Barack Obama has spent the last year trading on his status as a youthful Washington outsider who is committed to changing the system of the old guard – which is presumably why he has chosen a 65-year-old Senator who has been in office since 1972 as his running mate.
Over the weekend Obama announced that Senator Joe Biden, who is a relative unknown to the American public despite his long history in Washington, would be his vice presidential candidate. Voters who may not have even noticed Biden’s short candidacy for the Democratic nomination have already been swamped with coverage of the five-term Senator from Delaware, and Democrats are confident they’ll like what they see.
Even former Hilary Clinton strategist and Communications Director Howard Wolfson seems to think the safe choice was strategic, because "Obama brings plenty of change and excitement on his own":
The fighting in Georgia underscored the need to bring some foreign policy experience to the ticket … It’s critical that the veep be willing and able to take an axe or at least an ice pick to the presidential candidate of the other party … Senator Obama also needs to improve his performance with lunch bucket and working class Democrats. Biden has spent his career appealing to those voters … The Obama campaign clearly made the decision that they did not need their veep pick to reinforce their change message, and that was a smart move.
HuffPo‘s Andy Worthington is impressed with Biden’s record on foreign affairs. While it’s "far from unblemished" (he initially supported the rush to war), "He has since recanted his position on the Iraq war, and has, for many years, also been unafraid to tackle other excesses of the Bush Administration’s post-9/11 policies; in particular, through his persistent calls for the closure of the "War on Terror" prison at Guantánamo Bay."
In 2006 he proposed, with Leslie Gelb, the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, a five-point plan for the future of Iraq, which called for a federalised system of three regional governments (Kurd, Sunni and Shiite) plus a centralised government for the management of "truly common interests" like oil and border defence.
Also on Huffpo, Thomas Edsall is less impressed by Biden’s credentials, claiming that the Delaware Senator "carries some baggage, including two alleged incidents of plagiarism; an episode of resume inflation; a tendency to shoot from the mouth – only sometimes on target". Edsall also notes that Biden has "the dubious distinction of becoming the first national party nominee with known hair plugs".
"That said, the Biden choice is likely to be far less consequential to the outcome on Election Day than the current flurry of commentary suggests," he writes.
In an ad put up on Saturday, McCain shows Biden on July 19, 2007 on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Stephanopoulos: "You were asked is [Obama] ready. You said ‘I think he can be ready, but right now I don’t believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training.’" Biden: "I think that I stand by the statement."
It’s doubtful, however, that Biden’s campaign critiques of Obama will be held against him: every time a nominee has chosen a primary opponent to join the ticket (Reagan-Bush, Kerry-Edwards), the opposition has tried to use attacks made in the heat of campaigning, almost always to little effect.
Edsall ultimately concludes that Biden is a good choice, but not particularly decisive in the contest for the presidency.
Some though, are less concerned with the bi-partisan fun run, and more concerned with the voting records and ideological positions of their would-be VP.
Feministing recalls Biden’s claim that Obama is "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy", and his incisive comment that "you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent".
He also has a "not-so-hot record on choice":
He says he supports Roe vs Wade, but is not really interested in expanding access to low-income women. (He has, however, voted to expand contraception access.) He voted for legislation banning dilation and extraction abortions, but criticised the Supreme Court decision upholding the law. He has voted against parental consent and notification laws, and laws banning minors from crossing state lines to obtain an abortion. [Pro-choice organisation] NARAL gave him a 60 per cent approval rating in 2007.
The analysis concludes on a note that is becoming familiar among the ever-more cynical American left: reluctant disappointment in the energetic Democrat’s political choices.
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