In an odd example of irony ripped straight from the primary, I received my own “3 AM” call last night…well, except is was a text message and there was no emergency occurring halfway around the world, but the announcement of Joe Biden as Obama’s VP selection and running mate.
I am exceptionally pleased with this decision and I am going to explain why. I promise that I will not bore you with an in-depth breakdown of every infinitesimal detail (you can listen to my show for that), but just a simple breakdown as to why this is a smart choice and beneficial to the Obama campaign.
As I had been explaining on the show for the last few months, there needed to be a nominee to fill the gaps in Obama’s resume in order to create a balanced ticket. Basically the best of both worlds, the ability to be hopeful and expect change, but the comfort of knowing his partner is seasoned and that Obama is not afraid to admit he could use the help on foreign policy. Every candidate for President needs to choose a nominee to fill these gaps, which is why McCain is considering Mitt Romney, to fill McCain’s obvious weakness on the economy…the number one voter issue this election…despite the fact that these two men do not like each other (see: pragmatism). For awhile, I had been endorsing Sen. Jim Webb from VA…former Secretary of the Navy under Reagan, Vietnam war vet (covering Obama’s flank on the military question, to counter McCain’s shameful exploitation of his POW experience), son serving in Iraq on the front lines, new to the Senate and therefore aligned with the message of change in Washington, a straight shooter who says what is on his mind and a popular new Senator from a major (swing) state that is in play for the Democrats. However, Webb’s weakness would be comments made 20 years ago that could be perceived as misogynist, as it relates to whether women should fight in combat and would simply perpetuate what Clinton supporters have convinced themselves was a sexist agenda against Hillary, as they fail to recognize the massive mistakes the Clinton campaign made (i.e. not planning beyond Feb 5th (Super Tuesday) due to all the talk of her inevitability, Mark Penn thinking California delegates were ‘winner take all’ when they were proportional, campaign in-fighting, no grass roots effort until it was too late, maxing out ‘bundlers’ too soon and leaving fundraising more difficult in order to stay competitive, conflicting messages etc) and chose instead to believe it was because she was a woman and not admitting that she simply ran a bad campaign or that people have strong feelings about Clinton as a person, and not because of her sex (pls see: “The 90’s”).
Then McCain revealed his strategy through his ridiculous and childish “Celebrity / Paris Hilton / Britney Spears” ads. McCain showed his card and that foreign policy would be the focus…an area where he is perceived to have an advantage over Obama (despite numerous flugs). Therefore I started talking about Joe Biden, a politician that I have always liked and even commented during all of the absurd “experience” questions between Clinton and Obama in the primaries, that if experience was the pre-requisite (Clinton has been a U.S. Senator for only 6 years, Obama for 3…not a big difference)…then we need to look at Biden as ‘the smart guy in the room who understands the world’. Here are some of the finer points as to why Biden is a fantastic decision:
Experience: Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, former Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, 30 years in the Senate, the youngest man to be elected to the Senate (he was ‘Obama’ when he ran for President in 1988). Voters can feel confident that Biden has no qualms about sharing his opinion, including dissenting opinion and therefore resulting in a more deliberate and thoughtful administration / partnership a la Abraham Lincoln (“Team of Rivals”) versus the ‘Yes Men’ that surround our current President. Con: He is contrary to the ‘change’ message, however if Obama chose a younger nominee without foreign policy experience, the McCain campaign would simply use the ‘Too young, not ready’ argument for the entire ticket…however with Biden in the game that argument is muted and therefore washed out. Either way it would be ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ as it relates to the McCain response…personally I prefer the balance. Obama can be the ‘big idea’ guy who has the ability and judgment to inspire the American people to engagement in the issues, Biden can assist with the details.
Role of the VP: The primary role of the VP is to be the ‘attack dog’ during the election, allowing the top of the ticket to rise above the usual partisanship. The VP is the ‘knee-capper’ and I cannot think of a better nominee than Biden to obliterate McCain’s missteps and comments, to destroy any nominee McCain picks during the VP debates and to do what Obama seems uncomfortable doing, which is going on the attack (not to be confused with going negative). Biden had the best line during the Democratic debates, when referring to Rudy Giuliani, that only “three words come out of his mouth, a noun, a verb and 9/11″…expect that kind of great retort from Biden during the campaign. He is witty, smart as hell, eloquent, direct, not afraid to engage and forces McCain’s hand when it comes to who McCain will pick (probably Romney, who they need to be very careful about using comments Biden made about Obama, because Mitt and John hated each other during the GOP primary and have far more fodder that the DEMs could use). Biden is not a ‘softie and has the gravitas needed to respond strongly, with years in the Senate to back it up. People who like Obama and want change, but were concerned about whether he was ready, can feel relief with Biden on the ticket to balance out any perceived deficits.
“Elitist”: A moniker that cannot be used against Biden. The ridiculousness of McCain calling Obama an elitist, when McCain is worth over 100 Million dollars due to his wife’s inheritance, cannot tell you how many homes he owns, wears $600 Italian loafers, fly’s around in his wife’s private corporate jet and was the son and grandson of Admirals…yet the black guy who used student loans, was raised by a single Mom and white grandparents in Kansas, was on food stamps at one point in his childhood, is the elitist?? Biden did not go to an Ivy League school, he graduated from Syracuse Law. He does not live in Washington and takes public transportation home each night (trains) and is reported to know the name of all the conductors and train employees. He was born in PA (another swing state) and is called “The 3rd Senator from Pennsylvania” and is considered an ‘average Joe’ and the ‘working man’s Senator’. This of course helps Obama in working class swing states such as Michigan, Ohio, PA etc.
Catholic: Although I don’t see it, Biden helps Obama with his ‘supposed problem’ with Catholics, being that he is Irish Catholic…another advantage in traditional swing states. Romney may help McCain in Michigan, due to his father being a popular former Governor, but his Mormon beliefs will turn off traditional Catholic and Christian voters. He also has a massive flip-flop problem from the time between being Governor of Massachusetts and deciding to run for President as a ‘conservative’ Republican. McCain could choose Tom Ridge (a former Gov from PA and former Dir of Homeland Security), but Ridge’s Pro-Choice stand will hurt McCain with Evangelicals, who already don’t trust McCain’s Christian ‘bona fides’.
Narrative: Biden has an interesting narrative. Came from a working class family, went to state college and was the youngest member to be elected to the Senate. In a heartbreaking story, shortly after winning his Delaware seat in the Senate, his wife and daughter were killed in a horrible car accident. His son’s were seriously injured, but recovered…Biden was sworn in to the Senate at the hospital, after pleas from fellow Democrats to still serve, when he was considering dropping out due to the tragedy.
War: Although Biden voted for the authorization of force against Iraq and later admitted it was a mistake to do so, it doesn’t change the fact that his family puts their money where their mouth is and Biden has a son about to be deployed to Iraq in the JAG corps. In any argument over Iraq, Biden has a personal stake and leg to stand on, when his son is also serving in a war that he now opposes.
Relationship: Biden and Obama actually like one another and the dynamic between them is one in which I feel comfortable that Biden will be a VP that speaks his mind and that opinion is respected by Obama. It also takes a lot of confidence for Obama to admit that he does have a lack of foreign policy experience, but has had great judgment…to the point that the Maliki gov’t in Iraq agrees with Obama’s withdrawal plan, as does the Pentagon agree with Obama’s Afghanistan plan. Biden shows respect for Obama and does not get caught up in the ‘elder statesman, I know better than you’ attitude. Obama obviously respects Biden and is comfortable with deferring to Biden’s extensive foreign policy experience. McCain hates Romney, does not respect him and is only choosing him to counter his own weakness on economics…all things being equal, I have a deeper faith in running mates who get along and respect one another’s opinion…as more can be achieved.
Well, so much for NOT going into a laundry list of specifics, however these are many of the reasons that Biden was the best choice for Obama. Regardless if Obama picked Tim Kaine or Evan Byah (too ‘vanilla’), the McCain campaign would criticize the lack of foreign policy experience on the entire ticket. Shortly after the announcement of Biden as the running mate, the McCain campaign criticized that a 30 year veteran of the Senate had too much experience is not ‘change’…damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Basically McCain is inadvertently admitting that due to his own time in the Senate, he cannot bring about change for the same reason they criticize the Biden pick. Whoops!
Biden will be a great attack dog for Obama, he balances the ticket and is appealing to the demographics that Obama is perceived to be weak with. They like and respect one another (something that cannot be said about past Presidential duos: Kerry / Edwards, JFK / Johnson, Carter / Mondale, Reagan / George H W Bush etc). Voters who like Obama get the best of both Worlds, a candidate that inspires people (especially the young), has the support of the World community, can bring about change and turn a page in American politics and history…but can sleep better at night knowing that Obama’s right hand man is qualified to be President, let along Vice President.
For disappointed Clinton supporters, I empathize with your frustration. However, despite the support of your candidate, she would energize a segment of the population who is not excited about McCain and might otherwise stay home on election day, by giving them an excuse to vote against her and not necessarily for McCain. If she were chosen as the VP, we would be inundated with reminders (through 527’s and PACs) of impeachment, semen stained blue dresses, Bill in the white house with too much time on his hands, lying under oath, Republican hatred of the Clinton’s in the 90’s and so much more that would effectively motivate disenfranchised Republicans to come out and vote for McCain, a candidate they are not excited about. Due to bruised ego, pride and principle, you can decide to vote for a candidate (McCain) that is for removing your right to choose, wants to continue Bush economic and foreign policy and has voted against your interests (judging by the fact you were a Clinton supporter, I assume he is against your interests). You will also effectively create a narrative that ‘upset Clinton supporters voted for McCain’ and thereby kill any chance for her to run again, as she will be pegged with hurting Obama’s chance of winning. You can embarrass the party and your candidates standing in the Senate by making a ruckus at the DNC convention. Or you can support an candidate that will prevent a continuation of Bush policy and swallow your pride a little. OR, you can do a protest vote by writing in Clinton’s name at the ballots. If you feel it is better to let McCain win simply over hurt feelings from the primaries, while your candidate of choice is stumping for Obama, that is your call and you can enjoy 4 more years of Bush and voting against your own interests. Either way I support your right to exercise your right to vote, I just hope that you don’t vote against Obama over pride, without realizing what you are going to get instead as an alternative to Obama for the next 4 -8 years. I only ask that you don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.
I’ll be discussing this more on my show, please tune in if you are interested in more in-depth discussion of the themes presented in this blog.
Happy with the ticket,