August 23, 2008


A Huge Mistake (Ron Rosenbaum, 8/23/08, Pajamas Media)

[I] stand by my assessment of Biden:

Biden’s sagacity and earnestness act would only go over in the class of dummies that is the U.S. Senate..

But a huge mistake by Obama in choosing a self-important clown for vice president, a choice that is the gift that will keep on giving to his opponent throughout the rest of the election. Biden has proven himself incapable of opening his mouth without making you cringe at his self-congratulatory pretentiousness.

But why? One thing I always felt about Obama was that he wouldn’t be rolled, played, by traditonal pols. And yet there is evidence that’s what happened. It turns out he surrounded himself with top staffers from loser hacks like Dick Gephardt, the kind of people who are revered in the Senate “class of dummies” I referred to. Beltway brilliant. Smart only in sucking up to reporters. The only kind of people who could take Joe Biden seriously and don’t realize how they’ve betrayed the trust of Obama supporters who believed that he was something different.

His supporters? He's supposed to be running for president if the United States. Such a cavalier choice betrays all of us, Rhetorical Question (Michael Crowley, 10/22/01, The New Republic)
Biden is tough and he's an internationalist. Unfortunately he's also legendary for speaking impulsively and leaving others to clean up the mess. "He lacks the filter," says one Democratic strategist. Or as a senior Senate foreign policy aide put it: "Biden is an unguided missile." Not exactly the persona you want out front when the country is at war. [...]

He gives Castro-length speeches," says one exasperated Senate staffer. In Democratic caucus meetings, he is famous for declaring, "I'll be brief," and then talking the room into a stupor. (Biden's colleagues have been known to burst into laughter when he makes that promise.) People who know Biden also warn that his loose talk often reflects muddled thinking. In his classic study of the 1988 presidential candidates, What It Takes, Richard Ben Cramer wrote, "Joe often didn't know what he thought until he had to say it." In one recent committee debate, recalls an observer, Biden delivered a rambling explanation of his opposition to a foreign aid amendment, by the end of which he had seemed to talk himself out of his original position.

By straying off-message, Biden doesn't only cause headaches for himself, but occasionally for others as well. When Congress and the Clinton administration were trying to force reforms at the United Nations last year, the United States held up nearly $1 billion in back dues payments as leverage. In a visit to the General Assembly soon afterwards, Biden suggested that America's demands might be negotiable--a position he had not cleared with his Senate colleagues nor with a startled UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

There's also the simple matter of tone. Biden's affable vernacular works well for partisan politics, but not for war and peace. During nato's bombing campaign of Serbia two years ago, Biden cheerfully declared on CBS that "Slobodan Milosevic is getting the living hell kicked out of him." After implying on Fox News in 1999 that Boris Yeltsin was not "in charge" of Russia, Biden was pressed by host Tony Snow on why the United States continued to deal with him. "Well, you've got to talk to somebody," Biden replied. "My staff talks to me and sometimes I'm not in charge. But all kidding aside..."

Biden himself seems to worry that people aren't taking him seriously. In an odd verbal tic, he routinely interrupts himself to offer the assurance that he's "not being facetious." He opened his May 17 tax cut speech by saying: "I find this the single most fascinating debate I have been involved in in 28 years. I sincerely do. It is not a joke. I am not being facetious." Or when the anti-terrorism bill came up on CNN's "Crossfire" last month: "In full disclosure, I wrote that bill. I'm not being facetious." When "Crossfire" host Bill Press offered Biden the avuncular assurance that "it's really a great bill," Biden pressed on: "No. No. I'm not being facetious. I'm not being facetious when I say that."

That exchange points to another problem with Biden as a party spokesman. Rather than build up the credentials of a party deeply mistrusted by the public on foreign affairs, Biden often seems more interested in advertising his own accomplishments. [...]

At the Tuesday-morning meeting with committee staffers, Biden launches into a stream-of-consciousness monologue about what his committee should be doing, before he finally admits the obvious: "I'm groping here." Then he hits on an idea: America needs to show the Arab world that we're not bent on its destruction. "Seems to me this would be a good time to send, no strings attached, a check for $200 million to Iran," Biden declares. He surveys the table with raised eyebrows, a How do ya like that? look on his face.

The staffers sit in silence. Finally somebody ventures a response: "I think they'd send it back." Then another aide speaks up delicately: "The thing I would worry about is that it would almost look like a publicity stunt." Still another reminds Biden that an Iranian delegation is in Moscow that very day to discuss a $300 million arms deal with Vladimir Putin that the United States has strongly condemned. But Joe Biden is barely listening anymore. He's already moved on to something else.

Mr. Cool And the Brawlers (David Ignatius, August 24, 2008, Washinton Post)
[T]he supporting cast is a collection of red-hot politicians I've come to think of as the Get-Even Gang -- led by the party's congressional leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. They made their names clawing and battling against Karl Rove's Republicans, and they are partisan politicians to the bone.

The partisanship of the congressional leadership has been a virtue for Democrats, up to a point. By being as tough and unyielding as their GOP rivals, they won back control of Congress. But they haven't done much with their majorities these past two years, beyond bashing President Bush.

Which raises a question to ponder as you watch the convention this week: Will Mr. Cool be a strong enough leader to transform the Democratic-controlled Congress from a reflexive role into a force for change? Can the Get-Even Gang become the Get-Ahead Gang? Or will Obama remain the aloof, judicious ex-professor who gives a great speech but leaves the dirty work of governing to Pelosi and Reid?

Isn't picking a hothead like Joe Biden just an attempt to hold the deranged base?
The Democrats' Glass Ceiling (William Kristol, 8/23/08, Weekly Standard)
So Hillary Clinton gets about 18 million votes in 2008, and isn’t even considered for--she apparently isn’t even given the courtesy of being consulted--the vice presidential pick. Joe Biden manages to persuade a few thousand (if that) Iowans to support him. And Barack Obama selects Biden? Normally, if the VP pick came from that year’s presidential field, it's the runner-up (Kerry-Edwards in 2004, Reagan-Bush in 1980, Stevenson-Kefauver in 1956). (Lyndon Johnson in 1960 hadn’t entered the primaries.) And Biden wasn’t even the third most successful candidate this year (hi, John Edwards!), or fourth (Bill Richardson, I suppose), or fifth (Dennis Kucinich!).

What’s more, Biden and Hillary have basically comparable foreign policy “experience” (such as it is in either case). Nor is Biden clearly more knowledgeable in foreign affairs than Hillary. And they have pretty similar foreign policy views. So no advantage to Biden there. And, unlike Jack Reed, for example, Biden didn’t serve in the military. So no advantage over Hillary there. Nor does he outshine her in executive experience (unlike Evan Bayh or Tim Kaine or Kathleen Sebelius)--neither Biden nor Hillary has any.

A Philosophy of Diplomacy First, Force Last (MICHAEL R. GORDON, 8/24/08, NY Times)
In three decades in Washington, Mr. Biden has been one of the Democratic Party’s most energetic leaders on foreign policy. He has held countless hearings, opined volubly on security issues and, by his own account, advised Mr. Bush on matters like calling for the further expansion of NATO.

But should he be elected vice president on the Democratic ticket with Senator Barack Obama, Mr. Biden would have a role that has eluded him: a seat in the inner sanctum of White House decision-making.

Kind of a nice way of saying he has no experience.
Obama Adds Foreign Expertise to Ticket (ADAM NAGOURNEY and JEFF ZELENY, 8/24/08, NY Times)
The choice of the Delaware senator was perhaps the most critical decision Mr. Obama has made as his party’s presumptive nominee. It suggested a concern by Mr. Obama’s advisers that his recent overseas trip might not have done enough to address persistent voter concerns about his level of experience, especially on national security. He announced his selection when the conflict between Russia and Georgia has provided Republicans an opportunity to reinject foreign policy into an election that has increasingly focused on the economy and as Mr. McCain has been proving himself a scrappier opponent than many Democrats had assumed he would be.

And Mr. Obama woke up to a reminder of his opponent’s aggressiveness. Mr. McCain’s campaign released a television advertisement on Saturday morning — even before the rally began — using Mr. Biden’s own words discrediting Mr. Obama during their primary battles, showing Mr. Biden saying that Mr. Obama is “not ready” to be president.

In ‘Very Personal Decision,’ Aides Say Obama Picked a Partner in Leadership (JEFF ZELENY and JIM RUTENBERG, 8/24/08, NY Times)
Mr. Obama reached the decision about 10 days ago while on a weeklong vacation to Hawaii. That week, Mr. Biden’s strengths in foreign policy were highlighted by the conflict between Russia and Georgia, giving his prospects a further boost. Associates of the other main possibility on Mr. Obama’s list, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, said Mr. Obama cited the situation in Georgia in breaking the news to Mr. Bayh on Friday that he had chosen Mr. Biden.

So if there'd been an outbreak of Mad Cow Disease would he have picked Pat Leahy because he's from a dairy state? How reactionary can you get?

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 23, 2008 6:00 PM
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