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Obama and Biden: BFFs for Life

Sam Guzik

Posted: Aug 24th 2008 10:23AM

Filed under: US Elections, Politics, Washington University, Advise & Dissent, Veepstakes

On the same steps where Senator Barack Obama declared his candidacy 19 months ago, Obama introduced Delaware Senator Joseph Biden as his running mate on Saturday.

Biden - the former contender for the Democratic presidential nomination - was chosen 10 days ago while Obama was vacationing in Hawaii, according to The New York Times and was first made public through a text message to Obama supporters early Saturday morning.

Naysayers of the Biden choice were quick to highlight what they call a history of "insensitive, stupid, and counter-productive comments," his politics which are "more of the same," and a reputation that risks "alienating the working-class voters Obama so badly needs" (and those were just Bright Hall's own).

At the end of the day, though, Biden is the right choice to do what a vice president needs to do: bolster his running mate on policy issues without upstaging him and drawing away the spotlight.

Specifically, Biden has the foreign policy experience that Obama's detractors say he lacks - the experience to help with that 3:00 a.m. phone call. As the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he has become a respected voice about everything from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the Balkans conflict and the Global AIDS crisis.

Biden has an innovative plan, based on historical experiences, for dividing Iraq into three semi-autonomous regions, one for Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, the so-called Biden Plan, which has been praised by Obama and other leading democrats.

If the ticket is elected in November, Biden - who has served six-terms as a senator - will have the skills and relationships to work with the Senate to ensure that Obama's legislative agenda is carried through just as Lyndon Johnson did for President Kennedy.

Biden also showed yesterday that he is willing to stand up to Senator McCain - to get his hands dirty in a way that Obama has been more reserved about doing - saying bluntly and forcefully: "And during those 18 months, I must tell you, frankly, I have been disappointed in my friend John McCain, who gave in to the right wing of his party and gave in to the Swift boat politics he once so deplored."

Whatever he has said in the past about Obama, Biden is now clear on one point: he is and will be a vocal supporter for the rest of the race.

Biden is a political survivor - he has made it through one botched presidential run in 1987, the charged 1991 Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings and his trademark off-the-cuff remarks that have raised flags in his past. This trait should help him coach Obama through a tougher than expected race.

For all those skills, Biden does not have the same looks or youth to take the public's eye off Obama (the way a candidate like Evan Bayh might have done). Biden will be the traditional vice presidential candidate, getting occasional moments to shine, but mostly slaving away at stump speeches around the nation.

Regardless of Biden's skills, though, the Obama campaign (now the Obama-Biden campaign, really) has its work cut out: Obama is floundering in some polls and falling behind in others; despite the lack of a clear message, McCain is undercutting Obama's talking points successfully.

At the end of the day, we won't know the true wisdom - or lack thereof - in Biden's selection until the results come in on election night. But, hopefully, at the very least, the selection will help to ensure that there is a dynamic and powerful race on both sides of the aisle.

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