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August 23, 2008
It's Biden: So much for 'Hope and Change'
In choosing Senator Joe Biden of Delaware as his running mate, Barack Obama has acknowledged his own shortcomings while recognizing that the election he and his people thought a cakewalk a few months ago is now a battle royale along the lines of the 2000 and 2004 contests.
Republicans would do well not to celebrate too much over this choice. On the surface, it may appear to be a mistake - an almost comically bad selection by Obama due to Biden's well known (and well documented) verbal gaffes. And, as Politico points out, this should worry the Obama camp:
But while Biden, 65, made strides during the primary season on curbing his legendary penchant for leaving no thought unspoken, those who have watched him (and listened to him) over the years know the Obama team will spend some sleepless nights wondering what he might say at any given moment.
Leaving that aside, Biden is a formidable presence and brings quite a bit to the table. He is, by Democratic party standards, a moderate, especially on foreign policy where he has distinguished himself as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Senate. He voted for the Iraq War and has consistently advocated victory in that conflict. An early and harsh critic of Administration Iraq policy (like John McCain), Biden and McCain have been seen as the biggest advocates for putting more troops into Iraq as far back as 2004. He supported Bush's Pakistan policy until he began to run for president. He has taken a tough stance against the Russians. He has fully backed our efforts in Afghanistan.
He can be called a foreign policy realist - something he will have to abandon now that he is running with the most idealistic and naive candidate in history. But Obama doesn't care where he stands on issues as much as his perceived "experience" overcomes his own lack of foreign policy credentials.
Domestically, he is further left but has been known as a friend of credit card companies and banks. He is very liberal on social policy (he received a 0% rating from the Family Research Council) and does well with organized labor. He got a perfect score from the liberal ADA in 2005 and 2006.
What are Obama's expectations? What does he bring to the ticket?
Joe Biden is an attack dog, a savage puncher who brings some skills to a debate. He will more than ably fill the traditional role of a running mate by attacking McCain like there's no tomorow while Obama preaches his hope and change mantra staying above the fray.
It is true that Biden is in love with his own voice (most senators are) and he can be very windy at times. But the Obama camp will keep him on a very short leash which will help and I expect he will also be somewhat protected from the press. This may minimize the gaffe potential.
As far as his personal attributes he is an emotive sort of fellow which plays well with most voters. He has a working class upbringing although after 36 years in the senate, he is far beyond those humble beginnings. He is a Catholic and may help shore up Obama's working class Catholic base that Hillary won so handily in Pennsylvania and other states.
I've listed most of his negatives except the intangible. Joe Biden is the consummate inside the beltway, Washington insider. For Barack Obama to go before the people now offering "hope and change" is ludicrous. Also, Biden is only 6 years younger than John McCain so using his age against him is now under the bus.
But it is his ability as a back alley brawler that Obama probably chose him. His sarcasm can sometimes be too biting and at times he comes off as just plain mean. But when he smiles that huge, teeth baring grin and lets loose a torrent of invective against his opponent, he can be fearsome.
This campaign started with both men saying they wanted to elevate dialogue and stay away from personal attacks. But any student of history can tell you that this is the strategy of the loser and the winner is usually the one who is most able to portray his opponent as the devil incarnate. Negative politics is like torture; it is used because it works. And with the country still in a 50-50 split, the candidate who can hit first and hit the hardest will probably come out on top.