I went to bed earlier on Friday than usual and woke up to a text message on my cell phone at 3:18am that Senator Joseph Biden was the choice. The Obama campaign had promised that those who signed up for text messaging would be the first to hear the announcement of Senator Barrack Obama‘s running mate. The reality is that the news leaked out a few hours prior to that but that’s really a non-issue.
First things first, I have grown to like Senator Biden quite a bit the last few years. Biden seems to have experienced a re-birth of sorts since his failed bid for the White House in 1987. I’ve noticed a major change in his attitude and approach in the last 5 years. Biden speaks incredibly frankly at every opportunity. He doesn’t mince words, sugar-coat anything or propagandize these days. I’m hoping this doesn’t change during the next 9 weeks until the election.
Now, to the main point, the choice of Biden for Vice President doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. On some level I can see it but not entirely. Biden isn’t going to out-shine Obama and give the impression of legacy. We don’t yet know if he’ll do what Senator Joe Lieberman did in 2000 and run for both VP and the Senate at the same time. Biden has been a lock in Delaware every 6 years.
At 65 he’d be 73 at the conclusion of a successful administration and highly unlikely to run for President himself. Thus this could be his final curtain call on the political stage should the ticket win in November.
However, Biden brings an awful lot of baggage with him as a running mate. For those who weren’t alive or don’t recall what happened in 1987, it was a mess. Biden couldn’t get out of his own way in his first run for the Presidency. Seemingly every week another major scandal broke about his past. He was accused of plagiarism not once but at least twice. He then was caught in a lie about his grades in law school having claimed to have graduated in the top half of his class when he’d actually finished very near the bottom. He followed that up with a lie about having earned several degrees when he only had one.
He didn’t handle any of these issues well digging a deeper hole every time they came up. He finally had to abandon his run in disgrace and nearly vanished from view for the next several years. To be blunt, many were surprised the gaffes didn’t cost him his entire political career and it did have an impact in his next Senate campaign.
Biden is also, as the press has pointed out, a virtual gaffe machine. His incredible frankness results in comments that are often easy fodder for opponents to latch onto.
Mark my words—the Republican party will have a treasure trove of material to go after Biden with. In fact there’s so much here that I’m not sure there’s even enough time left in the campaign to make the most of it all.
For those reasons I really don’t get this choice. I’m glad to see Biden finally get a chance after his re-invention of himself but Obama didn’t seem to need this sort of challenge. He’s going to need to cross his fingers and start praying that Biden can control himself for the remainder of the campaign. There’s going to be enough past material to fend off without adding any new issues to the mix.
I also really don’t see what Biden brings Obama that he couldn’t find elsewhere. Okay, Biden can now deliver Delaware for the ticket. Uh…. Delaware? It was already a given to go for Obama. Even if it didn’t it’s still just Delaware. Biden is Catholic and that’s one area where Obama has been polling very poorly. However, I’m not sure this choice is going to make a huge difference there. I can’t see piles of Catholic’s who were unsure about Obama suddenly changing their mind because Biden is on the ticket.
Biden does have a great deal of both foreign policy experience and experience in general but we have little sense of the role Obama plans for his VP. Will he get the chance to really leverage that experience or just be a figurehead?
Biden has also stated during the primary season that Obama isn’t ready to be President but I just don’t see that proving to be a big deal after an initial use of it by the Right. It’ll be easy for Biden to address that one by saying he’s changed his mind after seeing how Obama has handled the campaign since those remarks.
The biggest impact I see with all this might simply be in Obama’s hard-fought branding of this campaign being all about change. How much change can there be when you pick a running mate who has been in the Senate for 35 years?
At least now we’re getting down to the final pieces of the puzzle for this election and once Senator John McCain makes his choice we can finally get to within sight of the finish line. Also, adding Biden means we’re likely to have a much more colorful finish than what we’d otherwise have experienced.