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.