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Free Minds & Free Markets

The Perils of Hoping Against Hope

How Joe Biden undermines Obama's campaign for "change"

For free market and free mind types resigned to the political system we've got, not the one we want, Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) cynical choice of Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) as his number two sends a serious wake-up call. Never place much faith in a politician with no discernible political philosophy.

That may seem obvious to most libertarians, who are disposed to seeing career politicians as hacks representing a primal threat to liberty. But for pragmatists like me, who believe there's little choice but to use the give-and-take of a two-party system to squeeze as much personal freedom as possible from conventional politics, the decision by the ingenue from Illinois to choose the senior windbag from Delaware is a cold-water-in-the-face reminder that ideas, not men, are what matter most in determining whether the coercive power of the state constrains or allows individual liberty.

Strip away all the slogans about hope and change. Forget the youthful energy unleashed by a perfectly managed campaign. Set aside the historic opportunity to select a black man as leader of a majority white country. In the end, the single most important factor that moved Democrats to select Barack Obama was his claim that he had the judgment to oppose the war in Iraq from the outset, when his principal opponent, Hillary Clinton, had endorsed it.

In his first test of leadership, however, Sen. Obama tapped the man whose failure of judgment as the Democratic Party's front man on foreign affairs led congressional Democrats into collusion with, rather than principled opposition to, the neoconservatives and their criminal enterprise in Iraq. That decision reveals a politician without a compass.

Know thyself is a pretty good rule of thumb for judging leadership potential. By choosing Biden, Obama tells us he doesn't have much of a clue about himself. Obama's fumbling attempt to balance his perceived weakness on foreign policy demonstrates a pitiful failure of nerve from a candidate who claimed he had solid judgment while the rest of his party exhibited wrong-headed experience. Obama's own choice underscores the problem a large number of voters have with the junior (now apparently very junior) senator from Illinois.

The obvious pick for Obama would have been someone who brought synergy to his ticket, a new face, rather than an old Washington hack favored by the party establishment and by neocons like columnist David Brooks, who wrote glowing praise of Biden just a few days before he was selected. Which isn't surprising, since Biden heads the neocon-lite wing of congressional Democrats, yet tried to back-pedal from his war support in a vain attempt to win the presidential nomination.

Of course, pragmatist that I remain, the alternative to Obama in November is even worse news for the republic: A career militarist infatuated with war-making; the co-author of the massive assault on free political speech known as McCain-Feingold; and a septuagenarian whose mental acuity should be of real concern to voters.

At least Obama's election by a mostly white electorate would end racial politics as we know it, striking a death-blow to the victimology practiced by the affirmative action reparationists who focus their narrow minds on identity groups rather than celebrate individual rights and opportunity.

And, as the Not-George-Bush candidate, the glamorous young black man would doubtless help restore America's reputation around the world.

But can a jilted supporter like me hold his nose and actually vote for Obama? Anger—more like fury—seized me this past weekend and told me no, at least for the time being. In the meantime, my advice to less practical libertarians: ideas do matter. Go with a protest vote for Bob Barr or sit this one out, if that's where your heart and your head lead you.

A former DNC press secretary, Terry Michael directs the non-partisan Washington Center for Politics & Journalism and writes opinion at his "libertarian Democrat" blog, terrymichael.net.

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  • ||

    "Obama's fumbling attempt to balance his perceived weakness on foreign policy demonstrates a pitiful failure of nerve from a candidate who claimed he had solid judgment while the rest of his party exhibited wrong-headed experience."

    I found this extremely insightful. One of the better articles I've read in awhile

  • ||

    Go with a protest vote for Bob Barr or sit this one out, if that's where your heart and your head lead you.

    Now you're getting it.

  • ||

    Go with a protest vote for Bob Barr or sit this one out, if that's where your heart and your head lead you.

    Now you're getting it.


    Except, instead of viewing it as a "protest vote", don't be afraid to say you're voting based on ideas.

  • ||

    This is the "libertarian democRAT" right?

    neoconservatives and their criminal enterprise in Iraq.

    I found it hilarious. Especially all the post- racialist nonsense.

    the glamorous young black man

    I don't think he means the same thing as Virginia Postrel(Hot!) here

  • ||

    Oh boy! Another drug warrior (Biden).

    In the meantime, my advice to less practical libertarians: ideas do matter. Go with a protest vote for Bob Barr or sit this one out, if that's where your heart and your head lead you.

    If Michigan is close, I'll vote for Obama. It probably won't be so I'm almost assuredly casting my ballot for Barr.

  • ||

    Why forgive Bob Barr's positions on the PATRIOT Act, the drug war, et al., but not Biden's on the Iraq war? Why give the former Republican a free pass as a supposedly born-again "Libertarian"?

  • ||

    Has Biden recanted?

  • ||

    Why forgive Bob Barr's positions on the PATRIOT Act, the drug war, et al., but not Biden's on the Iraq war? Why give the former Republican a free pass as a supposedly born-again "Libertarian"?

    There's always McKinney.

    If Michigan is close, I'll vote for Obama.

    See, that doesn't make sense to me. Either you like the man's ideas, whatever they hell they are absent all the bullshit smokescreens he tries to put up to keep you from seeing them, or you don't. So, vote for Obama if that's what you want. Or, vote for Barr if that's what you want. Hell, vote for McCain if you figured out what Obama really is. Do, or don't, it really is that simple.

  • ||

    I think perhaps this is most likely a ham-handed attempt by Obama to win the Hillary Democrats and Neocons he feels Biden would attract. This in itself may be a naive notion, but certainly springing forth from the well of self-serving pragmatism.

    I live in California, a state that is most certainly going to Obama with or without me. My vote, would it be for Barr, would be for an idea, and would definitely be of no waste if resigning to the triage approach to electoral politics.

  • ||

    For those of you who were thinking that Obama might scale back the drug war (even if just a little), this can't be making you feel too good. I never was delusional enough to think he might scale it back, but tapping drug warrior par excellence Biden is a major dick move right there.

  • ||

    I am surprised that Reason hasn't come down harder on Obama for picking Biden. Biden supported the invasion of Iraq, voted for the Patriot Act (twice), voted for the FISA bill, supported the surge and the goofball idea of breaking up Iraq into different countries over the objection of the elected government. Basically, Biden supports everything that Reason claims to hate Bush for. Biden also was a co-sponsor if I am not mistaken of the rediculous anti Rave act. He is one of the more moronic drug warriors.

  • ||

    Should picked Nunn, Obama! Nunn shall pass!

    Obama/Biden. I've already heard someone comment that that combo sounds too much like Osama bin Laden. Sure, you'd have to be an idiot to make that association, and I'd laugh it off if Biden were a good choice, but. . . .

  • ||

    This article seems cynical enough to go over better here than Terry's last one did. In any case, if Obama wins I hope he's able accomplish some of the things you believe his victory will provide, and it actually is better than a hypothetical McCain presidency.

    But I'm not going to hold my breath over it. I think the next two years will be Obama supporters coming face to face to cold hard reality.

  • ||

    The choice of Biden as VP running mate is a product of "group think". Very poor choice for all the reasons mentioned in the article and more. I agree with Jacob that this line was the best in the article: Obama's fumbling attempt to balance his perceived weakness on foreign policy demonstrates a pitiful failure of nerve from a candidate who claimed he had solid judgment while the rest of his party exhibited wrong-headed experience.

  • ||

    If Obama wins, getting Biden out of the legislature is a good thing. If Obama dies in office, we're fucked. Which means Biden as VP is some sort of assassination insurance.

  • ||

    I think the next two years will be Obama supporters coming face to face to cold hard reality.

    Cold, hard reality is usually followed by cold, hard, denial. Dubya, for example.

  • ||

    I think the next two years will be Obama supporters coming face to face to cold hard reality.

    That McKKKain/Rove/Diebold stole the election !!!

  • ||

    What Episiarch said. Hopey McChange (who compared drug dealers to terrorists) might even rescind his decision on Medical Marijuana with verbiage Joe behind him.

    Of course, that's just smart politics, cause it's not like McCain or his wife are weak on the drug war. I mean, it's not like they have a massive skeleton in their closet which could be exposed were the McCain campaign to use "soft on drugs" on Obama.

  • ||

    Pro Lib-

    I've already heard someone comment that that combo sounds too much like Osama bin Laden.

    I liked this.

  • ||

    What "criminal enterprise" are the neo-cons running in Iraq? Specifics please.

    France, Germany and Italy in the last election elected the candidate that was most pro American.
    Exactly how has our country's reputation slipped and how exactly will Obama restore and exactly what benefit will America gain from that?
    Like, will more countries contribute troops against a UN violater and what proof do you that they will?

  • ||

    Others have already hit the nail on the head in terms of the best line in the article. My recommendation for worst would have to be the Sullivan-esque mooning for "the glamorous black man".

  • TallDave||

    The pick of Biden signifies one thing:

    This is going to be the most entertaining Presidential campaign in memory.

    I call dibs on the "I think my IQ is higher than yours!"

    What "criminal enterprise" are the neo-cons running in Iraq?

    You know, basic rights, free elections, all those things people in other countries don't deserve.

    Biden has the distinction of being the guy who came up with a plan for Iraq that virtually no actual Iraqis supported -- splitting the county in three.

  • ||

    Good column. I basically agree w/ all of it.

  • ||

    TalLDave "I call dibs on the 'I think my IQ is higher than yours!'"

    I don't think so buddy. When you're smart enough to adjust the quotes within your own quotation marks and correctly spell paraphernalia you might think about mounting a challenge, but until then I'm pretty sure I'm quite a bit smarter than you. My IQ kicked your mother out of bed for eating crackers, OK?

    Seriously though- Biden? This is a man who thinks glo-sticks are drug parapherwhatsits (hey, I didn't say I could spell it twice). I mean, if there's one thing I'd like to be able to expect from Democrats it is that they don't want to jail people for doing a bit of special K (whatever that is- a bit after my time- get off my grandote patch you little bastards).

    I hate to judge him just on his anti-rave credentials, as I recall disliking rave kids almost to the point of senseless violence when their becandied asses started showing up close to 20 years ago, but seriously, what the fuck?

  • ||

    Of course, none of this matters unless:

    a) Obama wins, and:
    b) is assassinated, or:
    c) sets himself on fire trying to sneak a cigarette in the White House broom closet.

    After the inauguaration, assuming BO wins, Biden will most likely serve BO as a liason to Congress (a la Johnson to Kennedy), but the days when VP was a significant post (really, Walter Mondale to Dick Cheney) are in my view probably numbered, partly because of Cheney's unpopularity. In the shorter term Biden puts some grey hair on the ticket. Think about it: the strongest praise BO could offer when he announced Biden was his "fundamental decency." Which, as faint praise goes, is like saying a person has never actually been convicted of child molestation.

  • ||

    It's not that the VP post is unimportant - we all know that, and we all know that the person filling that post is mostly irrelevant. What matters is that this is the type of person the future BO Administration chooses.

    This sets a terrible precedent.

  • ||

    I know exactly how you feel, Terry.

  • ||

    Was expecting more substance from this article than a lot of rhetoric and popular appeals.

  • ||

    I'm no BHO fan, but did the author really mean to use the word "ingenue," which refers to those of the fairer sex? If so, ouch! If not, is there an editor in town?

  • ||

    Wherein Mr. Michael evolves to the understanding that a choice between Idiot A and Idiot B is not much of a choice, after all.

  • Terry Michael||

    To K.T., re:
    "I'm no BHO fan, but did the author really mean to use the word "ingenue," which refers to those of the fairer sex? If so, ouch! If not, is there an editor in town?"

    The author is quite well aware of the gender specificity of ingenue. The author was using metaphor. :)

  • ||

    Terry: Good to know... I like it!

  • ||

    Of course, any sentence that uses "the coercive power of the state" (my favorite phrase) in a negative light is A1 in my book.

    I work at a university and so many of my colleagues look at me like I'm from Mars when I use that phrase.

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