Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Is it going to be Biden?

The speculation on vice presidential choices reached a fever pitch yesterday as Howard Fineman went out on a limb in speculating that it would be Biden according to his sources. And then Biden faked reporters out by first telling them "I'm not the guy." Analysts on TV gnawed over that for much of the evening, but then, oh the excitement!, he walked that back and said he didn't know anything about whom Obama was picking. What fun for everyone to have something to talk about when actually the people who know anything aren't talking and those who are probably don't have any special insight.

Meanwhile, we're being told that Biden would bring foreign policy expertise to the ticket. The New York Times talks up that aspect, as does the Wall Street Journal.

I've never bought into this idea that the vice presidential pick should balance out the presidential nominee on policy expertise. Does anyone think that a President Obama would lack for foreign policy advisers? Even as a candidate he's supposed to have around 300 foreign policy advisers. What guarantee would there be that he'd listen to a Vice President Biden more than a Secretary of State or National Security Adviser?

Admittedly, Biden has been around the Senate for a long, long time but is his supposed expertise really that impressive? He proudly pushed his big idea for Iraq which was to divide it up into three different ethnic territories. He trumpeted that in place of the concept behind the surge. How was the United States going to force such an ethnic division on the country? Were we supposed to start evacuating certain ethnic groups if they didn't want to leave their homes and move to the majority region that Biden had picked out for them? Was that really such a better idea than General Petraeus's plan? I'd like to see Biden explain that one.

Biden has been touting the value of his experience for 20 years. The Republicans are distributing this quote from 20 years ago when Biden ran for president.
"The White House isn't the place to learn how to deal with international crisis, the balance of power, war and peace, and the economic future of the next generation," he said at the time, referring to Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.
Has 20 more years taught him that inexperience is now optimal?

Biden is very popular among the Inside the Beltway crowd. He talks a lot which the reporters enjoy. But, his manic smile at inappropriate times never indicated to me that he was such a very friendly guy. I thought that Clarence Thomas's autobiography really caught the two-faced aspect of Joe Biden during the high-profile nomination hearings when he tried to sandbag Thomas by hitting him with an obscure quote taken totally out of context as one of his first quotes after having promised no surprise questions. Kathryn Jean Lopez reminds us of Thomas's conclusion on Smiling Joe.
Throughout my life I’ve often found truth embedded in the lyrics of my favorite records. At Yale, for example, I’d listened often to “Smiling Faces Sometimes,” a song by the Undisputed Truth that warns of the dangers of trusting the hypocrites who “pretend to be your friend” while secretly planning to do you wrong. Now I knew I’d met one of them
And then, of course, there is Biden's lovely penchant for really putting his foot in his mouth. Gawker has conveniently compiled links to some of his greatest hits. Stroll down memory lane and recall Biden's comments on the need to have an Indian accent to go into a Delaware 7-11 or his explanation that the difference between Washington, D.C. and Iowa schools is the number of black students. My favorite is how he's bragged about coming from a slave state. He seemed to think that he would have a special link to Southern voters by reminding them that Delaware was a border state during the Civil War because of its 1000 slaves. Perhaps, he's thinking of how Delaware's obstinate refusal to allow Lincoln to use that state as a model for his compensated emancipation plan made the Emancipation Proclamation more likely.
Delaware, he noted, was a “slave state that fought beside the North. That’s only because we couldn’t figure out how to get to the South. There were a couple of states in the way.”
And then in another interview on Fox News Sunday,
WALLACE: And, finally, Senator Biden — finally, we've got about 30 seconds left, but I can't let you go without some politics. As we've mentioned, you're in South Carolina right now, on the campaign trial. Thirty seconds or less, what kind of a chance would a Northeastern liberal like Joe Biden stand in the South if you were running in Democratic primaries against southerners like Mark Warner and John Edwards.

BIDEN: Better than anybody else. You don't know my state. My state was a slave state. My state is a border state. My state has the eighth-largest black population in the country. My state is anything from a Northeast liberal state.
Is that an example of the great diplomatic skills that Biden would exercise as Designated Chief Foreign Policy Adviser to a President Obama? Would he then try to bond with African nations by sharing stories of the slave trade in American history? Would he go to the sub-continent and tell them about all the nice immigrants from India he'd met in Delaware 7-11s?

The secret analyst at Time's The Page, X, advises Obama on why it would be good to pick Biden.
“Biden may be a ridiculous, overbearing blowhard, and he’ll doubtless make foolish blunders and imprudent comments if he’s on the ticket, but he’d still be an excellent campaigner, surrogate, and debater. He’d be thrilled at the prospect of being vice president (his own aspirations aside), and grateful and proud to have been chosen–he’d work hard to make Obama look good, and not deliberately outshine him–plus the chemistry will be appealing, and they genuinely like and respect each other, which will be winningly apparent.”

“Also, America is no longer a place where citizens care about plagiarism or hair plugs. A Biden pick would immediately elevate Obama’s gravitas, give him a semblance of humility, delight the media, and reassure the nation that a grownup is involved. Democrats would be simultaneously relieved and apprehensive, but they’d be pleased with the choice overall. Plus, Biden is Catholic, is a Washington insider in a good way (a hardworking man of the people unchanged by three decades inside the Beltway), and has a tragic history with a happy ending.”
That may all be true. But is it worth the risk that he'll have another foot-in-the-mouth moment? If what they want is a well-respected Democrat on foreign policy, why not Sam Nunn? Now, there's a guy from a real slave state - can Joe Biden top that? Seriously, Nunn would be the sober version of Joe Biden without the manic mouth.