Read Stephen's bio and previous columns


August 25, 2008

Joe Biden: Obama Makes the Right Choice


The text finally came Saturday morning, and with it the news that Barack Obama had chosen Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware as his vice-presidential running mate. A controversial choice, to be sure, but I believe it’s the right one.


Why was Biden chosen? He neutralizes many of Obama’s weaknesses, especially experience and foreign policy expertise. He’s an authoritative orator who can speak well, debate well and bring gravitas when attacking the opposition. In nearly four decades in the Senate, Biden has seen it all, and brings to the ticket a lifetime of perspective on all questions of politics and policy.


Elected to the U.S. Senate at the age of 29 in 1972, Biden suffered the tragedy of the deaths of his wife and young daughter shortly after arriving in Washington. He remained in the Senate, eventually becoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and after 2006 assumed the chairmanship of the crucial Foreign Relations Committee. His son, Beau, is not only the state attorney general of Delaware, but is a member of the Delaware Army National Guard, and is scheduled to deploy to Iraq this fall.


Through this service, Biden has emerged as perhaps the most respected foreign policy voice among all Democratic elected officials.


When Obama introduced Biden at the statehouse in Springfield, Illinois on Saturday, the appeals to working-class voters were clear, and this represents another key rationale of the pick. A native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Biden has “regular guy” credentials that could help neutralize the inevitable “elitist” charge. One of the advantages of being a “career politician” is that Biden never had any sort of private-sector career, and actually has the lowest net worth of any of the 100 U.S. senators.


Yes, Biden has a history of bizarre, out-of-place comments, as well as that pesky speech “plagiarism” scandal that derailed his 1988 presidential bid. But keep this in mind: In almost 40 years of public life, Biden has never been accused of any personal misconduct (affairs, etc.), nor any type of corruption or self-dealing. He’s remarkably clean for a politician from the Northeast with that long a career.


Sure, he’ll be turned by the GOP into a millionaire far leftist, even though he isn’t either. But Biden is uniquely able to rebut that sort of baseless, counterfactual attack.


And besides, Biden’s quotes can be immensely entertaining. In all of the 40-some presidential debates, his joke about Rudy Giuliani putting “a noun, a verb and 9/11” in every sentence was probably the most memorable moment. And you have to love a politician who once told reporters that he might not run for president because “I would rather go home to Delaware and make love to my wife.”


Is this pick a “slap in the face” to Hillary Clinton and her supporters? As one liberal blogger put it a week ago, “no matter who Obama chooses as his running mate, it will be a slap in the face.” An Obama/Clinton ticket, with its constant infighting and intrigue, would’ve been a disaster. The other finalists, Evan Bayh, Tim Kaine, Kathleen Sebelius and Chet Edwards, all had their merits – but none bring the positive intangibles of Biden.


What are the arguments against the pick? Biden will not likely deliver any particular state (Delaware is as solidly blue as any state in the union), and he never caught fire in either of his presidential runs. He supported the authorization of the Iraq War – albeit while pushing an alternate resolution – while Obama opposed it. He’s likely to make the occasional gaffe between now and November, and it can’t help him that his past criticism of Obama – starting with the “clean and articulate” comment – has already begun appearing in McCain ads.


Regardless, I believe Biden’s assets as a vice-presidential pick clearly outweigh his demerits, and that Barack Obama made the best choice possible.  


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is Column # SS116. Request permission to publish here.

Op-Ed Writers
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Gregory D. Lee
David B. Livingstone
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jamie Weinstein
Feature Writers
Mike Ball
Bob Batz
The Laughing Chef
David J. Pollay
Business Writers
Cindy Droog
D.F. Krause