Dick Cheney was a friend of mine. Joe Biden is no Dick Cheney….
The Obama VP sweepstakes choice du jour is Joe Biden. Biden, of course, is an appealing choice because he chairs the Senate Foreign Relations committee, and has served in the Senate since 1973 so has extensive Washington experience. Despite serving in the Senate for 35 years, he is still relatively young (he will turn 66 this year) for someone who has been a Senator for this long (he’s fifth in seniority among Senators, if my math is correct). He thus provides Obama with both experience and foreign policy credentials. He is also a former chair of the Senate Judiciary committee, which gave him a platform for pushing some strong anti-drug policies and to generally craft a relatively strong law-and-order profile. Combined with his personal story – he lost his first wife and infant in an auto accident shortly after he was elected to the Senate (he has since remarried), and almost died from a brain aneurysm in 1988 – he is a very attractive choice. For all these reasons – his foreign policy expertise, his years working on the judiciary committee, his appealing personal history, his longevity in the Senate – he has been touted as the front runner for the VP. He is also a very personable person who, based on media accounts, seems to have developed a good rapport with Obama.
But he is not a good selection. Those of you who have seen him on the stump understand that he has a severe case of foot-in-mouth disease. In this internet/you-tube age, his verbal gaffes will be played again and again. He has twice run for the presidency and in both cases showed remarkably little rapport with voters. As the Senator from Delaware, he also brings very little to the electoral table.
The primary liability, however, is the fact that his foreign policy experience has been gained from serving in the Senate. This is what sets him apart from Dick Cheney. Cheney gained valuable foreign policy experience as Secretary of Defense under the first George Bush. Prior to that he worked under Don Rumsfeld in the Ford White House, before succeeding Rumsfeld as chief of staff. Like Obama and Biden, Bush the Younger chose Cheney to compensate for his relative lack of foreign policy credentials. But Cheney had actual executive branch experience in managing the Defense department, and in making key foreign policy decisions, most notably during the first Persian Gulf War. Biden has none of this experience. As a Senator, he tends to view foreign policy primarily through the lens of oversight of the executive branch, rather than as someone who has developed his own foreign policy or who has managed the foreign policy establishment. Note as well that Biden supported Bush’s decision to invade Iraq by voting for the October 2002 resolution to invade. After 9/11, he supported Bush’s decision to invade Afghanistan, and he also agreed with Bush’s claim that Saddam Hussein needed to be removed. He has since criticized Bush for failing to manage the war effectively, and perhaps is best noted for supporting a plan to partition Iraq into three zones of influence. But Republicans will have a field day pointing out that Biden was one of Bush’s strongest supporters in the war on terror.
In short, he lacks the right type of foreign policy experience, and his voting record on the key foreign policy issues is almost indistinguishable from Clinton’s.
A final point: if Obama wishes to make a selection that cements his image as the candidate of change – who plays more strongly to that message: Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden? For the moment, Biden is the media darling.
But he is the wrong choice for Obama.