Monday, August 25, 2008

Why Joe Biden?

Why Joe Biden?
By Jerome Grossman

When Barack Obama presented Joseph Biden to the Democrats of the nation as his personal choice for vice president and Biden accepted, both made verbal blunders unusual for these accomplished and well-prepared orators. Biden called Obama “Barack America” without correcting himself and Obama introduced Biden as “The next president of “The United States” before the crowd corrected him.

If Sigmund Freud had been in the audience he would have analyzed the errors as symptomatic action indicating a concealed problem, an unconscious manifestation of inner conflict, sometimes called buyer's remorse. And he might have been correct.

A senator for 35 years, Biden undermines Obama’s message of hope and change, especially generational change. When Obama confronted his Democratic rivals in the many debates during the primaries, he always pointed out that he was the one who spoke out against the Iraq War while the rival senators voted to authorize President George W. Bush to invade Iraq. Now Obama is selecting a vice president who voted with McCain for the worst blunder since Vietnam. But there was another message in that story that the raging and enthusiastic crowds picked up: that the older generation of political leaders were mired in ineffective and obsolete approaches to government and had to be replaced. That is why Obama did not need specific and detailed programs. That is why Hillary's traditional recipes did not carry the day.

Joe Biden as vice president undercuts the spirit and special nature of the inspired Obama campaign. While he has a moderate to liberal voting record in the Senate and understands the awesome dangers of nuclear weapons, he not only voted for the Iraq War but in August 2003 said he did not regret that vote. His criticisms of the Bush administration on Iraq have focused on its handling of the conflict. His energies were expended primarily on his plan to divide Iraq into three nations, Shi'ite, Sunni, and Kurd, an approach opposed by most Iraqis and one that would keep the US involved there for decades if not permanently.

While Biden voted against the first Iraq War of 1991, he was one of the strongest voices urging US and NATO intervention in Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia. Only last week he flew to the nation of Georgia when President Sakashvili called him, then returned to urge the Congress to establish a $1 billion fund for Georgia reconstruction while calling for “The West to stand up for the rights of free people throughout the region”, using many of the same terms used by John McCain urging that Georgia be admitted to NATO. Will he be the interventionist in the Obama cabinet?

Will Biden lead the attacks on McCain as advertised? I doubt it. Edwards did not do it for Kerry, nor Lieberman for Gore, nor Bentsen for Dukakis, nor Gore for Clinton, etc. etc. The vice presidential nominees promise to do the attacking but rarely deliver, folding in the clutch, not wanting to alienate the public with rough tactics, protecting their political careers.

Will Biden bring votes to the ticket? Unfortunately, he has no political base outside of Delaware and has proven it. He has run twice for president with negligible results, forced to drop out early. As a Catholic who supports Roe v. Wade he will be denied communion by the same bishops who denied it to John Kerry, limiting his effectiveness with that group.

The selection of Joe Biden seems to square with the many centrist changes in foreign and domestic policy that Obama has made since he became the virtual nominee. It is difficult to see these tactics as flowing from a comprehensive strategy. More and more the Obama campaign slips into a traditional mode. The excitement generated by the Obama challenge has diminished as the emphasis on change has slipped.

That does not mean defeat. The country is sick of Bush and Republican incompetence. Economic recession, as well as failures in Iraq and Katrina to name just a few, ought to mean a Democratic victory in the White House as it will surely be in the Congress. But it will be in traditional political terms, not in the revolutionary concepts implied if not stated in inspirational hope and institutional changes that brought millions to the side of Barack Obama and won him the nomination.


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