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Archive for the ‘Joe Biden’ Category

Biden’s Vice-Presidency

Monday, March 30th, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

Mark Leibovich’s profile of Joe Biden manages to be both interesting and uninteresting at the same time, in no small part because the Vice-President didn’t actually sit to be interviewed himself. But what I continue to find to be the most interesting aspect of Biden, and one of the most interesting things about the entire administration, is the way he envisions his role in governing, as we see in this graf from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Before he took the job, Mr. Biden sought assurances that his would not be just a ceremonial position and that he would have substantive assignments. Mr. Obama envisioned his vice president as having a role distinct from the last two — Dick Cheney, who was his own power center in the White House, and Al Gore, who took on signature issues and assignments like the environment and government reform that he hoped would help his anticipated run for president.

Mr. Obama wanted his No. 2 to be a kind of über-adviser and interdisciplinary trouble-shooter. “Joe and I agreed that I wasn’t going to be handing him one narrow portfolio,” Mr. Obama said.

Early indications are that the partnership has evolved as they had imagined. “I think he’s playing the role as ‘adviser in chief’ that he has foreseen,” Mrs. Clinton said of Mr. Biden, adding that he was “involved in the whole agenda of the president.”

For a while, especially during the early primaries, there seemed to be a large feeling that Obama would somehow change government itself in substantive ways. Whether or not that is true, or whether there are any major structural changes (I doubt it), one thing they may very well change, for the better, is the role of the Vice-President. Dick Cheney aside, since the Vice-President took on a larger role under Carter/Mondale, the nature of the office has been quite ambiguous. Carter valued Mondale as an adviser, George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle were little more than symbolic sops who had no real relationship with the President they served under. Al Gore was given a particular portfolio, which was both helpful to those issues and harmful, in the sense that it created ambiguity about who controlled what turf internally. And, of course, there was Cheney. Biden has outlined a different version of the office, one in which he serves in a sort of “wise old sage” function, dispensing advice to the President across a wide range of issues, and where he has latitude to be involved in the decision making process without necessarily taking on any formal governing role. This is a very good model, I think, for the Vice-President going forward, one where, given the right person in office, they can have a lot of influence in the administration without creating new turf wars, and a way in which a smart, experienced person can be useful to the President without taking on an improper amount of authority. It also has the added benefit, again given the right person, of injecting an “independent” voice into discussions, as the Vice-President can speak their mind comfortably moreso than staffers or advisers, since the President can’t fire them. They can decline to ask them to be on the re-election ticket, but that would create political problems itself, and so the Vice-President can feel more open to voicing an unpopular opinion or to challenge strongly held opinions of the President. And when you have a President who doesn’t mind having their opinions and assumptions challenged, as Barack Obama appears not to, that creates a very good check on group think, and an extra layer to the cognitive process of decision making in the White House we haven’t seen in some time in this country. Hopefully future Vice-Presidents, and Presidents, take note of this.

Biden’s Role

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

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There’s an interesting article in today’s New York Times that examines the way Vice-President elect Joe Biden intends to wield the “power” of the officem particularly in the wake of Dick Cheney. This, I think, it the most interesting bar, and highlights a good role, not just for Biden, but for the office in general:

Although Mr. Biden does not want to be another Dick Cheney, he does not want to be another Al Gore either. “I don’t want to be the guy who handles U.S.-Russia relations. I don’t want to be the guy who reinvents government,” Mr. Biden said, ticking off two of Mr. Gore’s most famous areas of responsibility. “I want to be the last guy in the room on every important decision.”

Walter F. Mondale, the first vice president to get an office in the West Wing, said Mr. Biden was taking the right approach. “Taking on a line assignment from some part of government that is already under way, I never thought was a good use of my time,” Mr. Mondale said. “And I thought it could lead to bureaucratic infighting.”

That’s a pretty wise conception of the office, in my opinion. It doesn’t really make any sense to have the Vice-President dealing with areas that encroach into the realm of cabinet secretaries. Aside from creating beuraucratic issues, it’s just redundant, and not a very effective use of time or resources. On the other hand, you don’t want someone who is just getting a paycheck and giving speeches every now and then with no real influence, because that’s going to discourage people like Biden from taking the worthless job when they could be chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee instead. So having the Vice-President as a general adviser who gets to take part in all of your decisions, at least nominally, as well as being a President-in-waiting and maybe handling some executive functions that cross over various agency lines or needs a White House footprint is probably the most effective way you could use the office in any administration, and Biden will be doing the government a great service if he can establish that as the norm for the office.

Debate Reax

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

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The bottom line take away from the VP debate last night is that knowledge matters, and that you just can’t cram for these things. Palin was able to speak in complete sentences and hit a certain number of buzz words to be sure, but Biden was ready at every turn and, like a good smashmouth football team, pulled away late by wearing out the competition. As the debate wore on, particularly into the final third, it became increasingly clear that, while Biden was as fresh as he was at the beginning of the night, Palin was running out of canned lines and memorized talking points. Biden also did a very good job letting her dig her own holes, whether constantly going back to “energy” as a dodge to most every question she couldn’t talk about in the first half of the debate, or cleverly cutting her lines off at the knees before she could unroll them in the 2nd half.

But probably the biggest effect the night could have, in any year, is the attacks that could be leveled at the top of the ticket(s), and in this regard Biden was the big winner. Long story short, Palin couldn’t make any attack stick throughout the night, and this is another example of why you can’t learn these things on the short. Palin was certainly well coached on her attack lines, but they were just that, lines. And because they weren’t even new lines, Biden was quite obviously ready for them when they came, and he rebutted them all as they came along. Whether on taxes, Iraq, Iran, healthcare, or whatever, Biden responded forcefully to her attacks, and she was left with no comeback other than to repeat them, saying in effect “nuh-uh!” On the other hand, Palin was apparently not well prepared to defend John McCain (maverick!), and Biden was able to have his way with the Republican nominee on issue after issue, most strikingly (I thought) on healthcare, where Biden gave one of the most succinct and complete attacks on McCain’s healthcare plan we’ve yet seen, and Palin didn’t even attempt a comeback, a fact that’s been summed up today in a new Obama ad.

As far as I know, McCain’s campaign hasn’t released a debate ad as of yet.

Who Are You, and What Have You Done With Joe Biden?

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

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I’m flabbergasted

If Sen. Joe Biden was hurt that Republican operative Karl Rove called him a “big blowhard doofus” at an event in Minneapolis Monday, he didn’t show it.

On hearing the news, Biden grinned and said “he’s a great American.”

Clearly, the Obama campaign has incapacitated the real Joe Biden and replaced him with a cyborg. Or Obama just rubs off on everyone around him.

Smearing Biden

Monday, September 1st, 2008

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Because you can only trot out the same smears against Obama so many times I guess, John Podhoretz has, awkwardly I might add, decided to move on to smearing Joe Biden with patent falsehoods:

A friend in Washington e-mails a quote about a confrontation between then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Joseph Biden, that would have occurred in the summer of 1982. The quote comes from a piece by Moshe Zak, one-time editor of the Hebrew paper Ma’ariv, that appeared in the Jerusalem Post on March 13, 1992 (sorry, no link):

 In a conversation with Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, after a sharp
confrontation in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the subject
of the settlements, Begin defined himself as “a proud Jew who does not
tremble with fear” when speaking with foreign statesmen.

During that committee hearing, at the height of the Lebanon War, Sen.
John Biden (Delaware) had attacked Israeli settlements in Judea and
Samaria and threatened that if Israel did not immediately cease this
activity, the US would have to cut economic aid to Israel.

When the senator raised his voice and banged twice on the table with
his fist, Begin commented to him: “This desk is designed for writing,
not for fists.  Don’t threaten us with slashing aid.

Riiiiight. Sure John, a “friend” sent you that in an email.

Anyway, snark aside, are we really supposed to believe that a Senator could get into a heated exchange with the Israeli Prime Minister in a Senate hearing and everyone would just completely forget about it? If this happened, wouldn’t it be one of those enduring points of biography Biden would carry around forever?

Sweet Jeebus he even has Marty Peretz making sense.

The Stupid Debate Meme

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

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Everyone seems to be wondering how exactly you debate a girl, and fretting that Biden isn’t going to be able to attack Palin lest he look like a big mean bully attacking the cute young woman. Isn’t this a little bit disconnected, if we’re going to operate under labored gender stereotypes? I mean, doesn’t the sterotypical professional woman want to be treated just like the boys? Anyway, I think it deserves to be said that Noam Scheiber’s wife appears to be the smartest person in the world today.

My wife had a good solution to the debate problem this morning: Biden should spend most of his time focusing on McCain and engage Palin as little as possible. Though you don’t want to completely ignore her–that could also be perceived as a slight.

Respond to Palin, attack McCain. Get that woman a spot writing for The New Republic or something.

Also, I want to address, quickly, the Lazio-Clinton example, because I think it’s deeply flawed. If you’re not familiar, Rick Lazio sort of famously went after Hillary Clinton in one of their 2000 Senate debates, and it’s CW that his aggressiveness created a feminine backlash for Hillary, and that’s where this “you have to go easy on the girl” meme largely comes from (I’ll dig up a link when I find it). The problem is to say that Lazio “attacked” Hillary isn’t quite accurate. He didn’t press her hard on issues, or attack her qualifications, or bring up Whitewater or some other scandal, or accuse her of carpetbagging, or anything remotely substantive like that. Instead, he literally walked over to her podium, waved one of those policy pledges in her face, and demanded she sign it right then and there. It was extremely uncomfortable, undiginified, and just didn’t look like something a Senator does. In hindsight, I think it would have had more or less the same effect had Hillary been a man, and gender was largely something the media affixed to it afterwards. The fact that Lazio looked juvenile and unhinged was damaging enough.

Biden It Is

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

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I don’t think there’s much more I can say about Biden being the VP nominee, as I think I made my thoughts about him pretty clear yesterday and Thursday.

If you missed it, I don’t think Obama had much other choice, as the calendar left him with no time to establish a brand for the nominee, and so he needed someone who already had a strong brand, with the media particularly. And he was my favorite candidate on the merits (indeed my personal favorite for the Presidency earlier), so I’m obviously fine with it.


Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

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All else being equal, Joe Biden was my preferred choice for President, so if rampant speculation that Obama is close to picking him as his VP is true, I’ll obviously be perfectly fine with that. Even more than that though, when you look at what the Obama campaign needs at the moment, Biden is almost perfect for the job.

Yes, Biden is from a small blue state, and won’t cause movement in many other states in his own right, and yes, I’ve criticized the idea that VP assets like “foreign policy experience” make up for perceived deficincies at the top of the ticket, but that’s not why Biden makes a great pick. What the Obama campaign needs more than anything at the moment is some pointedness to their message. Thus far, they just haven’t been able to deflect and redirect attacks from Republicans, on foreign policy, on “elitism,” or whatever, the way they did against Hillary Clinton. In some respect, I think they’re maybe a bit shell shocked by the sheer levels of shamelessness a Republican Presidential campaign can reach, and maybe they didn’t think John McCain would do that. In any event, Biden is the perfect remedy for this, as arguably no Democrat is better at striking back at Republican attacks, going toe to toe, confidently, with Republicans on foreign policy (and he’s a rare breed-a Democrat the media has deemed an expert on foreign policy), to say nothing of his ability to speak to working class voters. Moreover, Biden is the anti-elite-he’s the single least wealthy member of the Senate, his wife is a school teacher, and he doesn’t even keep a place in D.C.-much like Barack Raisedbyaingslemomjustpaidhisstudentloansoff Obama, only Biden will actually hit back at the line hard and directly, in such a way as to, I think, score some real points for the Democratic ticket there. If nothing else, Biden is great at hitting the right tones of righteous indignation it takes to fight off attack lines that Barack Obama has just been unable to figure out. Yes he’s gaffe prone, but that’s the flip side of speaking bluntly. Alex Rodriguez strikes out more than Johnny Damon, but he hits more home runs too.

Substantively, I think there’s a lot of reasons most people don’t even know about why Biden would be a very good VP. Outside of the foreign policy realm, Biden has been reliably progressive on economic matters, including a very passionate opposition to the Bush tax cuts. He was critical in both defeating Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supremem Court and passing the Violence Against Women Act. In fact, Biden is among the best on the Hill at moving legislation, which would make him a valuable asset to an Obama administration (although that could also be served from his current post). Yes, he voted for the bankruptcy bill, but a Senator from Delaware voting for the bankruptcy bill is akin to a Senator from Iowa voting for the farm bill; it’s simply necessary based on the nature of your constituency, and it doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about the individual’s position on the issue, or what they would do freed from the restrictions of constituent politics. So if that’s the worst thing you can think of that Biden has hanging over him, then I think you could do a lot worse than having Biden on the ticket.

Biden on VP

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

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His exchange with Brian Williams was extremely amusing on MTP yesterday, but if you’re reading it on TNR, you’d miss the crux of it:

Mike Kinsley famously said that a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. If that’s so, Biden made a big one yesterday: “The answer I’ve got to say is yes,” he said on “Meet the Press” when asked about his willingness to be Barack Obama’s running mate, breaking a rule that commands all possible veep candidates to mince around the subject of their own desirability with as much false modesty as a Jane Austen coquette. He went on:

Of course [I would say yes]. If the presidential nominee thought I could help him win — am I going to say to the first African-American candidate about to make history in the world that, ‘No, I will not help you out like you want me to’? Of course . . . I’ll say yes.

The problem is that, at best, that’s half the story. Biden did say that he’d say yes if asked, a refreshing bit of honesty from the veepstakes game, but he also added emphatically that he didn’t want to be asked, and didn’t think he would be asked. So to say he just up front stated that  he wanted it is a rather glaring misnomer.

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