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August 23, 2008

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"Obama/Love '08" would have sounded weird.

Now that we know its Biden, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let it be Romney. A Biden/Romney fight will look like the last scene in The Dark Knight Returns--"I've got my hand around your throat, Mitt--because I want you to know I had beaten you..."

Eh. It was news eight hours ago. By now I've read eighty-billion views on it; bored now.

;-)

This is fascinating. From his eulogy for Strom Thurmond (!):

"Senator Stennis patted the leather chair next to him when I walked in to pay my respects as a new young senator, which was the order of the day. And he said, Sit down, sit down, sit down here, son. And those who serve with him know he always talked like this.

And he looked at me and he said, Son, what made you run for the Senate? And like a darn fool I told him the exact truth before I could of it, I said, Civil rights, sir. And as soon as I did I could feel the beads of perspiration pop out of my head and get that funny feeling. And he looked at me and said, Good, good, good. And that was the end of the conversation. (LAUGHTER)

Well, 18 years later, after us having shared a hospital suite for three months at Walter Reed and after him having tried to help me in another pursuit I had, we'd become friends.

I saw him sitting behind that same table 18 years later, only this time in a wheelchair. His leg had been amputated because of cancer. And I was going to look at offices, because in my seniority his office was available as he was leaving.

I went in and sat down and he looked at me as if it were yesterday and he said, Sit down, Joe, sit down, and tapped that chair. And he said something that startled me. He said, Remember the first time you came to see me, Joe? And I shook my head, I didn't remember. And he leaned forward and he recited the story.

I said to him, I was a pretty smart young fellow, wasn't I, Mr. Chairman? He said, Joe, I wanted to tell you something then that I'm going to tell you now. You are going to take my office, aren't you? And I said, Yes, sir, Mr. Chairman.

And he ran his hand back and forth across that mahogany table in a loving way, and he said, You see this table, Joe? This is the God's truth. He said, You see this table?

And I said, Yes, sir, Mr. Chairman. He said, This table was the flagship of the Confederacy from 1954 to 1968. He said, We sat here, most of us from the Deep South, the old Confederacy, and we planned the demise of the civil rights movement.

Then he looked at me and said, And now it's time, it's time that this table go from the possession of a man against civil rights to a man who is for civil rights.

And I was stunned. And he said, One more thing, Joe, he said. The civil rights movement did more to free the white man than the black man.

And I looked at him, I didn't know what he meant, and he said in only John Stennis fashion, he said, It freed my soul, it freed my soul.

Strom Thurmond's soul is free today. His soul is free. The Bible says, Learn to do well, seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow, come now and let us reason together, though your sins may be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.

Strom, today there are no longer any issues to debate, there's only peace, a patch of common ground and the many memories that you've left behind. "

My response: it could have been a whole lot worse.

As far as the politics are concerned, I actually think that Biden was probably the strongest choice. I don't think Bayh would have been safer. Like Biden, Bayh voted for war on Iraq, which raises some problems for Obama's mildly anti-war message.

What makes Biden an even safer choice politically is that the media love the guy. He's hawkish, safely anti-populist on economics, and will predictably give you interesting quotes (especially if you edit down the blather).

Most of what the media likes about Joe Biden's positions makes me suspicious of the guy (especially his advocacy for bankruptcy "reform"). But given the radically limited range of officially "serious" opinion, this choice is a home run from a political perspective.

And now we can be relatively sure that, for the first time since 1976, neither a Bush nor a Clinton will be on a major party ticket this fall. And that's a small, but important, good thing!

Having been awakened by my cell phone at around 3 AM this morning, I this is an excellent choice and the best choice. Biden helps with all of the demographics where Obama is weak. Shockingly, of course, he is not in 100% agreement with Obama on say, Iraq and bankruptcy reform. (Its amazing how difficult it is to find someone who agrees with you 100%). But he has been much more responsible on Iraq than most of those who voted to authorize and Obama's willingness to have someone who voted to authorize can actually be good by showing that he does not think that is disqualifying, since the fact is, of course, that most Americans supported the Iraq War when it began. Its a way of saying its the future, not the past, that matters. Further, Biden can talk to those in his demographic who are unsure about Obama and say that Obama's choice of him shows Obama's respect for those with Biden's background. Remember, the evidence is that people want to vote for Obama and change and the task is to get them not from McCain to Obama but from undecided to Obama. On the criticism of Obama's experience, I think most voters realize that one makes what criticims are available when you yourself are running against someone and it is easily resolved by Biden saying that the campaign showed him that Obama is up to the job. On the nice things about McCain front, that could actually help reinforce the campaign's current message by Biden being able to say that was a different John McCain and not the one who is now campaigning for president, whose ambition has caused him to reject all of the policies that made Biden look favorably upon him. Finally, this choice will let Obama be Obama, talking positive while Biden can do the attacks, again helped by Biden's previous regard for another John McCain.

It's interesting, I believe one of the concerns of Biden as VP was that because of Biden's long time in the Senate, there would be a lot more stuff to tar him with, but if things like what hilzoy points to above keep turning up, it turns what seems to be an accepted liability into a strength.

I’m content. I was for him,
Last couple of days though I was hoping for Sebelius. It’s odd; I seem to be the only one who never had an opinion on Bayh. I still don’t. I just haven’t seen enough of him to form any kind of judgment.

But after reading that story, hilzoy, I’m more than content. I’m pleased. What a glorious story. Redemptive; my fave.
Really.

Thurmond's statement that the Civil Rights movement "freed my soul" is particularly interesting in light of his relationship with Carrie Butler and their daughter, Essie Mae Washington-Williams.

"The civil rights movement did more to free the white man than the black man."

Of course. It's always about the white man.

Hilzoy:

I think Biden was a great choice. Going into the presidential campaign, he was my first choice for the simple reason that he is an adult, he is reasonable, and he gets it. Long winded? Yes. But he is pugnacious and he takes crap from no one. And as a long-standing member of the Senate Foreign Relations Cmte, he brings street cred in areas where Obama's CV is thin. The fact that his son is deploying to Iraq in September doesn't hurt either--it gives the Democratic ticket a vested interest in a good outcome and will quiet some of the "cut and run" nonsense from the GOP. I will be surprised if Obama doesn't get a big bump out of this wise selection.

I thought that it was Thurmond saying that as well, but when I reread it, it seems that it was Stennis who said that to Biden, which underlines how deft the deployment of that anecdote is.

well, mccain's out with an ad showing Biden saying Obama is not ready to be president and Biden praising McCain. Super.

It's interesting to read how Cindy McCain's money came from her father being mobbed up.

Digressing, one notices that this is the first time in decades that the Democratic ticket hasn't had someone from south of the Mason-Dixon line.

I should say: when I said that Bayh was the safest choice, I didn't mean that he was the best, or the strongest. Just the one with the fewest obvious political liabilities. If you wanted to minimize purely political risk, I think he was the one to pick.

I'm very glad Obama didn't go that way.

More on Biden: on tech and internet issues; environment (also here); low-income families.

It also means a lot to me that he was the sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act.

The Republican's will fire out all the short term attacks and they'll all fade: plagiarism (old news), differences on Iraq funding (we won't always agree on everything), the banking bill (most Americans don't get it), and so on.

By the time next Friday rolls around, after the D convention, all the old news about Biden will be just that. And we're on to November.

I hated the banking bill. But Biden is one of the smartest guys around. I watched him run the Bork hearings and he was brilliant. His foreign policy advice has been thoughtful and on deep background -- even if I might not agree with the conclusion, here's a guy who does his homework.

I urge everyone who hasn't read "What It Takes" by Richard Ben Cramer to go get a copy. It's almost 1000 pages, so I won't compel you to read the whole thing. But read the chapters on Biden (and if you have time, on Dole). The biographical information and the character profile are fascinating. I came out of that book, in the late 80s, thinking that Biden would make a great President.

I can still remember the first sentence in the first Biden chapter..."Joey Biden had balls."

I'm satisfied....pleased, even, with the choice.

Having been awakened about 3 AM by my cell phone's receipt of the text meesage, this is an excellent choice. Biden helps with all of the demographics where Obama is weak. Obama's willingness to have someone who voted to authorize the Iraq war can actually be good by showing that he does not think that is disqualifying, since the fact is, of course, that most Americans supported the Iraq War when it began and Biden, like most Americans, came to realize the mistake. Its a way of saying its the future, not the past, that matters. Further, Biden can talk to those in his demographic who are unsure about Obama and say that Obama's choice of him shows Obama's respect for those with Biden's background. Remember, the evidence is that people want to vote for Obama and change and the task is to get them not from McCain to Obama but from undecided to Obama. On his criticism of Obama's experience, I think most voters realize that one makes what criticims are available when you yourself are running against someone and it is easily resolved by Biden saying that the campaign showed him that Obama is up to the job. On the nice things about McCain front, that could actually help reinforce the campaign's current message by Biden being able to say that was a different John McCain and not the one who is now campaigning for president, whose ambition has caused him to reject all of the policies that made Biden look favorably upon him. Finally, this choice will let Obama be Obama, talking positive while Biden can do the attacks, again helped by Biden's previous regard for another John McCain.

Shawn Mullen, who is actually from Delaware, has a very interesting piece. (And how many people can honestly describe Biden as "the babe magnet on the beach of my youth"?)

Biden — the perfect foil for Palin!

I believe one of the concerns of Biden as VP was that because of Biden's long time in the Senate, there would be a lot more stuff to tar him with, but if things like what hilzoy points to above keep turning up, it turns what seems to be an accepted liability into a strength.

Not only that, but McCain has been in congress himself for...er, a while.

Not only that, but McCain has been in congress himself for...er, a while.

actually, he hasn't been in congress in a while. in fact, he hasn't cast a vote since March.

There goes the hope that Angelina Jolie would be the choice (although she would have been even better as Hillary's partner). But there's still room in the cabinet. ;-)*

*only half-joking. She may be slightly insane (as she herself admits) but I think she'd do a better job than many "professional" politicians.

Pace DrDave, I wouldn't term Sen. Biden a "great" choice for Obama's running mate (yet) - but he certainly is a good pick. Maybe the best of a thin crop, but a Veep pick whose record is well-known and well-picked-over; one who will (one hopes) be unlikely to step into the ordure on the campaign trail, and one who can actually bolster Sen. Obama's public luster. Especially on the foreign-policy/"national security" front, which (for G*d-only-knows-what reason) is still considered a Republican "strength".

To me, Sen. Biden's only significant black mark is his backing of the awful overly-creditor-friendly bankruptcy "reform" act in 2006 (Banks? Delaware? What a shock!); which should, one would assume turn off a LOT of progressives/populists. But then again, Barack Obama isn't going to get elected solely (or even mainly) on the votes of progressives/populists: the rest of the country gets a say as well.

Biden's subservience to the credit industry is a worry, but unless Obama's planning to let him run amok like Cheney (which seems unlikely), how much can he really do as VP to advance their interests? Maybe less than he can as a senator. At least that's my hope.

But then again, Barack Obama isn't going to get elected solely (or even mainly) on the votes of progressives/populists: the rest of the country gets a say as well.

I'm maybe projecting a bit here, but the progressive/populist part of my brain is thinking, "Whatever, I'm just glad it wasn't Bayh."

Also, my favorite thing about Biden is that he understands why the Sunshine Act was a mistake. It's astonishing (scary?) that he has the guts to admit it.

Adam: he understands why the Sunshine Act was a mistake. It's astonishing (scary?) that he has the guts to admit it.

Could you explain that a bit more? I don't know what the Sunshine Act is, or why it's a mistake. (It sounds good, but then so do the names of a lot of the current administration's initiatives. If named along Bush-Cheney lines, the Sunshine Act would actually be a bill to hide previously available information from the public forever...)

If named along Bush-Cheney lines, the Sunshine Act would actually be a bill to hide previously available information from the public forever...

I was thinking it would be more along the lines of building a gigantic shield in space blocking all incoming light from the sun, in order to protect us from the neutrinofascist threat. No one could have forseen that stopping the flow of solar radiation to earth would have bad side effects...

"I was thinking it would be more along the lines of building a gigantic shield in space blocking all incoming light from the sun, in order to protect us from the neutrinofascist threat."

That's actually (President) Lex Luthor's plan to block all yellow radiation, so as to deprive Superman of his powers. But Luthor being brighter than Cheney, he'd leave us the red sun radiation.

The Sunshine Act (gee, everyone isn't familiar with all this stuff? Tsk) reminds me of this story on unruly Britons on vacation, mostly because I just read it five minutes ago, and it mentions "sun."

And stuff like this:

[...] Earlier this summer, flying home to Manchester from the Greek island of Kos, a pair of drunken women yelling “I need some fresh air” attacked the flight attendants with a vodka bottle and tried to wrestle the airplane’s emergency door open at 30,000 feet.
Woo-hoo!

Gary got the link. The sunshine laws in general (though they're not all bad by any means) created an attention-imbalance problem in Congress that I'm sure Biden is all too familiar with. The idea, of course, was to foster transparency in government proceedings, but since the public doesn't pay much attention to those things and lobbyists do, the functional outcome has been to give special interests more leverage over committees and agencies.

Yeah, I saw Grover Norquist on a panel at Claim Democracy 2007, and government transparency was the main thing he talked about, since he was trying to be palatable to a mostly liberal audience. He wanted to use it to cut spending, of course.

The other thing was a constitutional amendment to prevent close relatives of officeholders from immediately succeeding them in the same office. Not sure what his angle was there, but apparently he's pushed it on other occasions as well. (Note the "immediately" -- it wouldn't have affected the Bushes or Clintons.)

"Obviously, there were riskier choices Obama could have made -- he could have picked Courtney Love, for instance."

Other than Ms. Love, I thought Hillary Clinton was the riskiest choice.

Obama-Clinton was described as a dream ticket by some, mostly Clinton supporters. But it could have just as easily been a nightmare ticket and, for that reason, I don't think he ever gave Hillary a second thought.

bedtime: I couldn't agree more. People would say this, and I kept thinking: what part of "Bill Clinton won't let Obama vet his finances and his library" don't you understand? I mean, if you just read that story in the NYT from maybe six months back, about Clinton's dealings with the Kazakh businessman, it had Danger, Will Robinson!! written all over it.

I had forgotten that Biden was asked to give a eulogy for Thurmond and had never heard it. Quite a remembrance.

"The civil rights movement did more to free the white man than the black man."

Gary: "Of course. It's always about the white man."

Couldn't tell if you were being serious or not, Gary -- actually, I thought it was a pretty strong admission of guilt, if you will, by Thurmond.


About Biden's staff --

When it seemed like it was taking forever five years ago to bring my wife and son over from Russia, I called Sen. Biden's office.

In Delaware, that's what you do when you want to get something done.

I forget the name of the young man who talked to me on the phone -- and called later with more information. But he was thoughtful, courtesy and made me feel like my dilemma was the only one going on in the world.

There really wasn't much he could do in terms of speeding up the process but, somehow, I felt as though he did.

"Couldn't tell if you were being serious or not, Gary"

Semi. Members of the majority always find it easiest to realize that everything is really about them.

And that it's what's most important.

And to see that as a deep insight.

Gary: I thought that the part about whites had to be there, or else the story would not have been relevant to Strom Thurmond. (That's to explain Biden's using that story; Stennis' telling it might just be something like: who'da figured? (All sorts of people, but that's another story.)

Also: here (pdf) is Biden's HRC scorecard, and here's more on his views on TLBG issues.

FWIW just a quick overview of the TLBG issues seems to show that Biden has grown friendlier to their interests over time. The worst he did seemed to be voting for DOMA back in '96, otherwise he's neutral or supportive of their rights.

On gay marriage vs civil unions, he supports unions and leaves the impression that he really doesn't oppose marriage and views it as inevitable.

I'd call him a pretty enlightened guy for his generation.

KCinDC: a constitutional amendment to prevent close relatives of officeholders from immediately succeeding them in the same office. Not sure what [Norquist's] angle was there

Hm. Based on nothing at all but how obsessed the right is with the family, I'd say it sounds like a anti-Kennedy-Senate-succession maneuver.

btfb: a pretty strong admission of guilt, if you will, by Thurmond.

By Stennis.

Biden's story is about Stennis, on the occasion of a Thurmond memorial.

I found an op-ed">http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/dda3edc6-9786-11dc-9e08-0000779fd2ac.html?nclick_check=1">op-ed Norquist wrote about the proposed amendment. He mentions the Richard Daleys in Chicago (the amendment applies to state and local offices as well a federal). He also mentions Chelsea Clinton and Laura Bush, but it's hard to see how they're relevant, since the text prohibits only immediate succession (by a spouse, sibling, or child).

I'm not sure about how it would be targeting Ted Kennedy's successor. Has anyone speculated that Patrick would move from Rhode Island to Massachusetts to succeed his father? It might be better than waiting for a Rhode Island seat to open up, but aren't there plenty of people in Massachusetts lined up for the job? The amendment would also stop Victoria from succeeding Ted, so perhaps that's the concern.

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