, my word as a Biden, if Barack grew up in our neighborhood like he did in Kansas being raised by his grandparents, if he grew up here being raised by his grandparents, he’d have been our friend. He’d cover your back. He’d be the same guy who’d meet the standard. This was about nobody backs down in this neighborhood. Nobody backed down. And that’s Barack Obama.”
But one thing political turned into two, then three, then an hour of political conversation with local guests, covering topics from the economy to Iran to oil to Iraq, issues on which Obama and Biden's Republican opponent Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is “way behind the curve" according to the Delaware lawmaker.
“We will end this war as responsibly as it was started irresponsibly. We will bring our combat troops home,” said Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, noting that Republicans don’t attack him on foreign policy because they think he’s “a big expert.”
“The only guy in America in a position of some authority who is out of sync with the whole rest of the world is John McCain. This administration, the Iraqis, NATO, the Europeans, our friends around the world, the vast majority of the American people, the Democratic-controlled Congress, Republicans in Congress - they all agree. Barack Obama was right, and John McCain was wrong.”
The conversation then turned to the high cost of oil, providing another topic on which Biden could hammer the presumptive Republican nominee.
“John proposes to drill. Drill, drill, drill. I'm not opposed to drilling. But I want to say to my friends on the other side, I'll prepare to support drilling off-shore and even take some risks with our environment if you guarantee me that that oil, which by the way, is our oil. You own that oil. The American people own the Continental Shelf. The oil companies don't own it. We own that oil. We own that oil in Alaska. We own that oil in the Gulf. So I have no problem. Go ahead and drill.”
More drilling is fine, Biden cautioned, so long as the oil ends up being sold in America at fair prices."When John says "drill, drill, drill," that's our way out – your problem isn't drilling, your problem is the cost of oil,” Biden told the small crowd, which included Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Sen. Bob Casey, a fellow Scranton native.
The McCain campaign quickly hit back at Biden for his "political attacks" at a time when the hurricane was bearing down on the Gulf Coast.
"While John McCain has called upon Americans to serve and assist our fellow citizens in the Gulf states, Barack Obama's own running mate, Joe Biden, clearly has no limits when it comes to political attacks," said McCain spokesman Ben Porritt. "Either Barack Obama's claims of bipartisanship are empty or he is unable to control his running mate."
Before Biden spoke at the cook-out, he went inside the residence at 2446 N. Washington St. to visit the Green Ridge neighborhood home where he lived until age 11. “I am home, Joe Biden, 9.1.08," he wrote on the wall of a third-floor bedroom. “If my father were here, he’d smack me,” he said afterwards.But it was Biden who jokingly threatened voters in attendance today who, he said, better vote for his running mate or else…
“If I come back up here after this election and I find you didn’t vote for him,” he warned. “You’re gonna have me to answer to on Dimmick Avenue.”
But those street-fights can wait until November. For today, Scranton’s favorite son, along with his 91-year old mother Jean, was back home.
“My mom and I are more pleased to be here than you’ll know," Biden said. "This makes a lie of the famous book “You Can Never Go Home Again”. We’re home again.”