Biden in Plain Sight

Two sets of thoughts on Obama’s selection of Joe Biden as his running mate – more on this to follow:
1. Gaffe-Tastic! The initial gut reaction of essentially every Republican I know was giddiness. Biden’s the most gaffe-prone politician I have ever seen, and if you think about the competition that is a truly impressive accolade. Others have spent more time cataloguing Biden’s taste for his own shoes or the things he has said that are wholly inconsistent with Obama’s message…one thing Obama has going for him, of course, is that it is absolutely impossible for Biden to lose Obama the support of African-American voters if he makes yet another of his famous racially insensitive remarks, which once upon a time brought calls for his head from lefty bloggers. Then there’s his equally famously interminable monologues disguised as questions that anyone who watched the Bork, Thomas, Roberts or Alito hearings remembers well – he has a famous habit of starting sentences without a thought in the world of how he intends to end them. I’ve long described Biden as a sort of Senatorial equivalent to a boy raised by wolves; he entered the Senate at 29 just four years out of law school, and spent all of his 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s surrounded by Senators, and sometimes seems unable to remember how to talk to people who are not Senators. Biden once cracked that a typical Rudy Giuliani sentence was a noun, a verb and 9/11, but a typical Joe Biden sentence starts with “I,” ends with “me” and takes the longest possible route between the two. And sometimes, there’s just….

(H/T) Biden’s uncontrollable mouth is so well known as to be proverbial; as Biden said to John Stewart:

STEWART: “Is there anything in Delaware the Bidens don’t control?”
BIDEN: “Yes, my mouth.”

In a way, Biden is sort of like McCain: he’s unscripted and unpredictable, and you never know what he’s going to say next. Leaving aside the other dissimilarities between the two – more on which below – I’ve noted in the past that this can be a strength of McCain’s…but nobody in his right mind would pick John McCain as a running mate, because you get the downside of his being constantly off-message, off the reservation or just plain off on his own planet, without the upsides.
2. What He Brings To The Table: All that said, Biden’s fiesty speech on Saturday was a good reminder that while he’s a risky pick due to his inability to stop himself from saying silly things, he does bring some benefits to the ticket. Biden’s an affable, likeable guy; McCain likes him, Bush likes him, even I kind of like him. Despite his bouts of impenetrable Senatitis, he at least doesn’t speak in that horrible robotic Hillaryspeak in which every single thing in his life has to be reduced to a trite sermon on public policy, doesn’t use language that’s focus-grouped within an inch of its life, doesn’t talk like he thinks he’s the only guy in the room who finished the fourth grade; this is a major departure for Democrats. He’s likely to play much better with blue-collar white voters than Obama. (The papers stressed Biden’s Scranton birth, but he hasn’t lived in Pennsylvania since 1952; McCain’s lived in Virginia more recently than that).
Obama had a choice of which of his many weaknesses to shore up with his running mate; clearly his main focus was the charge of foreign policy inexperience. Biden really doesn’t have the ideal resume for a presidential candidate – like Obama, he has no executive experience, no military experience, no business experience. But with 36 years in the Senate, nobody seriously doubts that he’d be capable of stepping into the role of Commander-in-Chief at a moment’s notice.
(BTW, the fact that neither Obama nor Biden has really ever had any responsible job other than lawyer and politician is a major reason why McCain may be leaning towards Romney – for all my well-catalogued dislike of Romney as a presidential candidate, the fact is that a McCain-Romney ticket would contrast their extensive military and business backgrounds before politics with two guys who have basically only been lawyers and legislators – see Dean Barnett’s excellent look at Obama’s career. By contrast, I have to think the Biden pick works against Joe Lieberman – not only does it seem crazy for both parties to pick tickets of two Senators given the awful history of Senators in presidential politics and the historic low approval record of Congress, but with Obama picking a safe East Coast blue-stater rather than a guy who scrambles the map, the case for a high-risk choice like Lieberman seems much weaker).
Biden’s also serious about national security, or at least tries to be; he hasn’t tended to fall into the John Kerry habit of reflexively echoing the talking points of America’s enemies. But his judgment in foreign affairs is also notoriously erratic – just on Iraq, while he supported the current Iraq War, he opposed the 1991 Gulf War; he also spent much of the past two years pushing a crackpot plan to carve up Iraq into three separate countries on the model of 1990s Yugoslavia. Biden is, in short, McCain without the very things that make him attractive as a candidate – the strong and consistent view on national security, the military record, the “maverick” reputation (like most veteran Senators, Biden’s worked across the aisle from time to time but he’s basically a conventional liberal and party man).
On the whole, Obama might have done worse; a Tim Kaine pick would have just been flaunting Obama’s inexperience, for example. But Biden doesn’t help sew up a key state and comes with some extremely well-known warning signs; Obama can’t blame anyone else if he loses a few news cycles as a result of Biden’s mouth firing off again accidentally.

25 thoughts on “Biden in Plain Sight”

  1. He may also have difficulty selling himself as a candidate for “change” with a VP who is a career Washington insider. Nevertheless, I’d rather see him pick someone with more experience than make a choice that is entirely election-driven.
    Also, voters who want “change” have already decided to vote for Obama regardless of his VP.

  2. Sorry for the double post – but I had a chance to read “Dean Barnett’s excellent look at Obama’s career.”
    Excellent? Are you kidding? Criticizing Obama because he didn’t work for a big law firm? Who cares?
    And what about this sentence: “He began his U.S. Senate campaign, then, is that 13 years out of law school, he had yet to commit himself to one line of work.”
    What a ridiculous statement and spoken like someone who wants to place someone in the job market and not someone who has any particular skill at judging political candidates. Did it occur to this guy that Obama never -wanted- a full-time career as a lawyer??
    If anything is obvious from Obama’s resume, it is his singular focus on getting elected to office. He eschewed big firm law so he could concentrate on building a constituency and writing a book to get his name out there. That’s it – end of story.
    Come on, Crank, you can do better than quote sources like that.

  3. I think Biden is a good choice, because he really does have foreign policy creds, like say, Richard Lugar. That said, the story of this convention and the campaign after will be the ending of any influence the Clintons have with the Democratic Party.
    I see Hillary’s point of view: she put up with Bill for years, and sees the Oval Office as payment for this type of garbage. So from her point of view, you don’t step aside for an upstart taking from you what you’ve worked years to get. But if this costs Obama the election, she is toast. And if he wins, she is toast anyway. And had she stepped aside months ago, she would still never be named running mate. Funny, she kept Bill, which gave her the sympathy vote, but keeping him around probably hurt her in the long run.
    MVH, candidates have been selling themselves as the change guys since John Adams knew George was pulling out.
    OK, back to is Obama ready? Well, who cares if anyone ever ran or worked in a law office. Sorry Crank, I know you are one, but most of us (and let’s include that somewhat good writer Bill Shakespeare in the mix), don’t care for what you do much. History is full of presidents who don’t wait their “turn.” That’s what makes them presidents. They really believe it’s their destiny. Polk, Lincoln, TR (whom Hanna called that madman), JFK, they honestly believed this was their destiny. Frankly, anyone who wants the job should have their heads examined. Is it worth that much headache to get fed on a plane?

  4. While I’d disagree with Biden on most issues, I am glad to see him as a running mate for Obama. Not only does he bring the silly stuff he says which could help McCain, but if (God forbid) Obama wins then Biden may at least provide a more reasoned approach to foreign policy than the current Obama team. Then again, there’s no telling if Obama would listen to his VP or not. Never know how the relationship will work with any Pres and VP. Some ignore the VP some actively debate stuff in private with the VP. Prior to Nixon being used by IKE most were told to get lost until the Pres dies. Since then (other than LBJ and Agnew) most have been given a project or two and advised the president to varying degrees.
    Completely aside from politics, one frustrating thing about Biden is for an educated man who obviously loves to talk the guy doesn’t know the difference between literally and figuratively. He seems quite fond of the word literally however he uses it frequently when he should be saying figuratively. It is odd that none of his staffers have pointed that out to him.
    Either way, the addition of Biden will make this race more entertaining and the VP debate should be fun to watch. I doubt anyone will be influenced by the VP debate but it will now be interesting regardless.

  5. “Well, who cares if anyone ever ran or worked in a law office. Sorry Crank, I know you are one, but most of us (and let’s include that somewhat good writer Bill Shakespeare in the mix), don’t care for what you do much.”
    Hey now wait a minute! Lawyers are wonderful! Just ask us.

  6. What’s a bus full of lawyers with one empty seat going off a cliff called?
    A crying shame.

  7. If we want to start telling lawyer jokes, I have alot of funny ones! Why have labs shifted from white mice to lawyers?
    1) More lawyers
    2) Lab techs don’t get emotionally attached.
    3) There are some things mice won’t do!
    Anyway, I think Biden is a good choice that McCain would have hoped for. Biden is just as liberal as Obama and (as all pointed out) much more entertaining. As long as McCain doesn’t pick Lieberman; McCain will be able to keep contrasting his positions with Obama. McCain can also point out that Biden is a DC insider so what real change is Obama talking about. I am surprised that Obama did not get more creative. For a “change agent” this is not much of a change.
    Well let’s see what Hillary does at the convention. Will she make a fuss or ride quietly off in the sunset? As a upstated NYer; I wish she would just quit and retire. However no chance of that! She now will need something to do.

  8. “As a upstated NYer; I wish she would just quit and retire. However no chance of that! She now will need something to do.”
    It would be interesting to see if she seeks another Senate term. If not, it will really put the bed the idea that she was -really- interested in representing the people of New York.
    Speaking of lawyer jokes, this one went around my old firm:

  9. “I wish I were mahogany” – That’s hilarious. That’s also obviously extremely old. Note the rotary phone. My phone has 64 buttons.

  10. From an electoral perspective Hillary was the game changer for Obama, although he could do much worse than Biden. The one thing you must admire about obama’s decision, even as a conservative pundit, is that its courageous. He really is saying the Clinton era is over within the Democratic party, and he is doing so to the detriment of his own chances. So much for McCain’s claim that Obama will do/say “anything to get elected”.

  11. OK, if I started the lawyer jokes (well lawyers did, they can’t help it). Actually a true story. Back when I designed corporate interiors and space planning (pays better than architecture), my favorite clients were lawyers. They were so easy, all the same. Same ratio of partners to associates to secretaries to paralegals. The only difference: some wanted a nice library, some a nice board room. Some of course were big enough for both.
    So I really only one thing to know before pencil hit paper (in the days when we used these manual writing widgets): How many PEOPLE in the firm. That’s it, from there I could take it away. Because I never ever ever got the PEOPLE answer. The answer I was given was in ATTORNEYS. So if they really saw everyone as people, I would actually need more info.
    BTW, an attorney is a lawyer for a specific client. Nobody who practices law is an attorney. They are lawyers. And if you don’t know how Ambrose Bierce defined you, well, as you can for Pearl du Monville, you can look it up.
    And I voted for Hillary Clinton for Senate twice, and Bill for President twice. Unless DeWitt comes back to life, no more votes for a Clinton for me.

  12. “My phone has 64 buttons.”
    Not that you counted. 🙂
    A caveat: when you switch from a big firm to a government position, the number of buttons on your phone decreases exponentially, as do its features and reliability. And I miss having a pdf scanner.
    Oh well, at least I can still look down on people.

  13. “The one thing you must admire about obama’s decision, even as a conservative pundit, is that its courageous.” Huh? Courageous?
    OK, aside from the fact that to label something in politics as “courageous” is just silly;because he did not pick Hillary does not even make this even politically courageous. He knew if he pciked her; she and Bill would try to run things. Secondly, he got support from the rest of the party big wigs NOT to pick her.
    I will give the Democrats credit that they are ridding themselves of the Clintons. Now if they could pick a candidate who actually LIKES the USA it would help make our choices harder.

  14. Crank
    I disagree on Mitt’s chances, as evidenced by McCain’s quick trigger ad response to the Biden pick showing the Delaware Senator dismissing Barack as inexperienced during the primaries.
    Would he release that ad and then pick a guy who was trying to scratch his eyes out six months ago?
    A final point: the funniest GOP response to the Biden pick has been the attempts to garner sympathy for Hillary.

  15. no executive experience, no military experience, no business experience
    Sorry to cherrypick from what was an excellent post, Crank, but I’m curious about this. Obviously I understand why “executive experience” is a plus for the “chief executive.”
    But why is either military or business experience somehow a plus or a requirement for the job? Ronald Reagan’s acting experience (because he gave scripted speeches) seemed far more relevant to his job than his lack of biz/military experience.
    (Not sure where his union-head experience fits in though.)

  16. Reagan’s experience as the leader of the Screen Actor’s Guild was significant because he faced death threats by Communists that wanted the union to be run according to their tastes. The threats were so persistent that he carried a small handgun for personal defense. This experience taught him first hand that Communism was evil backed by thuggery and threats of violence, thus he knew what the Soviet Union was all about. Very relevant in my book.
    Business experience is relevant because we live in a highly taxed and regulated environment, so knowing first-hand how difficult it is to produce goods and remain profitable within these constraints is enormously relevant. Otherwise, we end up with Presidents signing legislation that makes continued economic growth extremely difficult. The end result is a schlub like me might be out of a job if my employer is not able to meet regulatory requirements and pay taxes and remain profitable enopugh to pay me too.

  17. NRA – Legitimate points. Not saying I agree, but worth thinking about.
    So where does McCain gain anything on Obama in that picture?
    Not to mention, does “bad” experience in those areas mean anything? Bush was, by all accounts, a supremely poor businessman, failing at nearly every venture. Couldn’t that explain why the economy has faltered? And McCain’s military experience — by his own constant admission — is best reduced to the fact that he was shot down, captured, and imprisoned.
    Does that sort of military experience equate to the commander-in-chiefdom that Crank & friends are so concerned about?

  18. When McCain returned after his imprisonment, following rehab and a return to flight status, he assumed command of VA 174, the largest squadron in the Navy located at NAS Jacksonville. Over 50 planes were grounded at that time due to mechanical failures (endemic to a very demoralized military in 1974). His goal was to get every plane back into flight status and this was achieved through innovation, inspiration and leadership of his command. He still attributes much of the success to the men and women who served under his command, but having been led poorly myself, I assure you that the person at the top counts for much. Under McCain, they set a record for the longest flying hours without an accident (so he must have learned something from his own accidents), and received the first Meritorious Unit Citation ever awarded VA 174.
    This tells me that he has sufficient military experience to be able to effectively lead a large group of people and meet a very difficult goal. An effective leader inspires his command to follow him through difficult times. He assesses the situation, develops a clear plan of action and then finds a way to make it all happen. All in all, it’s more than just being shot down, captured and imprisoned.

  19. OK all you liberals and Democrats stop trying to trivialize McCain’s experience in the military and 20+ years as a Senator to some how make Obama’s non-existent experience seem better than it is.
    Also, don’t try to warp Bush’s experience as a business man and govenor of Texas with your own perception of his performance in office to somehow make such experience (and Obama’s lack of same) seem unimportant.
    Just be straight and say “OK, our guy has no experience for the job as President. So what, we like him!” Come clean!

  20. As a followup, a quick check of the record will show that Obama would have the LEAST experience at the state and national level of any President since Taft . Every president (excluding Eisenhower) since then has at least been a Governor, Senator, or VP.
    Eisenhower, of course, only ran the whole Allied Army in Europe so I hope that counts for something!

  21. NRA – Thanks for the explanation. You may the first person who’s actually taken the time to lay it out, instead of taking empty pot shots at his opponent . . .
    . . . as Lee did.
    all you liberals and Democrats stop trying to trivialize McCain’s experience in the military and 20+ years as a Senator
    First off, Lee, I’m neither a “liberal” nor a “Democrat,” but that’s neither here nor there. More to the point, I’m not “trivializing” McCain’s military experience. Instead I’m pointing out that McCain’s own CONSTANT references to his capture & imprisonment doesn’t make him some example of military readiness and therefore Commander-in Chief readiness.
    (Not to mention that C-in-C is but one part of the job requirement for Chief Exec.)
    Furthermore, you can’t have it both ways. McCain’s experience in the Senate only counts if you give Obama credit for the same. Sure, McCain has more senate experience, but I fail to see how Obama’s 5+ years of Sanate experience always magically turns into “no experience” in the hands of the GOP Attack Brigade.
    For example, your admonition that Obama supporters admit he has “no experience.”
    warp Bush’s experience as a business man and govenor of Texas with your own perception of his performance in office
    Warp??? I’m warping nothing. He was a rank failure as a businessman, and as President he’s presided over a terrorist attack, two wars that are quagmires at best, sliding civil liberties, enormous expansions of executive power well beyond the constraints laid out in the Constitution, and economy marked by huge debt, increasing inflation, and what looks to be a coming recession.
    Yeah Lee, he’s been a real champ. Too bad guys like me have to “warp” his record.

  22. Mike – How does Obama have “5+ years” in the Senate? He was elected in 2004, which gives us:
    2007, almost all of which he spent on the campaign trail
    Jan-August 2008, same
    That’s 3+ years, not 5+.
    As for McCain, you seem to be repeatedly assuming that the 5+ years he spent in captivity is the entirety of a military career that stretched from his entrance into Anapolis in 1954 until he left the Navy in 1980.

  23. Mike,
    I stand by my “warp” comment. If you read your own comments it is not facts, rather your perception. However, Bush is not running for President; so stay on topic.
    See my comments about Obama’s experience as compared to all Presidents since Taft. Again, don’t try to argue that others experience is “worthless”. Minimizing other’s experience does not your guy’s any better. He simply does not have experience. Accept it and say it doesn’t matter to you. Man-up!

  24. That’s 3+ years, not 5+
    You are correct. My bad. But I think you’ll agree that “3” is greater than “0.” Infinitely better. So this “Obama has no experience” chatter is patently wrong. And absurd.
    you seem to be repeatedly assuming that the 5+ years he spent in captivity is the entirety of a military career
    Sorry Crank, no dice. As anyone who’s seen McCain answer questions as varied as . . . well, any topic imaginable, knows McCain may have mentioned those years in captivity a time or two.
    not facts, rather your perception
    Oh? The war in Iraq ended a few years ago with a smashing victory for the USA? The economy is going gangbusters? The executive branch is weaker today than it was in 2000?
    don’t try to argue that others experience is “worthless”
    Where did I do this?
    Minimizing other’s experience does not your guy’s any better.
    My guy? Where have you ever seen me say anything affirmatively supportive about Obama? I’m quite ambivalent about him actually, and I’m prett down on McCain. It’s the boatloads of cant I see in the comments and posts here that have me riled up. I don’t really care too much about Obama or his political success (though I’d rather him win since he’s not McCain, but that hardly makes him “my guy.”)
    He simply does not have experience.
    Crank, this is what I was saying earlier about that strange math problem you GOPers have, where 3=0. I thought you guys were in favor of fundamentals in schooling and rigid testing.
    Accept it and say [experience] doesn’t matter to you.
    Why would I say that? I don’t believe it.
    Oh, please.

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