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Posted by on Aug 24, 2008 in Politics | 3 comments

Reaction To Obama’s Biden Vice President Pick: Solid, Masterful Or Uninspired Mistake?


Reaction to Democratic Party likely Presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama’s decision to pick Sen. Joe Biden as his Vice Presidential running mate continues to pour in. As expected, reaction is predictable along party lines but although partisans on both sides have surprisingly good and bad things to say about the choice.

[Reaction even here on The Moderate Voice is varied. Be sure to go through all of our posts for today and you’ll see a wide variety of well-argued views.]

Meanwhile, today’s news cycle was once again peppered with news about anger from the Hillary Clinton side, even as talking-heads on cable news stories were talking about prospects of party unity and putting Clinton’s own gracious words on the screen:

Even as Hillary Clinton praised the newly-minted Democratic presidential ticket Saturday, some in her circle are furious Barack Obama did not appear to give the New York Democrat serious consideration for the No. 2 spot, or even ask for her consultation on the matter.

“Set aside that Obama said she’d be on anybody’s short list, set aside anybody’s feelings on whether she was deliberately snubbed and the pros and cons of whether it should be her,” a former Clinton strategist told CNN’s Candy Crowley. “Focus on the politics of it and you have about a quarter of Clinton loyalists still not joining the caravan…for God’s sake, not to even make a show of taking her seriously is flatly stupid.”

A top Clinton advisor also told CNN they were “outraged,” over how the process was conducted.

“You can’t put [Obama VP vetters] Eric Holder and Caroline Kennedy on an hour plane ride to Chappaqua just to check the box? They should have done it just for the optics,” this person said. “Barack never even said to her, ‘Here’s how I envision the job’– not one discussion with her about [the position].”

So Obama and Biden are going to have to continue to deal with an apparent lingering party fissure caused not by policy differences or priorities on issues, but by anger about not giving Clinton what some supporters feel was an entitled hard look — because it wasn’t even done for “optics,” which would probably have led to outraged charges that Obama hadn’t been seriously looking at her after going through the motions.

Here’s a round up of some of the reaction from different perspectives in the “old media” mainstream media and in the “new media” Internet media:

Chicago Tribune:

Wisconsin Democrats say they’re pleased with Barack Obama’s choice of Sen. Joe Biden as his vice presidential candidate. Gov. Jim Doyle tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Biden gives Obama a running mate who’s very experienced in foreign affairs. Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl says his colleague from Delaware shows strong leadership on both domestic and foreign issues. Several Wisconsin delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Denver agree.

The Tribune says Biden’s selection is good government and bad politics:

We’re perplexed, though, by how little Biden brings to Obama politically beyond his 36 years of Washington cred. And we’re struck by how much more inviting a target Biden is than, say, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh—ex-governor, more centrist, sits on Intelligence and Armed Services Committees—or other potential running mates Obama rejected.

It’s difficult to see how Biden attracts many voters who aren’t already for Obama. The rankings that assign Obama the Senate’s most liberal voting record list Biden in third place. He represents Delaware, a vividly blue state Obama couldn’t lose if he tried.

Those Roman Catholics who care deeply about having a Catholic on a presidential ticket tend to want that person to be pro-life; Biden is Catholic and pro-choice. Still-bitter backers of Sen. Hillary Clinton—one-fifth of whom have told pollsters they now support Republican John McCain—still see no woman on the Democratic ticket.

Biden also carries personal baggage…Barack Obama has chosen a vice presidential candidate who possesses the key qualification. Whether Joe Biden displays the national appeal that has eluded him is something we’ll all learn over the next 72 days.

–Some Republicans eschewed the talking partisan points:

As Politico colleague Jonathan Martin notes, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska went way off message, calling the Delaware senator’s “good news for Obama and America.”

Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on Biden’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also issued a statement congratulating the chairman, as did Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

“No one on the Democratic side knows more about foreign policy than Sen. Biden,” Specter crowed. “He’s been an articulate spokesman on the subject. He also knows about domestic policy. He’s been a leader on crime control.”

The Christian Science Monitor:

So what can we say about the Biden choice? Judging from what we have heard from our Patchwork Nation communities, the move seems to meet the loose standards people identified as key for Obama’s veep – a steady hand who knows foreign policy and who is a white man.

For all the Saturday analysis of how Biden isn’t about “change,” most of the undecided and skeptical voters have told us over the past few weeks that “experience” was the bigger issue for Obama. Several people in different communities mentioned Biden as a choice they favored.

What’s less clear is how much Biden may help with “working-class white voters.” Few of our Patchwork correspondents mentioned that aspect of Biden when they spoke of him – at least before the announcement.

Joe Klein remembers a conversation with Biden months ago:

Biden told me that he was amazed and disappointed by the changes in McCain during the course of the campaign. “I just don’t recognize the guy anymore,” he said. “It’s a shame.” No doubt, Biden will have more to say on that subject now–which is one of the great advantages of picking him for vice president: according to the polls, foreign policy is McCain’s greatest strength. In reality, McCain has been captured by neoconservative extremists and is proposing an extremely dangerous course of action internationally. Biden has the stature and knowledge–and the blue-collar, no bull pugnacity–to call McCain on his imprudent militarism.

Another advantage: If McCain does go with Romney, Biden would have a significant knowledge advantage in the vice presidential debate. (And if McCain goes with Joe Lieberman, I’d be willing to pay good money to watch that one.)

The Glittering Eye:

I’ve liked Sen. Biden for quite a while and think that he’s probably the best choice available to Sen. Obama under the circumstances. I do think that it will be interesting how the campaign manages the apparent contradiction of running a campaign based on judgment rather than resume with selecting a running mate who voted for the Authorization to Use Military Force Against Iraq and, as best as I can tell, was an early supporter of “the surge”. Since Sen. Biden is only a few years younger than Sen. McCain his selection will also tend to blunt the criticism of McCain that he’s just too old to be president.

The All Spin Zone’s Richard Blair is “underwhelmed.” Read the whole post but here’s a small part:

Joe Biden is a decent debater, articulate, and (when necessary) passionate. But I don’t know that any VP in history, other than perhaps Dick Cheney, pushed back terribly hard against the president they served. And it’s pretty clear that Biden, for all of his occasional pit bull sounding rhetoric against the Bush administration, isn’t a real boat-rocker, and knows the side on which his corporate bread is buttered.

The bottom line: Could Obama have picked a better candidate? Yes, but probably no one with the national profile of Joe Biden. The name recognition already exists, and over the years, Biden has successfully cast himself as one of the elder statesman of foreign affairs in the Democratic Party. And gawd knows that the U.S. of A. is going to need a lot of statesmanship on the global stage to repair the damage wrought by the Bush regime.

I’m very unsettled by Obama’s choice of a running mate, but then again, I’m not sure that any of the short listed, vetted, and publicly considered VP contenders would have actually moved me to feel any more enthusiastic about Obama or his chances in November. But that might just be me. Your personal mileage (and tolerance for past political sins) may vary.

The National Review’s Dean Barnett:

Anyway, I must offer thanks to the Obama campaign – the Biden selection promises to provide grand entertainment. On the right, we’ll get to dust off Joe Biden’s greatest hits, a pleasurable task that will take weeks. Also on the right, we’ll get to watch progressives feign joy over Obama’s elevation of an Iraq war supporter who enjoys a cozy relationship with the credit card companies (not that there’s anything wrong with either one of those things).

Like many people who read Richard Ben Cramer’s seminal “What It Takes,” I’ve long harbored a secret soft spot for Joe Biden. But that soft spot is always threatened by prolonged exposure to the man. Usually a 20 minute segment on Meet the Press provides a mortal threat to my lingering fondness for Biden. Like the head of the Democratic ticket, Joe Biden tends not to wear well, especially in concentrated doses over short periods of time. Speaking purely analytically, Obama has made a poor decision.

But that’s just on a political basis. For pure entertainment value, the Biden selection will be a homerun.

The Daily Kos’ Kos:

So now Biden is Obama’s pick, and he’s clearly not a reinforcing one. If Obama’s core message is “change” and “judgment” based on his prescience on the Iraq War vote, well then, Biden is the exact opposite of those things.

….Lucky for us, unless McCain picks Joe Lieberman, he’s not likely to get a reinforcing pick either. It appears both candidates are headed toward the “plugging a gap” mode of choosing a vice president, as opposed to picking someone who reinforces their core messages.

Biden isn’t without his advantages. He’s purported to be the least wealthy member of the Senate, which should come in handy when contrasted against Mittens or whatever rich white guy McCain picks as his running mate, especially as the election turns on economic issues and who is most “elitist”. And Biden can be a partisan pit bull when so warranted. Given Obama’s reluctance to play the partisan card, it should be fun having a real pit bull in the number two position to do some of the necessary dirty work.

Marc Ambinder:

The criticism will focus on Biden’s 1987 plagiarism bout, his support of credit card companies (he pushed the bankruptcy bill that Dems hate), his comments about Obama, his racial obliviousness (the comment about Indian-Americans in 7/11). He’s a DC Insider. Obama didn’t double down on hope. In a normal year, this stuff would have disqualified him instantly. The biggest trope may be that the Dems are an All Talk ticket. Two famous talkers.

That Obama (apparently) picked him demonstrates a recognition that the Democratic ticket ought to be more than just about Obama’s personality… or a statement of bipartisan pragmatism… it’s easy to float on gossamers when the world is safe, but when it’s burning down, a guy like Biden is just the ticket. I take it that Obama likes the fact that Biden gets things done. Sure, he talks a lot. But he gets things done.

Ron Fournier says the pick demonstrates a lack of confidence. Maybe. Or maybe the pick demonstrates Obama’s confidence and a tempering of his overconfidence. Confidence, because Biden could upstage him, will be independent, and will be better at certain things than Obama. But if Obama were overconfident, if he believed that his personality and story alone were enough, then he’d have chosen someone less threatening.

–At The Reaction (owned by TMV Asst. Editor Michael Stickings) bloggers there have a variety of opinions:

J. Kingston Pierce: You go, Biden! (pro-Biden)

Libby Spencer: Biden Time (lukewarm)

Creature: Biden (mildly positive)

Carl: The dude-a-Biden (mildly positive from a Hillary supporter)

Carol Gee: There is something about the Senate (positive)

–Wake Up America has an excellent roundup.

The Democratic Daily:

And yes, Obama has found the man with a single house, where he returns home from Washington each evening and where he had to take out a second mortgage to pay for his kids college. Obama chose a man of experience who truly understands the issues facing the American family. Biden spoke of the conversation that takes place in America after the kids are put to bed where the husband and wife gather around the ‘kitchen table’ to decide what to do next to pay their bills.

Biden also said, in a great line, that John McCain, worth over a $100 million, had no such problems. McCain faced the more difficult problem of figuring out which of his 7 kitchen tables to use. It was a funny and highly effective moment. Another example of highly effective and new framing of ‘Bush-McCain’

Tom Watson:

Sure, some Obama hard-core types may be upset that Barack went for a white, hawkish, 60-something, corporatist, Meet the Press, deep blue DC establishment insider; he’s not the “reinforcing” choice to many theorists pulled for, or the “three-point shot” others rooted for in the way of map-changing go-for-broke style. He’s a free throw, the best VP choice for the Clinton half of the party not actually named Clinton.

Old Joe Biden is acceptable to the widest possible swath of the Democratic base, possesses a personal story that is compelling, is an energetic political terrier, and can leverage his gritty pre-MBNA Scranton roots to good effect in the geographic areas where Obama is weaker than we’d like. He’ll hammer McCain without conscience or compunction – even though he urged Kerry to choose Johnny Mac as his veep, and is buddies with the GOP nominee. This is one professional politician we’ve added to the ticket – old school, non-change, insider, totally connected. Does he take the age, war, and DC insider cards off the table? Only a little bit – the race is still about the top of the ticket. After all the tarted-up “suspense,” Old Joe Biden may be something of a let-down for some.

So that little drama is over, just in time for the one that really counts. Forget the Biden choice, the Clinton speeches, Al Gore’s appearance, the roll call, and all the assorted rallies, parties, and bloggerfests. The one thing that counts most next week – the real game-changer amidst dipping poll numbers – is Barack Obama’s acceptance speech.

Townhall’s Matt Lewis:

I like Joe Biden. He was a harsh critic of Obama, and I agree with him on that. He’s a liberal, but he’s also a working class Irish-Catholic sort who can have a beer with you. He is, at least, not an effete limousine liberal. And I can’t fault him for accepting Obama’s offer. He seems so happy and delighted to be picked, and part of me feels good for him to (sort of) reach his goal. After all, twenty years ago he was the young up-and-comer running for president. He has endured a lot of personal tragedy, so part of me is happy to see him get this shot …

And on a more cynical note, the blogger in me is happy to see someone Biden get the nod, because he is sure to say some controversial things in the weeks to come. Let’s be honest, the guy is a gaffe machine. He has already driven two presidential campaigns into the ground with his mouth. Will this be the third?

So I have no personal problem with Biden. (Heck, in 2000, Lieberman was Gore’s VP, so who knows what the future will hold for Biden?) But I do think Obama’s selection of Biden is more proof that the whole notion that Obama will be a “new brand of politician” is completely phony.

Daily Pundit:

I was talking to an Asian friend today who pays almost no attention to politics. He wasn’t even aware of Obama’s brilliant [sarcastically used] pick, but when I told him who it was, the first thing he said was, “Oh, yeah. Isn’t he the plagiarist or something?”

And with all due respect to Glenn Reynold’s giving Biden a pass on the plagiarism issue, I think this demonstrates that it’s going to continue to be a problem for him.

Among many, many others.

I do think this pick demonstrates Obama’s utter lack of any fear of a Clinton convention comeback.

Planks Constant:

That’s the problem with socialist idiots, they’re not only ignorant in economics, they can’t even be counted on to do the smart thing in a presidential campaign.

Instead of picking Hillary Clinton and insuring an easy victory he goes and picks someone who puts his foot in his mouth even more often than Obama does himself. Another tax and spend liberal, whoopee.

Is there any hope for me to have Obama win this November so that I can make a small fortune going short on the stock market and long on gold? That’s why Europeans love Obama – he’s there only briefly and leaves before they can see him for the dumb ass he really is. Half of our Republic is filled with morons who do not understand what makes this country great and I pray (I know I’m an Atheist – but I’m allowed) that the election comes before they realize that Obama knows even less than they do about the economy.

The Huffington Post’s Jackson Williams:

Anyone who cares about progressive politics, or the salt of the earth, knows that the bankruptcy bill is a disaster for average folks. Joe Biden is a big reason why this is so. He supported it and voted for it, many times over many years.

That speaks volumes about how he views the rest of the country.

–Lean Left points to a post on another blog and concludes:

In short, Biden comes out as the strongest possible choice because he is almost as solid as Hillary within the party, has much lower intra-party negatives, and, most important, is vastly more popular among swing voters. And, although they have different styles, he’s on a part with Hillary in political infighting and debate. Of course the statistical analysis treats pre-announcement popularity polls as if they’re static. The announcement alone will force some people to shift their opinions, and there’s a lot of political dynamics between now and the election. But, given what they know now, there’s a strong case to be made for Biden, and – crucially – not as strong a case to be made against him, compared to Hillary – in terms of voter appeal plain and simple. Which makes Obama’s choice easy to justify on those obviously important grounds.