We'll be seeing an avalanche of Biden pieces in the next few days and weeks, Kathy G has a good overview of the positives and negatives on Biden. Washington Post blog The Fix earlier considered the case for and against Biden. The WaPo also asked a number of people for their reactions, and it's sorta funny and educational to see the Republicans try out their attack lines. Still, the hawkish WaPo op-ed board likes the pick overall (even if the piece is sprinkled through with some bullshit, especially on Iraq, but then, this is the WaPo op-ed board). If the Beltway conventional wisdom is positive (more on that in the next post), that's a good thing.
My main concerns about Biden are about the"Senator from MBNA" thing, most notably his support for that horrible bankruptcy bill. He can be ridiculously long-winded, and has a uncanny knack for putting his foot in his mouth. It's particularly wince-inducing when his remarks involve historically disenfranchised groups. The plagiarism scandal will come up again – and Biden should address it again, as he has before. He's likely to utter some statements parsed endlessly by the press before the election.
On the other hand, Biden is pretty sharp, and extremely knowledgeable on foreign affairs. I remember listening to him on Charlie Rose a few times and being quite impressed. Most of all, he's engaged. When Biden and others proposed the Iraq partition plan, there were plenty of experts arguing for and against it. Regardless, Biden got a conversation going, and was talking about Iraq in far greater detail, complexity and frankness than anything coming out of the White House or its advocates. I don't remember him insisting his was the only way, either.
Being from Delaware, Biden doesn't give Obama an electoral boost, but I think that actually works better from a marketing standpoint – Obama's picked someone on merit, on experience, on practicality and governing ability. Some pundits point to Biden's Catholicism as an electoral plus, and it likely is. The VP debate rarely matters much, but Biden should be strong in it.
Meanwhile, Biden's greatest asset as a VP pick is that he's not afraid to attack. He relishes it. It's one of the things I like best about him; at his best, he works in substantial points into a great sound bite line or two. Let's revisit what I'd say was the best line of the primary campaigns:
It's funny, it’s memorable, and it's true. It got plenty of play on the news because it's a good zinger, but I think it worked so well because so many people heard it and agreed. As Joel Achenbach wryly put it, "Basically, people liked [Giuliani] less the more they got to know him. That makes campaigning hard." Biden's line articulated what bugged many people about Giuliani, and gave the press an angle by which to ridicule him. Notice, too, that Biden linked Giuliani to Bush in terms of incompetence. That sort of critique - which has 'the added virtue of being true' - is absolutely crucial for this campaign. McCain has bragged about voting with the Bush agenda over 90% of the time, but most Americans don't know that yet. C&L has a video clip of a great salvo today from Biden against McCain. May it be the first of many, many more.
(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)