Monday, August 25, 2008

What Does Joe Biden Offer To Obama?

Obama's choice of Biden as a running mate is understandable, superficially at least. Obama lacks the years of political experience and foreign policy experience that Biden can claim. But take more than a cursory look at Biden and you are left wondering at Obama's decision. Biden, like Obama, is a doctranaire progressive. And Biden's actions within the realm of "foreign policy" have been driven far more by partisan political considerations than analysis and sound judgment. Beyond the bare checking of a box, there seems little that Biden can do to help Obama.

By all accounts, Biden is both affable and glib. Most of those who know Joe Biden personally, regardless of their political leanings, like him.

Beyond personality, Biden is the purist of political animals. He has no military experience. He has no experience working in the private sector. He has no executive or managerial experience. Virtually his entire adult life after finishing law school has been spent campaigning for public office and serving in the Senate. Indeed, when he first entered the Senate, Obama was an 8 year old child in Indonesia and John McCain was enduring his fifth year as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam. In terms of seniority, Biden is the second longest serving Senator – and I suspect that, after the wheels of our judicial system stop turning in the frozen north, he will be the most senior member of the Senate.

Domestic Issues, Energy & Trade

On most social and economic issues, Biden and Obama are both on the far left of the Democratic spectrum. As Laer at Cheat Seeking Missles explained:

Biden’s ranking from the left-lib site 95%. . . .

Biden voted to keep the death tax in place, for the 2008 phony stimulus package, for expanding the Child’s Health Insurance Program, for more no strings attached funding for education, for giving citizen’s rights to the children of illegals. He voted for every global warming cash cow . . .

Biden is fully invested in the progressive message on global warming. Biden cosponsored the Clean Power Act of 2005, to establish a cap-and-trade system. He has proposed two Senate resolutions on climate change, the 2006 Lugar-Biden Climate Change Resolution (PDF), and Senate Resolution 30, which calls for the United States to comply with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

And, like Obama, Biden has been strongly opposed to the U.S. exploiting its own energy resources. He has long pushed for a large scale movement towards biofuels and other alternative energy, seemingly irrespective of their viability or the economic consequence. In 2006, he voted against the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, an act to allow for new drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico that eventually passed.

Biden has proposed a far left green agenda that includes the same continuing subsidies for ethanol that are hurting the environment and driving food prices through the roof. In a Salon interview last year, Biden proposed a series of radical, unilateral actions by the U.S. to combat global warming:

. . . you have to begin here in the United States by capping emissions, increasing renewable fuels, establishing a national renewable portfolio standard [RPS], requiring better fuel economy for automobiles. I would cap emissions at 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 and set a national RPS of 20 percent. I would announce an executive order that the federal government would not purchase one single automobile for its fleet that gets less than 40 miles to the gallon. And I would not build a single solitary federal project without it being a green project.

In the same interview, he spoke against clean coal, coal to liquid, and creating new nuclear plants. I could find no indication that he had ever been asked to put economic figures to his plans and his anti-oil agenda.

When it comes to trade and Big Labor, Joe Biden also hews to the progressive line. In the 1990’s, with Clinton at the helm, he supported NAFTA. Since then, he has opposed all new free trade agreements on the grounds that they do not have sufficient protections for labor and the environment. Not surprisingly, Biden’s voting record was rated 100% by the AFL-CIO last year.

As described by ABC’s Political Punch, Biden is "exceedingly well-connected to the lobbying industry" and has benefited greatly from their largesse. Politico reports that "Biden has accepted $5,133,072 in contributions from lawyers and lobbyists since 2003." The same article notes that Biden has been most closely tied to MBNA. Until MBNA was bought out in 2005, its employees were the single largest group of contributors to Biden's campaigns. In one of the few instances when Biden has broken ranks with progressives, it was in 2005 when he supported Bankruptcy Reform bill that MBNA was strongly pushing. Biden also has a son who owns a lobbying firm with two other named partners.

I had to laugh the other day when I saw Democrats touting Biden as "a common man" because he rides to work each day from Delaware to D.C. by Amtrak. The reality is that the common man is paying $4 a gallon for gas and contemplating which variety of Little Friskies to have for supper while Biden is picking the poor bastard's pocket to fund the tens of billions of dollars going to subsidize Biden's personal transport. I can't wait to see the McCain ad on this one.

Biden rides to and from work every day on the taxpayers dime. Amtrak has been losing money since its inception. It is a huge boondogle that Congress should have privatized decades ago. It has not - and Amtrak has only remained afloat because of - the efforts of Sen. Biden and a few others who protect Amtrak and keep subsidizing it. Indeed, Biden even got his son placed on the Amtrak board of directors.

Perhaps Biden finds Amtrak an economic necessity. After all, Biden, by his own admission, does not "have Barack Obama money." In any event, Amtrak does not symbolize Biden’s closeness to Joe Sixpack, it symbolizes just how much Biden is putting the screws to Joe Sixpack.


Since 1987, at least when the Democrats have been in the majority, Biden has been the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He has been horrendous.

Biden is ideologically committed to the Living Constitution theory - the theory that has done so much damage of late to our written Constitution. He is personally responsible for politicizing the judicial confirmation process. He, along with Ted Kennedy, was responsible for turning the name of Robert Bork into a verb. And it was Biden who turned the nominating process for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas into a three ring partisan circus. Lastly, who among us that has actually sat through a nomination hearing presided over by Chairman Biden has not pondered chewing through an artery rather than spend another minute listening to Biden prattle on endlessly in an incoherent stream of consciousness monologue.

Foreign Policy

Obama chose Biden as his running mate for Biden's long experience with foreign policy. Obama has no foreign policy credentials and he has been getting savaged in the polls over it. Thus, he is looking to Biden to shore him up. Biden is, on the surface, the perfect choice. He is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Much like Forest Gump, Biden has found himself standing near the epicenter of many important events going on around him. In that sense at least, he has loads of experience. Judgment and wisdom are another matter.

Redstate notes that "Biden was in favor of the Nuclear Freeze movement of which large parts were subsidized by the KGB" and that he voted against the development and deployment of MX and Trident ICBMs. They also note that Biden was in favor of sustaining the communist dictatorship in Nicaragua and against supporting a nascent democracy in El Salvador.

When it comes to how we handle the war on terror and the spectrum of activities related thereto, Biden has been, at times, off the charts. He has long been calling for shutting down the prison camp at Guantanamo on the grounds that it was Guantanamo’s existence rather than the doctrine of Salafism that was driving Muslims world-wide to flock to terrorist banners. That displays a truly fundamental and naive misunderstanding of what motivates Islamic terrorism. Biden voted against the Military Commissions Act and he proposed legislation that would release all Guantanamo prisoners who have not been charged with a war crime. This would mean releasing nearly all the prisoners. In what war has any nation ever released combatants prior to the end of hostilities? Obviously its not Biden's kids on the front lines of the war on terror.

Biden has been called a "liberal internationalist" by the LA Times, though they did not define the term. I am unsure of precisely what it means, but it would seem to be a curious philosophy holding that we can and should use force only so long as we have no strategic interests at stake. Once our own strategic interests are implicated, then force is no longer an option. Thus we see Biden the hawk, advocating for the use of force in the Balkans and the deployment of U.S. troops to Darfur on humanitarian grounds - something for which Obama long ago also called. In neither locale were or are our strategic interests in play. Those also happen to be two areas where the left, in an effort to show their bona fides as strong leaders, used or have proposed using our military.

That in mind, Biden's vote in favor of using military force against Iraq might seem an anamoly. It is not. Our nation was not long from the 9-11 attacks when the vote came up for use of force on Iraq. It was a time when even the majority of Democrats were willing to sign up for use of force in the face of what all believed at the time was a WMD threat from a brutal dictator. And that really is the key to understanding the anamoly and Biden's seemingly contradictory positions on Iraq over the years. Biden regularly votes whatever the party line of the moment may be.

Biden was solidly in his party majority as one of 45 Democrats who voted against the use of force to drive Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991. He was again with the majority of his party in voting to authorize the use of military force against Iraq in 2002.

Through 2005, like virtually all Congressional Democrats, Biden was a hawk on Iraq. In mid-2005, he was calling for more troops to mount a full counterinsurgency. He, like Obama in 2005, was strongly against any sort of time line for withdraw of our troops. Biden stated at the time: "A deadline for pulling out … will only encourage our enemies to wait us out" … it would be "a Lebanon in 1985. And God knows where it goes from there."

But when it became apparent that there was partisan gain to be had in opposing the Iraq War, Biden jettisoned concerns of our national security in a heart beat. He, along with his other Democratic colleagues, began doing all they could to oppose the surge and legislate defeat. Biden spent a good part of March, 2007 attempting to get the authorization for use of military force in Iraq rescinded. He also joined in with Murtha in slandering the U.S. military over the Haditha "massacre."

There is no question that 30+ years in the Senate have given Biden experience. What they have not done is given him judgment or imbued in him a belief in any particular principle or set of principles that trump his partisan political calculus. And for all of his experience and all of his supposed intelligence, some of the proposals he has come up with are just mind-numbing. That is true domestically, with his embrace of green policies that would harm our economy, and it is equally true in the foreign policy area – his supposed strength.

In April, 2007, Biden claimed that the surge would not work. He completely misjudged the strength of the Sadr movement, ignored the larger goals of al Qaeda, he ignored the threat posed to Iraq by Iran, and either did not understand the capabilities of our military or he deliberately chose to disregard that consideration for political gain. On those bases, he proposed the worst alternative imaginable - the withdraw of all U.S. forces and the separation of Iraq into three independent states. I wrote on it at the time:

Biden’s plan to segregate the government into a loose confederation is sophomoric and based on a highly flawed analysis. Imposing a loose confederation will do nothing to stem the violence. It will not provide for a "time out." As to the local Sunni insurgents, they are not fighting just so they can have a Sunni only government in Anbar province. To the contrary, they are fighting to reassert Sunni ascendancy over the entirety of Iraq. . . .

And it is the same for al Qaeda in Iraq, the group that has proved so deadly. There is a reason Al Qaeda in Iraq is so named and not called Al Qaeda in Anbar. . . .

In light of these goals, Biden’s plan to somehow end the violence by imposing a decentralized government with Sunni’s in control only over Anbar and with a piece of the oil revenues seems nonsensical. Moreover, it completely ignores another critical fact. It is only through a reasonably strong central government with Kurd and Sunni involvement that the Khomeinist influence of Iran’s theocracy will be minimized in Iraq. Neither Kurd nor Sunni have any love for their neighbor. But in a decentralized government, the Khomeinist theocracy will have an opportunity to significantly influence if not dominate politics of the Shia government in the south. It is the worst of all possible outcomes for the United States.

Read the entire post. Iraqis themselves have recently voiced similar opposition to Biden’s plan.

Update: Michael Rubin, in an opinion piece at the Washington Post, makes the case that Biden has exercised similarly poor judgment in regards to Iran:

. . . [Biden's] record on the Islamic Republic of Iran -- perhaps the chief national security threat facing the next president -- suggests a persistent and dangerous judgment deficit. Biden's unyielding pursuit of "engagement" with Iran for more than a decade has made it easier for Tehran to pursue its nuclear program, while his partisan obsession with thwarting the Bush administration has led him to oppose tough sanctions against hard-liners in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

. . . Biden's political games have made him Tehran's favorite senator. As Gen. David Petraeus struggled to unite Iraqis across the ethnic and sectarian divide, Iran's Press TV seized on Biden's plan for partitioning Iraq and featured his statements with the headline "US plans to disintegrate Iraq." Biden's attack-dog statements about U.S. policy failures emboldened Iranian hard-liners to defy diplomacy. In the Dec. 7, 2007, official sermon, Ayatollah Mohammad Kashani speaking on behalf of Iran's supreme leader, declared, "This Senator [Biden] correctly says Israel could not suppress Hizbullah in Lebanon, so how can the U.S. stand face-to-face with a nation of 70 million? This is the blessing of the Guardianship of the Jurists [the theocracy] . . . which plants such thoughts in the hearts of U.S. senators and forces them to make such confessions." The crowd met his statement with refrains of "Death to America."

Obama picked Biden for experience, but he might also have considered judgment. When it comes to Iran, Biden could stare down dictators; too bad he blinks.

Read the entire article.

Now in fairness to Biden, while he hews to the far left on many of his positions, he is also a bit of a wildcard. His gut reaction to things is intellectually honest - though partisan political consideration oft drives him elsewhere in the long run. Gateway Pundit has posted a video from last year with Biden discussing the reasons we invaded Iraq, and to his credit, Biden does not rewrite history nor gild the lilly.


I just don’t see why Obama chose Biden as his running mate. Biden is at the same very far end of the spectrum ideologically as Obama, so he is no help in balancing out the ticket. Biden is not going to appeal to centrists and independents. True, Biden can lay claim to "foreign policy experience," but Biden provides a target rich environment as to just what that experience has been and the lack of judgment Biden has displayed. I have not even touched on the fact that Biden is a walking gaffe machine with a ton of baggage, much of it at complete odds with the One’s message of hope and change. Indeed, as No Oil For Pacifists points out, to the extent Biden represents change, its 360 degrees of it.

Further, Obama's choice of Biden is a giant neon sign of an admission by Obama that he is perceived as weak on foreign policy and national defense and is in need of adult supervision. Victor Davis Hanson recently commented on the choice of Biden, saying "as the old stag, he can advise Bambi on the ways of the forest." It is an open question whether voters will see the presence of Biden as a salve for their concerns about Obambi's weaknesses.

So far, the answer to that question is no. The polls show no bump whatsoever from the addition of Biden to the ticket. I wonder how long it will be before Obama starts to feel the same buyer’s remorse for choosing Biden that many on the left today are apparently feeling about having chosen Obama?

Update: The polls are actually showing a drop after the Biden announcement. "Gallup Poll Daily tracking from Aug. 23-25, the first three-day period falling entirely after Obama’s Saturday morning vice presidential announcement, shows 46% of national registered voters backing John McCain and 44% supporting Obama, . . . This is the first time since Obama clinched the nomination in early June, though, that McCain has held any kind of advantage over Obama in Gallup Poll Daily tracking." How much of that is due to Hillary supports frothing over the Biden selection is not clear.

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