On Joe Biden

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has picked his vice presidential running mate.

Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.

Joe Biden?

I thought Obama was running as the candidate who was going to change Washington.

How does picking an “inside the Beltway” Washington insider do that? Biden has been serving as Delaware’s Senator since Obama was in junior high school. Biden as a consummate Washington pol. He doesn’t bring a “beyond the Beltway” vision to the Executive branch.

Biden also opens up the Democratic ticket to anti-populist rhetoric from the Republicans. Biden’s sponsorship and support for restricting bankruptcy protections to the benefit of the credit card industry — especially seen at a time when the economy is teetering toward recession, a housing crisis looms, and a credit crunch is at hand — could allow Republicans to make the charge that an Obama administration would be pro-business and anti-consumer. It doesn’t matter that a McCain administration would be just as pro-business and anti-consumer as his campaign would be arguing; what matters is that throwing some of this mud might stick.

Why Joe Biden?

He doesn’t bring a swing state into play. He doesn’t shore up any constituencies, except for possibly the Catholic and Jewish vote. He’s strong on military matters, but then there are other choices — like General Wesley Clark (ret.) — who would have been just as strong, or even better.

(Clark’s advantages, for instance — he’s not a Washington insider, he’s a populist, he shores up Hillary Clinton voters as he was one of Clinton’s biggest supporters, he won a war.)

No, Biden appears to be a safe pick. Some speculate that choosing Biden shows a lack of confidence on Obama’s part.

I’m going to vote for Obama in November, not because he’s won my vote but because I don’t want to see John McCain win Bush’s third term. I’ve been uneasy with Obama for some of his policy stances, but my major squick is this — his campaign rhetoric of change ill fits his actual campaigning. I always saw Obama as a centrist; despite promoting the idea that he represented change, I don’t see where that change is coming from. Picking Biden only reinforces the perception that Obama’s rhetoric remains rhetoric.

Consider his primary campaign — Obama achieved the nomination not by winning but by not losing; Super Tuesday gave him a massive pledged delegate lead, but the way the mathematics worked he never needed to deliver a knockout punch and actually win. He won by running out the clock, which strikes me as being overly cautious. Picking Biden as his running mate — again, that’s a cautious move.

I hope I’m wrong. For the country’s future, I hope I’m wrong.

But picking Joe Biden as his running mate only makes me question Obama’s willingness to change Washington and fix this country’s problems.

Note: Someone asked, via e-mail, why I keep using the word “presumptive” in connection with Obama and his Republican rival John McCain, such as in this post. The reason is simple — neither candidate is officially the nominee of their parties. Yes, there’s no doubt that either Obama or McCain will not leave their nominating conventions as anything other than their parties’ candidates, but until then, they are both “presumptive nominees.” Next week, that will change. 😉

Note(2): I’m not sure that this is deserving of its own post, but it’s certainly worth a mention, especially in a politics post. One of John McCain’s fellow POW’s during the Vietnam War, Dr. Phillip Butler, has written an essay on why he cannot vote for McCain in the fall.

Joe Biden famously said of Rudolph Guiliani, when he was running for president, that Guiliani’s reasons for being president were “A noun, a verb, and 9-11.” McCain has done much the same as Guiliani, citing his experience as Prisoner of War as making him suited to lead the country. Butler writes that “having been a POW is no special qualification for being President of the United States.”

Butler further notes, from personal experience, that McCain “has a quick and explosive temper that many have experienced first hand. Folks, quite honestly that is not the finger I want next to that red button.”

Finally Butler writes what many have long argued, but that the media seems to have completely ignored — despite McCain’s reputation as a “maverick,” he is anything but, being a staunch conservative: “I’m disappointed to see John represent himself politically in ways that are not accurate. He is not a moderate Republican. On some issues he is a maverick. But his voting record is far to the right.”

Butler’s full essay is worth reading.

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