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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
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
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
make love to my wife.”
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
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