Friday, August 22, 2008
**Updated with Bio**
Joe Biden is Obama's Vice-Presidential candidate.
He accepted when offered earlier this week and will appear today on the campaign trail with the junior Senator from IL.
Biden brings with him many characteristics Obama does not have, but people want him to have: a long tenure in US politics, foreign policy experience, the "measure of years" (he's 65), he's Catholic and he's a white guy (what? who said- no, that wasn't important!).
Much more after the jump.
Senator Joe Biden of Delaware is a safe choice for Obama. As stated, he brings to the table a few key traits that many in the Republican and Democratic Parties have said are missing from (D) ticket. But we'll get into that soon. First, a little background.
Born in Pennsylvania (Scranton, actually), Biden comes from a strong Irish Catholic background, linking two key constituencies to Obama right there: Pennsylvanians (blue collar workers) and Catholics (see "Pennsylvanians"). When he was 10, Biden moved with his family to Delaware, where he has essentially resided ever since. Married twice (his first wife, Neilia, died in a 1973 car accident that also took their baby daughter and injured their two sons), there are no major skeletons in his closet related to his family. Aside from his two sons by Neila, he has a daughter by his second wife, Jill (married in 1977).
Biden's political career began in 1970, when he was elected to the New Castle County Council. At the time, he was a practicing lawyer, and not yet out of his twenties. (Note: I can't find other employment info aside from "lawyer," "councilman" and "Senator.") In 1972, in a tough race against a strong Republican incumbent, Biden won his first term as Delaware's junior Senator...at the ripe age of 29. He's served since and is one of the longest-serving Senators currently in Congress.
While a Senator, Biden has been responsible for two major pieces of crime legislation, the Biden Crime Law and Bill (pending) and the Violence Against Women Act (that's a terrible name...). Aside from that, he's worked on the Judiciary, Narcotics Control and Foreign Relations Committees. On the last, he has served since 2007 as Chairman, a post that has given him broad exposure to national (and international) media, garnering respect and name recognition. He was a major voice for military intervention in the Balkans during Bill Clinton's presidency, and some consider him largely responsible for swaying Clinton's policy that way.
Politically, he is a Democrat. There aren't many things about him that will upset the standard (D), from his support of withdrawal of Iraq (he favors federalization within the country; good in theory, but how to execute?), universal health care, no parental notification in cases of underage abortions, unionization, etc. He has broken philosophical ranks a few times, with his support of much of the Patriot Act, intervention in Iraq (just differed on strategy), immigration (he'll build the fence himself!) and a ban on partial-birth abortions.
What makes him the "safe choice" has a lot to do with really three issues: experience, foreign policy and race.
As I've said, he is the Foreign Relations Committee Chair, as has been a key voice in the ongoing discussion of the Iraq question. Before Bush's presidency, he was right there in the thick of it with the Balkans. His eye does tend across the water to trouble abroad, be it in Darfur (military intervention), Iran (diplomacy + sanctions), Cuba (democratization), Israel (two-state policy) or North Korea. And he can back all his talk up with hard experience earned in the trenches of the Senate since the Nixon era.
Great bridge to the next point: experience! Being in the Senate since 1973, he's seen seven Presidents in office, power flip back and forth across the aisle, the end of the Vietnam war, the fall of the Soviet Union and the whole ugly run-up to ousting Saddam in 2003. In between, he's done much regarding domestic policy and has built a solid reputation. It's this sort of (sigh) gravitas (I hate that word!) that Obama desires/needs to bring legitimacy to his campaign with non-youth voters. Worry lines and white hair - the sign of the aged thinker.
WHITE! He is white. And Catholic. Not a she. Wish as we might that the "Campaign for Change" who present a ticket without an old white guy, alas, not this time. No estrogen, no fiery latin temper (or rolly-polly even-keeled disposition; I'm looking at you, Bill Richardson) or at least youth to match youth. And older white guy satisfies the Clintonians desiring a fella who understands "blue collar" doesn't precede "Oxford dress shirt."
Will Obama get a bump from this announcement? It's good for five points over the weekend, settling to three until Obama's speech. The average guy doesn't know or care about Joe Biden, except if they live in Delaware (and even then...). He was in and out of the 2008 primary race before it really started, had an abortive attempt in 2004 and a major go in 1988 before lagging behind and being accused of plagiarism.
I stand by Bayh or Clinton being better, more electable choices, but that isn't to say Biden can't help Obama win it. Certainly, he shores up the experience dam, and that might just do the trick.
See Wikipedia's Biden bio & Political Positions pages, as well as Biden's homepage, for more info.