Monday, August 25, 2008


*shrug* Eh, what do I know?

I have to admit, this seems to me a very strange choice. I will give him this: Biden brings foreign policy experience, one would think more than McCain. He lends a little gravitas to the campaign. He has a humanizing personal tragedy (not to trivialize his experience, obviously, but our immediate concern is the electoral calculation). He has a reputation as a "straight talker," and it's a fairly well justified reputation (certainly moreso than John McCain's). Most of all, Biden has the experience and the connections, the "what you know" and "who you know," to be effective in a leadership and/or advisory role in an administration, which admittedly does speak to Obama's seriousness about picking someone would help him be a great president, and not just someone who will help him pick up a demographic here or a state there. The fact that he didn't go for the old "pick a guy from a swing state" canard also speaks to his judgment.

So why am I not enthused about this choice? Here are a couple of reasons: Biden ran in the primary and was a dismal failure, garnering about 1% of the Iowa vote despite having as much experience holding a federal office--35 years-- as all 4 candidates who beat him combined. In fact, were it not for Bill Richardson's 3rd place finish, who served 18 years in the House and in various Clinton Administration positions, Joe Biden would have twice as much experience as the people who beat him in Iowa combined. No matter what anyone says about his abilities in "retail politics," the fact is that, when he makes a foray into the primary marketplace, people admit that they kinda like him, but nobody buys.

Joe Biden doesn't fit very well with Obama's message of change. He's a long time Senator who's run for president multiple times before. He is a regular on all the news shows when they want a hoary old Democrat to counter a hoary old Republican. I'd mentioned once before that the optimal VP pick would be someone who is not perceived as part of: a) the Washington establishment, or b) the upper eschelons of the Democratic Party, and Joe is associated with both.

Biden is a loose cannon in debates, the very opposite of, say, Clinton's disciplined, measured, and highly effective approach. Biden likes to give memorable, unconventional answers and deliver lots of zingers, but he has a bit of a tin ear. Thus you get a guy who coined the devastating anti-Rudy "a noun, a verb, and 9/11" line, but also one of the few politicians to fall face first into the trap of using racial stereotypes to compliment Obama ("clean and articulate"). And should we forget his bizarre decision to berate one of the citizen questioners in the Youtube debate?

Say what you will about the assault weapons ban, this was perhaps the oddest, most uncomfortable moment in the entire debate.

And then there are his votes, specifically this one and this one (on the latter, he also personally fought to sink any ameliorating amendments, thus earning the nickname "Joe Biden (D-MBNA)"). Barack has made those 2 bills Exhibits A and B of his case that merely switching parties is insufficient for making transformative change.

But again, what do I know?

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