Predictably, all of my friends, acquaintances, and co-workers whom I've heard express their thoughts and opinions about Obama/McCain running mate choices enthusiastically approve of Obama's selection of Joe Biden and speak badly or neutrally of Sarah Palin, McCain's running mate. This is because they are all hardcore liberal Democrats. (By "all," I mean all. This excludes my friends from college, some of whom are libertarian or neocon, because I haven't spoken to them or heard them speak about it because I don't live anywhere near them anymore. I also don't talk about politics with my non-Kel friends anyway, for reasons I'll go into in a short rant that I'm working on.)
Some of my Michigan friends and acquaintances who actively follow the Democratic Party, its nomination race, its convention, and Obama's veep-selection process said that Biden was the best choice, the one they supported the most out of all the options (and, presumably, over many other professional criminals who were not under consideration). Their reasons, I gather, are that he will attack McCain loudly, frequently, and ably, and that he is a choice that will pander to enough people to garner an Obama victory (i.e., he represents a major dilution and compromise of Obama's supposed anti-establishment, cleaning-up-Washington ideals). The others I've heard talk about Biden seem to support the choice basically because if he weren't a good choice, Obama wouldn't have picked him, and they have to support it because they can't imagine how to go about their daily lives without being Obama-loving, Democrat-supporting liberal socialists.
Let's compare that to an actual analysis of the policies and positions of Joe Biden, from actual political analysts who know something about the issues. Starting with Radley Balko, who, for some reason, was "disappoint[ed]" in Obama's selection of Biden (I guess he wants the non-McCain candidate to win—though I wouldn't accuse Balko of voting for Obama unless he said he did):
I understand the rationale—Obama wants an attack dog to go after McCain while he appears to be above the fray. Biden also adds some foreign policy and Beltway heft to the ticket. The Beltway CW says this pick was safe, but not particularly bold. I think that’s about right.
But from a policy perspective, it’s a disaster. Biden has sponsored more damaging drug war legislation than any Democrat in Congress. Hate the way federal prosecutors use RICO laws to take aim at drug offenders? Thank Biden. How about the abomination that is federal asset forfeiture laws? Thank Biden. Think federal prosecutors have too much power in drug cases? Thank Biden. Think the title of a “Drug Czar” is sanctimonious and silly? Thank Biden, who helped create the position (and still considers it an accomplishment worth boasting about). Tired of the ridiculous steroids hearings in Congress? Thank Biden, who led the effort to make steroids a Schedule 3 drug, and has been among the blowhardiest of the blowhards when it comes to sports and performance enhancing drugs. Biden voted in favor of using international development aid for drug control (think plan Columbia, plan Afghanistan, and other meddling anti-drug efforts that have only fostered loathing of America, backlash, and unintended consequences). Oh, and he was also the chief sponsor of 2004’s horrendous RAVE Act.
Biden’s record on other criminal justice and civil liberties issues is just as bad. Opponents of the federalization of crime might note that the 1994 crime bill he sponsored created several new federal capital offenses. Biden also wants to expand federal penalties for hate crimes. He supports a federal smoking ban. His position on the federal drinking age is, and I quote, “absolutely do not” lower it to 18. He believes “most violent crime is related to drugs” (if he had said “drug prohibition,” he’d be closer to the truth). Biden also has an almost perfect anti-gun voting record. He said last year he favors “universal national service,” either in the Peace Corps or the military. Sounds like conscription to me. He says he’s opposed to the PATRIOT Act, but he voted for both the original bill and its re-authorization in 2005.
Foreign policy? Biden voted for the war on Iraq. Yes, he’s opposed to it now (and I like the partition plan he pushed in the primaries). But he didn’t vote correctly when it counted most. Biden also voted to send troops into Darfur. He wants to enlarge NATO. He voted in favor of the air strikes in Kosovo. He voted to strengthen the trade embargo against Cuba. His seems to be a meddling, interventionist, Clinton-esque foreign policy. His first instinct seems to be that the U.S. military’s objective include some vague notion of “doing good in the world.” Never mind the disastrous consequences that notion has reaped over the years.
I obviously disagree with Biden on a host of economic and regulatory issues, too (though he does seem to be fairly decent on free trade). But that’s to be expected. My problem with Biden is that he’s not even good on the issues the left is supposed to be good on. He’s an overly ambitious, elitist, tunnel-visioned, Potomac-fevered Beltway dinosaur, with all the trappings. He may well have been the worst possible pick among congressional Democrats when it comes to the drug war and criminal justice.
Due to my (admittedly, sometimes lazy) propensity to clump all politicians into one big group (the elected criminal class), I didn't realize how bad Joe Biden in particular was. He must be one of the worst senators in United States history.
Justin Raimondo wrote two thorough articles at Antiwar.com (Biden means business as usual and Obama's Cheney) decrying the choice. He focuses exclusively on foreign policy, but of course his analysis is excellent:
Biden was chosen for the number-two spot because he is thought to strengthen the Obama campaign in the area of foreign policy, where the candidate is considered weakest. Biden is presented as a man of experience, and a foreign policy maven to boot. However, it is precisely in the realm of foreign policy that Biden falls far short. Biden supported the president's war policies, at least in terms of ends if not means, and he made that clear enough in a speech in the summer of 2005:
"Remember the $18.4 billion that Congress appropriated at the urgent request of the president of the United States in the fall of '03 for which I helped floor-manage and took on the responsibility along with others to push hard because I believe there is a nexus between the reconstruction and the physical safety and possible success of our military in the region. Just $6 billion of that $18.4 billion has been spent."
We aren't spending enough money on Iraq, said Biden, and, by the way, we need more troops, not less. Over and over again we heard from Biden—a favorite on the Sunday talk shows—that the president wasn't "leveling with the American people" and being honest about what it would take to "win" in Iraq.
Biden has been one of the War Party's most reliable servants, endorsing as "absolutely correct" then-President Clinton's attack on hapless Yugoslavia—like Iraq, another example of a war in which the "enemy" represented no danger to the U.S. and whose crimes were vastly overstated. This earned him the approbation of John McCain, who, on April 11, 1999, declared to Tim Russert on Meet the Press: "We need Joe Biden for secretary of state." An astounded Russert asked: "Is that an offer by President McCain?" McCain replied: "Absolutely!"
The "new politics," it turns out, is pretty much the same as the old politics, of which Biden—a Washington insider for the past 35 years—is the exemplar. The War Party is jazzed at this sign that Obama isn't going to give them much trouble, especially when it comes to their latest project: demonizing Russia.
If you have other examples of intelligent and informed Biden-bashing, post the URLs.
Also, even more predictably, the liberals I know criticize and scoff at John McCain's choice of young, pretty, female (!) Alaska Governor Sarah Palin because such a move is obvious pandering to the female voters and is obviously based solely on election tactics because Palin doesn't have enough experience or gusto to take over competently as president if the dinosaur McCain died in office, or to do any of the other things a VP supposedly does.
Like ZOMG a politician made a decision solely for pandering and political reasons??? That's nothing at all like what Barack Obama did in picking your preferred option of Joe Biden for his running mate!!!!11!