Joe Biden: how depressing

Barack Obama’s choice of Joseph Biden, the veteran Delaware senator and head of the Foreign Relations Committee, as his running mate is a depressing capitulation to conventionality that dangerously undercuts his much-hyped theme of “change”—especially given his telling flub at a Springfield, Ill., rally: “Let me introduce to you, the next president—the next vice president of the United States of America: Joe Biden.” (Reuters, Aug. 23) Don’t look now, Obama, but your Freudian slip is showing. Biden is not merely a pillar of the Beltway establishment, but has his own disturbing flirtation with the now almost universally hated neocons—the very people Obama has thus far successfully positioned himself in opposition to…

In an open embrace of a key element of the neocons’ hubristic vision of remaking the Middle East, Biden is co-author with Council of Foreign Relations president emeritus Leslie Gelb of a plan calling for the partition of Iraq into three entities—as if this were a matter for the US Senate and CFR to determine rather than the Iraqis. In October 2007, the Senate passed a resolution endorsing Biden’s plan—to the protest of Iraq’s Sunni and Shi’ite leadership.

While he is posed as a liberal critic of the Bush administration, Biden’s proposals for a “phased withdrawal” from Iraq emphasize the “phased” part of that construction. In November 2005 he told the CFR:

Our presence remains necessary because, right now, our troops are the only guarantor against chaos. Pulling out prematurely would doom any chance of leaving Iraq with our core interests intact.

Earlier that year, he called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation—but again with the caveat that “If we withdraw immediately now, we’re going to end up with a haven for terror…”

Most ominously, in July 2002, Biden announced that he supports expanding the military’s domestic powers, saying “it is time to revisit” the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act that bars the armed forces from law enforcement at home. “I think it has to be amended,” he told Fox News. (He added, somewhat pathetically, “We shouldn’t go overboard.” Gee, thanks.)

In fairness, Biden’s liberal creds do have some basis in reality. In June 2005, he called for the administration to at least consider closing Guantánamo prison camp, and to define the “end of the conflict” for the duration of which the inmates are supposedly being held. In March 2007, he pushed an unsuccessful measure that would have imposed conditions for democratic reform on aid to Pakistan. In May 2003, following the bloody crackdown in Aceh, he successfully instated a moratorium on military aid to Indonesia.

But Biden is the embodiment of a timid, domesticated “loyal opposition,” whose criticisms of the Bush White House have been generally couched in equivocation. Worse, he has loaned credibility to some of the Bush administration’s most dangerous ideas. In terms of either creating the perception of a clean break with the bloody status quo so as to gain the Oval Office, or creating the conditions for a real break if he does win—Obama’s choice could prove nothing short of a disaster.

See our last posts on Barack Obama and the neocons.

  1. You would have preferred … ?
    Obama’s trying to win. 100% of the progressives in this country is, what, around 10% of the electorate? Maybe. The clean break you’re looking requires much more grass roots work than one presidential campaign.

    Now imagine McCain waking up at night screaming with his hand near ‘the button’ (or the suitcase). Obama could have picked Hillary and they still wouldn’t be as scary as the angry ex POW

    1. Clean break
      I honestly don’t think this is going to help him win. I think it’s detrimental. Of course he’s still FAR preferable to the utterly terrifying McCain—that isn’t the point. I also understand the compromises which are necessary to win—that isn’t the point either. Real systemic “change” without much, much more grassroots work (of the kind the right has been undertaking since Reagan) is not realistic. However, a “clean break” with the neocons—not with the oil companies, the military-industrial complex, Wall Street—is a much less ambitious goal, and seemed to be the direction Obama was going.

      He has squandered support with this move—and not only from progressives, but also paleocons who view McCain as too close to the Bush boys (i.e. neo-Mugwumps). Personally, I was hoping he’d pick Bill Richardson. If you add just about all of the Black electorate, the big chunk of the Hispanic electorate he’d have picked up with Richardson, white progressives, and neo-Mugwumps (disenchanted conservatives), I think he’d have had enough to at least squeak by. I am far less hopeful for an Obama victory today than I was yesterday.

      1. I sort of agree but …
        Richardson was an interesting choice but Obama starts two strikes down (or whatever sports metaphor you want to work) because he’s black. A non white ticket is a long shot in 2008 though inevitable sometime relatively soon. Biden nullifies McCain’s only strong suit, muddies the foreign policy argument. Any paleocon that was going to vote Dem still is. Any progressive sitting out because it’s McCain and not Richardson is surreal. Hispanics are going to the Dems this year anyway (hopefully) and progressives suspect, as do I and the righties, that Obama will be slightly further to the left then he’s letting on during the campaign.

        I agree that I personally would (slightly) prefer Richardson but as a strategic move Biden seems much better. Obama has to ‘close the deal’ anyway, or so say the 5k pundits, and get deeper then ‘change’. Biden blocks McCain’s tough guy act and lets the Dems decide how they’re going to phrase ‘class war’. The Dems have to chip off some of the Reagan Republicans and Biden’s a Catholic from the working class. Biden is also a big champion of Amtrak and that’s a plus for me.

        Still, against conventional wisdom, I think it’s McCain’s race to lose. “John McCain, POW. The white guy” … but … McCain sold his soul to the Roveians already, that may have been a mistake, so he just might manage to lose.

  2. good to have advance warning…
    …so we know where to apply torque when Obama/Biden get into office. And let’s not forget his support of the bankruptcy bill.

    On the other hand, he’s been quite good about a number of other issues such as gay rights, contraception, Amtrak (he also uses Amtrak frequently), and a few others. And he’s a strong fighter (“a noun, a verb, and 9/11” becomes “a noun, a verb, and POW”). And the man believes in science, which is not something to take for granted these days.

    So realistically, a mixed bag, but a much better starting point than McCain. And need I remind anyone about the Supreme Court…?

    What we need to do is support the ticket, get them elected, and then push for a comprehensive agenda that will push the rightie-wingers all the way off the far edge of the table.

    Let the new version of “compromise” be that we won’t insist on equal time for Darwin in Sunday schools, that we’ll settle for “decriminalization” rather than full legalization, and that we won’t deny tax exemptions to churches that refuse to perform gay marriages. Let the new version of “compromise” be that we won’t press criminally negligent homicide charges against health insurance executives, and that we’ll only seek to turn Bush over to The Hague rather than court martial him for war crimes with a possible death penalty. You get the idea.

    Obama/Biden is only the first step. Pushing so hard that we change the entire stinkin’ paradigm is the goal.