Who is Joe Biden?
I wasn't at all happy this weekend when it was announced that Barack Obama had chosen his running mate. Joe Biden?! I immediately thought to myself that our hero couldn't have chosen a more establishment candidate. It's not that I even knew much about the Senator from Delaware. But I was aware that he had mounted several unsuccessful campaigns for the presidential nomination in the past. There was nothing inspiring about those attempts. He came off as a fairly conservative functionary that has been in Washington way too long to affect any sort of change. And yet when people asked me how I felt about Obama's selection, I was hesitant to go into a lot of detail. I decided to do some research first.
Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. is the son of a suburban car salesman from Wilmington, DE. Although the 66-year old Biden was born in Scranton, PA, he spent his childhood in New Castle County, Delaware. He got his law degree and was elected into the US Senate in 1972, at the age of 30 (he was the sixth youngest to be elected to that political body). Shortly after assuming office, his wife and infant daughter were killed in a car accident. He was actually sworn in at the bedside of his sons, who had survived the tragedy. Instead of resigning his seat, he decided to commute to DC from Wilmington, which he still does to this day. His progeny have since found their way into politics.
Obama apparently thought long and hard about his choice for VP. Biden offers 36 years of intimate knowledge of Washington insider politics. He is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a long-standing member of the Committee on the Judiciary (he chaired it in '87 and '95) . He is also co-chairman of the Caucus on International Narcotics Control. It was in that capacity that he wrote the laws that established a national "Drug Czar". He has focused his efforts on reducing the use of ecstasy, ketamine, Rohypnol (the "date-rape" drug) and steroids. As Judiciary Chair he has been active in promoting measures to stem the tide of domestic violence, and to control the spread of violent crimes.
It is in the realm of foreign policy that Biden has a decidedly mixed record. He was very active in promoting a US military involvement in the Balkans during the mid-90's. After 9-11 he bought the administration line that Hussein was a major threat to American interests. He voted for the War on Iraq, and he has steadfastly supported every appropriations bill for that conflict. His major caveat is that he has continually insisted both on an increased troop presence and an internationalization of the conflict (sounds a lot like McCain, eh?). The major difference he has with the current strategy is that he is in favor of partitioning Iraq into separate regions for the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis.
One tidbit of info that reveals Biden's true nature is his behavior after being asked to be John Kerry's running mate in 2004. He urged the wannabe president to select Senator John McCain as a VP candidate, in order to heal the "vicious rift" dividing the nation. That lends a bit of irony to my earlier suggestion that Obama and McCain should consolidate on the same ticket. Anyway, after a bit of reading I'm a bit puzzled by the Obama/Biden partnership. While it's true that a moderate Democrat with legislative experience seems to round out Barack's strengths, I don't see this pick helping Obama's chances in the November elections. Biden had only garnered 1% of the votes during the primary, and Delaware is far from being an important battleground state.
I see this move as another in a long line of concessions to the business-as-usual mentality that is so endemic in our society. If Obama was really committed to change, you'd think he'd be more adventurous in his alignments.