Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biden His Time?!

So it's now official: The bumperstickers will read: Obama/Biden 2008. Count me among the deeply disappointed.

My objections aren't simply the obvious ones: he adds nothing to the electoral math (Delaware would probably gone Democratic anyway, and besides how many electoral college votes does it have anyway??!!); he is already the butt of late-night talk show jokes about his wind-bagginess; he comes from the Senate as does Obama. All of these would argue against choosing Biden.

But what this decision reveals, at least to my eyes, is that the Obama campaign, having scored a brilliant and stunning upset in the primaries, has decided to play things safe and timid in the general election. They have chosen a man with an impeccable resume, and the pundits will nod their collective heads about all the foreign policy expertise Biden will bring to the ticket. In other words, Obama has made the critical mistake of choosing substance over style.

While Biden makes perfect sense to those inside the proverbial Beltway, voters in Ohio and Michigan and Missouri won't give a hoot that Biden has served for so many years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They will see another East Coast, insider elitist.

My own preference would have been Wesley Clarke. Clarke was written off a few weeks ago because he said things about McBush's military experience which the press deemed out of bounds (though those comments were not, in fact, wrong). By choosing Clarke, however, or a reasonable facsimile, Obama would have thrown down the gauntlet, demostrating that he was willing to take a risk, and that the gloves were coming off over issues of foreign policy and security. And by having a general campaigning next to him, Obama would certainly pull in some of those white, blue-collar voters in Ohio.

On the op-ed page of today's Times (Sat. Aug 23) Charles Blow has a short piece complaining that Obama has lost his momentum (and his lead in the polls) because he has gone professorial in the last few weeks. By picking another professor to run with him, Obama isn't going to get his momentum back.

As it has played out this summer, this presidential election begins to resemble 1988. Michael Dukakis surprised many by winning the nomination, and then proceeded to run a mind-bogglingly dumb fall campaign. I recall at the time that the head of the DNC said if the Democrats couldn't beat George Bush I, they didn't deserve to be in power. Twenty years later, this election is Obama's to lose. Biden is a choice that signals he is playing not to lose. As any sports fan will tell you, that isn't how you win.


CJ said...

Just to offer a counter-opinion, I'm not entirely sure why Clarke would be better than Biden. Maybe that's just because I don't know enough about Clarke's politics. And I know that Biden has had some truly bad moments in the senate, where he sometimes revealed he was more of a good ol' boy chauvinist than I really want. But...he's got a fighting spirit combined with a huge amount of knowledge which I do really like. Plus having someone on your side who's got the contacts and the info on how DC runs seems like a good thing to have if you do actually win. And although I'm not sure if it's common, Biden actually does know his foreign policy stuff well. And someone who's knowledge about foreign policy should already rule out the worst of the sort of blunders that have happened in the past 8 years.

Jeremy Young said...

Well said, Steve. Though I preferred Sebelius to Clark, either would have been a marked improvement over Biden.

Jose Marichal said...

Nice analysis. It's difficult to quarrel with the calculation of any nominee for president. When you get this close, the tendency is to play it safe, particularly for democratic candidates. Even in this climate, self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals. Of course, it would be nice to see the dems stand their ground and lose an election or two on principle, but that has its consequences as well.

Nice blog...I've added it to my blogroll at

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