Monday, August 25, 2008

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.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given the way things work, Biden is well qualified.

"By August 1987, Biden's campaign had begun to lag behind those of Michael Dukakis and Richard Gephardt.[28] In September 1987, the campaign ran into trouble when he plagiarized a speech by Neil Kinnock, then-leader of the British Labour Party.[30] Kinnock’s speech included the lines: "Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university?" Then pointing to his wife in the audience, he continued: "Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because all our predecessors were thick?" While Biden’s speech included the lines: "I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university?" Then, pointing to his wife: "Why is it that my wife who is sitting out there in the audience is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because I'm the first Biden in a thousand generations to get a college and a graduate degree that I was smarter than the rest?" Though Biden had previously cited Kinnock as the source for the formulation many times before, he made no reference to the original source at the August 23 debate in question. [31]

It was also discovered that, while a law student at Syracuse Law School, Biden had plagiarized a law review article. Though the then-dean of the law school, as well as Biden's former professor, played down the incident, they did find Biden drew "chunks of heavy legal prose directly from" the article in question. Biden said it was inadvertent due to his not knowing the proper rules of citation, and Biden was permitted to retake the course after receiving a grade of F, which was subsequently dropped from his record.[32] Biden also released his undergraduate grades, which were unexceptional.[32] When questioned by a New Hampshire resident about his grades in law school, Biden had inaccurately recollected graduating in the "top half" of his class when he actually graduated 76th from 85, that he had attended on a full scholarship, and had received three degrees.[33] He had received two majors, History and Political Science, and a single B.A., as well as a half scholarship based on financial need.[33] Faced with these revelations, Biden withdrew from the nomination race on September 23, 1987, saying his candidacy had been overrun by "the exaggerated shadow" of his past mistakes.[34] After Biden withdrew from the race, it was revealed that the Dukakis campaign had secretly made a video showcasing the Biden/Kinnock comparison and distributed it to news outlets.[35]"

He's a bit loose with the truth but since the truth is we are over 53 trillion in debt, I think most voters want to be lied to.

The film, IOUSA is out.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Dagrims said...

Hey, thanks for including the number references.

I'm glad to see, Merge, that the selection of Biden is confusing to you, because it is to me as well. I thought Evan Bayh would be the strongest selection, and Hillary would have been one to sew up the election.

A small part of me was hoping for Hillary, instead of her speech calling for unity, came out blasting Obama and announcing that she was running for VP on McCain's ticket. That would have shaken things up a lot.

Her actual speech was excellent, however. She accomplished every possible thing hoped for, and it should work in getting her angry supporters to consider voting for Obama. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on one's predilections.

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There should be some good books coming out in the future about Hillary's campaign, as well as the selection process that would have excluded her as a VP candidate. While I have little doubt she would have helped the ticket considerable, I just couldn't see her taking on a role that would submit her to be second fiddle to the President of the United States. Wait...never mind. :-)


10:27 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


Well, the GOP tried to promote her as the real power of the Clinton presidency anyway- so you might have something there.

Actually she was fairly transparent about being willing to accept the VP slot. I wanted to see it happen. I think the Democrats got cold feet, and figured that America required at least one old white man on the ticket.

I'm far more interested in learning more about the GOP selection process. There are a lot of rumors that McCain was "forced" to accept Palin, and that he's none-too-happy about it.

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Were that true, it wouldn't speak well of his position of being a maverick, so I don't think that would ever come out.

3:11 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Well, I don't think the mainstream media is likely to investigate and cover such rumors in any substantial or timely way... that's for sure.

3:32 PM  

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