August 23, 2008


Obama Introduces Running Mate Biden (BETH FOUHY and CHRISTOPHER WILLS, 8/23/08, Associated Press)

Senator Obama introduced Senator Biden of Delaware as his running mate, hailing him as a "leader who is ready to step in and be president."

Before a crowd of thousands gathered in front of the Old State Capitol, Mr. Obama said Mr. Biden was "what many others pretend to be — a statesman with sound judgment who doesn't have to hide behind bluster to keep America strong."

If you asked ten supporters of Senator Biden to name his biggest weakness, at least 8 of them would say he has a tendency to bluster, Biden for dummies ALEXANDER BURNS & JOHN F. HARRIS | 8/23/08, Politico)
“One of the most serious problems for Mr. Biden is that the disclosures about him have seemed to confirm his critics' complaints,” [R.W. "Johnny"Apple wrote. “Just as Mr. Hart's relationship with Miss Rice appeared to lend weight to reports that he was a longtime womanizer, so the news that Mr. Biden appropriated whole sections of a law review article and of other politicians' speeches, without giving credit, seemed to many to substantiate assessments that he was shallow and insubstantial.”

Go to Amazon right now and place a rush order for Richard Ben Cramer’s “What It Takes” for a vivid depiction of Biden’s 1988 campaign, which is when Biden first sprang to national attention.

The author described the undisciplined public persona that Biden wrestled with on the campaign and in the Senate.

“‘Biden is speech-driven, his guys would explain. But that was just guru-talk for the fact that Joe often didn’t know what he thought until he had to say it,” wrote Cramer. “Then, too, there was the sorry corollary: Sometimes Biden spoke before he thought.”

Mind you, Mr. Cramer's portrait is quite affectionate, but it's still dominated by Mr. Biden's bluster and blarney.

For a truly devastating portrayal of what a blowhard the Senator is you can't do better than Robert Bork's, Tempting of America. He's got to be working on an essay even as we speak.

Or, there's this from the invaluable Andrew Ferguson:

What does a discerning reader learn from Biden's book that we didn't already know? Perhaps not much, if you're a regular watcher of C-SPAN or a longtime resident of Delaware. But there is something unforgettable about watching the man emerge on the page. His legendary self-regard becomes more impressive when the reader sees it in typescript, undistracted by the smile and the hair plugs. Biden quotes at great length from letters of recommendation he received as a young man, when far-sighted professors wrote movingly of his "sharp and incisive intellect" and his "highly developed sense of responsibility." These qualities have proved to be more of a burden than you might think, Biden admits. "I've made life difficult for myself," he writes, "by putting intellectual consistency and personal principle above expediency."

Yes, many Biden fans might tag these as the greatest of his gifts. Biden himself isn't so sure. After a little hemming and hawing--is it his intelligence that he most admires, or his commitment to principle, or his insistence on calling 'em as he sees 'em, or what?--he decides that his greatest personal and political virtue is probably his integrity. Tough call. But his wife seems to agree. He recounts one difficult episode in which she said as much. "Of all the things to attack you on," she said, almost in tears. "Your integrity?"

This lachrymose moment came during Biden's aborted presidential campaign in 1988, when reporters discovered several instances of plagiarism in his campaign speeches and in his law school record. Biden rehearses the episode in tormenting, if selective, detail, and true to campaign-book form, his account serves as the emotional center of the book. The memoir of every presidential candidate must describe a Political Time of Testing, some point at which, if the narrative arc is to prove satisfying, the hero encounters criticism, most of it unjust, but then rallies, overcomes hardship and misfortune and the petty, self-serving attacks of enemies, and emerges chastened but wiser--and, come to think of it, more qualified to lead the greatest nation on earth.

In Biden's case, the ritual also allows him to dismiss these old charges by placing them in the least clarifying light possible. It's true that he was disciplined for plagiarizing a paper in law school, he says offhandedly; but those long paragraphs taken verbatim from other people's work were simply an oversight--a matter of not knowing how to cite sources properly. (A fun-loving student, he had skipped the class in which the rules of citation were taught.) As for the lines he'd lifted from others and dropped into his own speeches--these were misunderstandings. In at least one instance, a speechwriter had inserted a quote from Bobby Kennedy into Biden's speech without attribution, meaning that while Biden was delivering remarks he knew he hadn't written, he was also delivering remarks that he didn't know his speechwriter hadn't written.

It's confusing, yes, but Biden's explanations serve a dual purpose: He appears forthright even as he tries to bury once and for all the accusations that forced him from presidential contention 20 years ago. Now, officially, they are "old news," the settled stuff of history and memoir. To any detailed questions about them that might arise from young reporters covering his current campaign, he can say: Just read my book.

That's a lot to ask, however. Like most conventional campaign books, Promises to Keep is so light in tone, so breezily written, that it becomes, paradoxically, extremely difficult to read. Its superficiality and general insincerity may explain why the traditional campaign book has become a dying genre.

Obama Decries Lobbyist Cash; Biden Has Reaped It In (Jake Tapper, August 23, 2008, ABC News: Political Punch)

The Center for Responsive Politics has a thorough analysis of Sen. Joe Biden's campaign cash intake now that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has selected him as his running mate.

The industry that has given Biden the most cash has been lawyers/law firms ($6,567,404) followed by real estate ($1,297,690). Pro-Israel groups are the 8th biggest contributing industry.

Obama may decry lobbyist cash (or at least federal lobbyist cash), but Biden has taken $344,400 from lobbyists since 1997 -- making lobbyists the 10th biggest contributing industry.

That seems a direct contradiction of the Obama message.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 23, 2008 2:59 PM
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