Joseph and the Electoral-Colored Dreamcoat

The buzzed-about politi-bot of the moment is Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., senior senator from Delaware, Foreign Relations Committee chairman, and frontrunner (according to people who bet on these things) for the plum job of Barack Obama's running mate.

Mr. Biden’s strengths and weaknesses as a vice-presidential nominee are glaringly obvious and in many cases overlap. At age 65, he would bring heft, knowledge and nearly four decades of experience in Washington to a ticket headed by a relative political newcomer. But that experience — he was first elected to the Senate at age 29 and has served for nearly four decades — would undercut Mr. Obama’s image as an agent of change.

Mr. Biden is among the best-informed lawmakers on international affairs, a gap in Mr. Obama’s résumé. But Mr. Biden’s broad knowledge, his committee chairmanship and his longtime membership in the most exclusive debating club in the nation also feed his biggest flaw: a verbosity and love of his own voice that drive many, including, by some accounts, Mr. Obama, nuts.

Most VP speculation is bunk fed by misinformation, but the fact that Biden isn't swooping from Sunday show to Sunday show like some hair-plugged bird of prey is awfully compelling. It's rare for him to stay silent for so long. And that, actually, is the best thing about him. Take this offhand comment to national security reporter Spencer Ackerman.

Four years ago I went to interview him for a piece about Kerry's counterterrorism strategy for TNR and he was trying to figure out whether I wanted him to say that Kerry would take a more targeted, al-Qaeda-centric approach or would just kill all the Arabs "Your magazine," he said (this is from memory), "has to figure out whether it's liberal or neoconservative, already."

He talks like this all the time. Witness:

There's something vaguely LBJ-esque there: the sandwich-chewing, the dismissiveness, the word "Look!" barked out like R. Lee Ermey spotting a UFO. But Biden has one of the longest Washington careers of anyone who has run for either president or vice president (when Dole ran in 1996 he'd served 36 years; Biden has served 35) and that record is going to be mined for gold. Take the RAVE Act, which Biden slipped into the Amber Alert bill in 2003, and which holds event organizers liable for illegal drug use on their property. Jacob Sullum reported on how it was being applied.

The first known use of Biden's law involved a fund-raising concert for two drug policy reform groups, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The concert, which was scheduled for May 30 at the Eagles Lodge in Billings, Montana, was canceled after a local agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) told the owners they could be held liable if anyone at the concert lit up a joint.

Embarrassed by the incident, the DEA blamed it on the agent's misinterpretation of the law. It promised "responsible enforcement" that would respect First Amendment rights and "shield innocent businesses from criminal liability for incidental drug use by patrons." In response to questions from Biden, Acting DEA Administrator William B. Simpkins said the requirements of "knowledge" and "intent" mean that "legitimate event promoters" should not "be concerned that they will be prosecuted simply based upon or just because of illegal patron behavior."

Then again, Biden might be the ultimate Democrat.

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  • ||

    I think Biden would be just a terrible pick. He carries no state for Obama and he's proven us lack of appeal to voters outside of his state by his failure to generate support in his prez runs. And he runs his stupid mouth quite a bit. The Dems have made one mistake on the national ticket so far this year, this would be another.

  • David Weigel||

    He carries no state for Obama

    Actually, I think he makes Pennsylvania marginally safer for Obama. He was born in Scranton and lived there until he was 10. Also, when you run statewide in Delaware (where I'm from), you buy ads in the Philly media market that covers about 2/3 of our population, so suburban Philly voters know Biden very well.

    I think he does just enough to keep Pennsylvania off the map for McCain, forcing him to go for the Michigan bank shot.

  • ||

    Granted David, but I should think a Democratic candidate could just count PA and work on turning 2004 red states (like Indiana) blue.

    There's also this branding like idea that pairing an older institutional Dem like Biden with Obama who is running as a young energizing candidate of change would seem anomalous.

  • Elemenope||

    Biden would be a middling choice. Aside from his few stupid forays into domestic drug policy, he's pretty solid, and brings foreign-policy heft. And I can't bring myself to fault someone who talks too much; call it my personal bias.

    Richardson would be way, way better, in any case.

  • ||

    Damn hippie Biden needs a hair-cut. He almost has the dreaded receding hair-line mullet.

    Biden is a terrible choice in a field of horrible choices.

  • Episiarch||

    Wouldn't Biden be dangerous in that he might make Obama look like an inexperienced twerp, especially considering his penchant for mouthing off? Plus, McCain is Old Washington Dude; adding one of those to the Dem ticket seems dumb.

  • ||

    Obama doesn't need to worry about snagging a state; McCain does.

    Obama needs to worry about someone who will make his national campaign stronger.

  • B||

    Any VP nominee from the Senate seems like a terrible idea if you are running on "change". Plus, Biden has been failing at running for president for as long as I've been conscious.

    I'm genuinely surprised that no one really seems to be playing up the fact that either McCain or Obama picking a female running mate is a pretty good strategy for picking up a lot of marginal would-be Hillary supporters.

  • ||

    Who has been nominated for the job of teaching Biden how to construct a coherent sentence? Or are they planning to just cut out his tongue?

  • Amakudari||

    Granted David, but I should think a Democratic candidate could just count PA and work on turning 2004 red states (like Indiana) blue.

    So Bayh then? He has fewer major drawbacks compared to Biden but doesn't bring much to the table aside from an advantage in Indiana. If Obama wants an attack dog to do his dirty work and some real experience in the veep, that does make Biden compelling. I'd agree that Obama should look more closely at women for VP, but he'd be taking on a lot of risk among the non-Hillary types.

    All bunk, of course. I still want him to choose Hilldawg (yeah, I'm edgy) just for the 4.5-ish years of Dem drama, soul searching, and all that good stuff.

  • ||

    I still think Obama needs to follow Horace Greeley's advice to find a running mate.

  • Seitz||

    I have no real opinion on whether he'd be a net positive for the ticket, but I do think he'd be perfect in a vice presidential debate, especially against a phony like Romney. I think that dismissive style would work pretty well in a VP debate. Not so sure it would work in a Presidential debate as well, but that VP debate would be fun to watch.

  • BDB||

    Is the anti-capitalist/Naomi Klein wing of the Democratic Party going to be comfortable with the Senator from MBNA/DuPont Corp? I think thats the real question.

  • BDB||

    Biden helps in PA. He is Pennsylvania's third Senator, essentially.

  • BDB||

    Heres my favorite Bidenism:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIT3jUrNTX0

  • robc||

    Even Bayh (thats not a typo, I mean the word even) cant make Indiana blue.

    Bayh's voting record drifted left as he considered a prez run in 2008. It pissed off the Hoosiers GOPers that I know, that used to vote for him.

  • ||

    At age 65, he would bring heft, knowledge

    Biden? That hack? If that's what passes for gravitas these days, we are truly doomed.

  • ||

    Robinette? Like Broadhead? That's cool--when does he go to the Gateway asteroid?

  • Orange Line Special||

    Biden seems somewhat OK personally, but his policies are those of GlobalistScum.

    So, to go with their support for BHO, libruhtarians should support JB.

  • BDB||

    Whats a "globalist"?

  • Zerg||

    This is about brand equity. Obama is a brand - young, hopeful, and representing change. no, i don't really buy the hype or marketing slogans, but that's the pitch

    Biden would be a terrible choice simply because he dilutes the brand. What Obama needs is a marginally more/less experienced, WASPish, youthful, and semi-charismatic side kick. Someone who is not a politician or is, but has a degree in something outside of policy. Someone like a condee rice except whiter and younger.
    This side kick will stick to the side and keep his/her mouth shut. Hopefully said sidekick has powerful friends and can raise a couple of million.

    Its about the BRAND people!

  • BDB||

    Zerg, what you just described is Mark Warner. But hes taken.

  • ||

    What Obama needs is a marginally more/less experienced, WASPish, youthful, and semi-charismatic side kick. Someone who is not a politician or is, but has a degree in something outside of policy. Someone like a condee rice except whiter and younger.
    This side kick will stick to the side and keep his/her mouth shut. Hopefully said sidekick has powerful friends and can raise a couple of million.


    Mylie Cyrus?

  • Johnny the Boy||

    My memory fails me, but a Reason writer once labeled Biden as the "human non-sequitur." Possibly the best nickname ever.

  • Loquat||

    At age 65, he would bring heft, knowledge and nearly four decades of experience in Washington to a ticket headed by a relative political newcomer.
    Isn't that what the same pundits ripped on Bush for when he picked Cheney as vp? Are we going to see Daily Show jokes about how Biden is really running the government? I think not.

  • Franklin Harris||

    Well, all I know is if I were running for president, I'd certainly want a running mate who thought I was "clean."

  • BDB||

    Biden really would be the most "entertaining" pick, wouldn't he?

  • Jerry||

    I cannot find anyone except Bill Richardson to match up with Obama. McCain will pick Romney.

  • ||

    Obama VP - Sam Nunn
    McCain VP - Kurt Russell

    Okay, I was kidding about McCain's VP. He's really picking George Takei.

  • ||

    Jack Reed.

    Chris Dodd.

    Bill Richardson.

    I hope it's not drug-warrior Biden. I don't expect my presidential ticket to solve that problem, but could they please not make it worse?

  • anon||

    Biden?

    Obama just lost my vote.

  • BDB||

    Jack Reed--too New England (no offense, but thats not exactly a purple region)

    Chris Dodd--Countrywide mess, also, New England

    Bill Richardson--too minority

    Time Kaine--ahahahahahah...ahh. No. Toll Road Timmeh would be a Democratic Dan Quayle.

    I say Evan Bayh is the best. Bland, sure, but unoffensive.

  • ||

    BDB,

    Cheney is from Wyoming/Texas. John Edwards was from Dixie.

  • BDB||

    Yeah joe, and Bush damn near lost (or probably, your opinion, did lose) that election. If he had picked Tom Ridge Florida would have been moot.

    Edwards didn't exactly have deep roots in NC politics like Bayh does in Indiana. He bought his Senate seat. Plus he was a pussy in debates (another reason you don't want Timmeh).

    What do you have against Bayh?

  • ||

    I don't think VP candidates can really "deliver" states or regions anymore. Before the rise of mass media, that might have been true.

    I don't have a very high opinion of Obama, and picking Biden would simply confirm my opinion. My guess is that his pick will not be someone currently serving in Washington DC.

  • ||

    Bad vibes, man. I don't trust that guy any further than I can throw him. In a room full of professional politicians, he would stand out as a snake in the grass. Makes my blood run cold.

    Also, not only was he wrong on the Iraq War for far too long, he was an enthusiastic dealer in every smear the neoconservatives dreamed up for those who opposed it.

  • BDB||

    I always got bad vibes from Edwards, and it was confirmed this year.

    ChrisO-

    Not so much states and regions, but media markets. This is why Obama over-performs in Indiana and Wisconsin, but McCain doesn't overperform in Nevada and New Mexico. IN and WI are within a Chicago media market, NV and NM are not in the Pheonix media market.

    If he picks someone outside of Washington, its Timmeh. And so the eyebrow's looming shadow and all its failure shall be unleashed on an unsuspecting nation...*shudders*

  • ||

    BDB,

    I don't usually respond like that to politicians, but I can imagine Bayh getting all Martin-Sheen-in-The-Dead-Zone. I couldn't tell you why, that's just how I feel.

    You don't think McCaskill or Napolitano have a chance?

  • BDB||

    McCaskill makes Obama look experienced and ready by comparison.

    I don't know anything about Napolitano.

    Really its between Biden, Bayh, and Kaine. Biden is your best shot if you think Bayh is a scumbag.

  • ||

    I bet your wrong, BDB. I bet it's someone that neither of us have named, but which will look obvious in retrospect.

  • ||

    Nunn shall pass.

  • ||

    If Obama wanted a longtime Washington insider with a reputation as a foreign policy expert and tough guy, why would he pick boring old Sam Nunn over Joe Biden, who he likes and agrees with a lot more? Nunn would be a terrible candidate, and Biden would be a good one.

  • ||

    what about this sebelius person?

  • BDB||

    I think the likelihood of a Clinton VP is higher than at any point since the end of the Primary Stalemate.

    Of course, then Chris Matthews and Wolf Blitzer will blabber on about how the Clintons are really in control of the ticket, how this emasculates Barack Obama, blah blah blah.

  • ||

    Nunn's got the South thing, too, as well as being one of those Democrats that GOPers can tolerate. Biden doesn't have either of those virtues. Besides, this way I can say, "Nunn shall pass."

    Sebelius' maiden name is Gilligan. That's just too easy to mock--she has no hope. Obama just hates being called the Skipper.

    Clinton's out. Obama bought her off by handing her control of the convention. Which, incidentally, is more evidence of his inability to manage political in-fighting. On top of his myriad other flaws. We're so screwed this election.

  • Elemenope||

    Clinton's out. Obama bought her off by handing her control of the convention. Which, incidentally, is more evidence of his inability to manage political in-fighting. On top of his myriad other flaws. We're so screwed this election.

    Say huh? If handing her a line on the nomination ballot shuts her up for good, it's a masterstroke. Ballsy, and brilliant.

    Of course, given that this *is* the Democratic party, perhaps they might actually run with it and fsck us all.

  • BDB||

    Oh Lord.

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0808/12646.html

    McCain is really, really trying to throw this election isn't he? If he picks Lieberman I think the Democrats have won. Obama will probably even win Mississippi.

  • ||

    Elemenope,

    Her--and her husband--are getting more than that. Just the message the Democrats need to send: "Look, we're still all about Clinton! And, yes, despite our words otherwise, we're still divided!" McCain should be easy to beat, as Bush should've been. But Obama will fuck it up, with help from the party.

    McCain will pick a social conservative to bolster the perceived GOP base, and likely someone young. Palin actually would be an interesting move, except that she's bit obscure as governor of the Yukon. Or is it Nunavut?

    I'm voting for Babar.

  • Dave W.||

    I bet your wrong, BDB. I bet it's someone that neither of us have named, but which will look obvious in retrospect.

    Al Gore. If Obama gets RFK'd he'll be president, too.

  • ||

    I still don't know why Ted Strickland is off the table. He seems an obvious choice for many reasons.

  • BDB||

    Al Gore?

    Why not pick John Kerry? Or Michael Dukakis? I hear hes unemployed.

    Jeeze, some people are gullible. The only reason the media even mentions that is because its lazy. They wouldn't have to do any research on Gore.

  • Dave W.||

    Because, unlike the others, Al Gore actually won a presidential election. And he didn't vote for the Iraq War.

  • BDB||

    I hear he also invented the internet and visited a Buddhist Temple.

    What a dumb move picking him would be. People don't like losers.

  • ||

    Not Al Gore, Gore Vidal! Obama would be unbeatable, then.

  • ||

    What Obama needs is a marginally more/less experienced, WASPish, youthful, and semi-charismatic side kick.

    Robin?

  • ||

    R C Dean,

    Too gay (says the man who just offered up Gore Vidal). Maybe Cato?

  • idiot||

    RON PAUL!

  • ||

    A McCain-Lieberman ticket would boost Barr's (small) numbers by 50 percent.

  • ||

    A McCain-Lieberman ticket would boost Barr's (small) numbers by 50 percent.

    I bet it would be a lot higher than that.

    There would be open war within the GOP if McCain pulled a dumbass stunt like that. Which, of course, makes it all the more likely that he will do it.

    On the other hand, the sheer awfulness of a Biden/Lieberman debate might be something to behold.

    Bob Barr already has my vote.

  • BDB||

    Would it really be any worse than the Lieberman/Cheney 2000 debate?

  • Jerry||

    McCain picking Lieberman is about the stupidest thing he could do. Can you imagine president Lieberman? No, so can't anyone else. McCain needs to pick someone who does not make him look older, yet is able to look like a commander in chief. I'm vying for Romney. And hopefully Democrats will pick up enough congressional seats to make the McCain presidency very uneffective.

  • ||

    I can picture it: "Be wery quiet. I'm huntin' that wascally Wussian, Putin."

  • ||

    Obama will be selecting whomever Bill Clinton tells him to. Bill Richardson may be too obvious considering he was Clinton's fixer during Monica. Bill owns this convention, just as he did in '04 when he arranged Obama's introduction to America.

  • ||

    It's funny how Jack Ryan had to drop out of the 2004 senate race for what must be called the politics of personal destruction. I'd guess Illinois dirt, like custody battles, would be of particular interest to pilferers of FBI files.

  • ||

    On the other hand, the sheer awfulness of a Biden/Lieberman debate might be something to behold.

    On the bright side, a recording of this might make waterboarding obsolete.

  • Paul||

    I think he does just enough to keep Pennsylvania off the map for McCain, forcing him to go for the Michigan bank shot.

    Ahh, politics as sports. I love it.

  • Paul||

    for picking up a lot of marginal would-be Hillary supporters.

    Call me cynical, but Obama already has the would-be Hillary supporters. What's their other choice? *looks past McCain* Nope, don't see another one.

  • ||

    Can you imagine president Lieberman?

    Sure I can. Ahem:

    "Alf...don't waterboard...the cat."

  • Geotpf||

    I think if one was going to go this route (old guy with foreign policy cred), I would choose Sam Nunn. Biden shoots his mouth off a little too much, IMHO.

  • Dave W.||

    "Alf...don't waterboard...the cat."

    lol. this one deserves to be higher up in the thd.

  • ||

    I have to wonder if DuPont hasn't poisoned the water in Delaware and lowered the local intelligence level, for the voters there to keep re-electing this dweeb.

  • ||

    As far as who McCain picks, the choice is obvious: Matt Welch!

  • ||

    Just when you think we will stop wasting taxpayer money on the war on marijuana/hemp, along comes Biden, another drug warrior. It's high time to vote third party

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