Politics & Policy

A Politic Choice?

Tapping Biden as his running mate shows Obama isn't assuming anything.

I may be alone among conservatives, but I’m not cackling with glee over Sen. Barack Obama’s choice of Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate.

Having the Delaware Gaffe Machine followed by cameras and microphones from now until November could be good news for McCain, surely. But if Biden surprises everyone by keeping his tactless verbal blunders to a minimum, his addition to the Democratic ticket could very well be bad news for the GOP.

You know the good news. Sen. Biden’s long record of rather frank public statements includes several that are embarrassing to the man at the top of the Democratic ticket. Biden has admitted what everyone else knows: Obama isn’t even close to being ready for the job of president. Meanwhile, Biden has repeatedly praised John McCain’s leadership ability.

What’s more, Biden is to “Hope and Change” what McCain is to “Flower Power.” And for all Biden’s political experience, none of it is as an executive: Jim Geraghty has noted an observation that Rudy Giuliani made back during the primaries that is relevant in this regard: “[F]or Joe Biden to talk about qualifications — he’s never run a city, he’s never run a state, he’s never run a business.” (Then again, neither has Obama.)

On the other hand, voters aren’t being asked to support Biden. The object of the VP exercise is to make it easier for voters to pick Obama as president. And here’s how Biden helps:


Liberals don’t like to say nice things about Dick Cheney, but his presence on the 2000 ticket made it easier for some swing voters to take a chance on George W. Bush over lifelong politico and incumbent VP Al Gore. McCain is as experienced as Gore was, while Obama is far less experienced than two-term governor and businessman George W. Bush. Obama needs a Cheney more than Bush did, and now he’s got one.


According to sources I trust, Sen. Obama really wanted to pick Tim Kaine of Virginia as his running mate. Obama likes the guy, likes that he’s from Virginia (a state last carried by a Democrat when LBJ did it in 1964), and particularly likes the fact that Kaine was an early and vocal Obama supporter despite hailing from a state where backing a far-left candidate could hurt. In the end, Obama didn’t do what he wanted, making a politically calculated pick instead — which may indicate that he has figured out what some of us have been saying for a long time: Obama is one of the few Democrats in this anti-GOP election cycle who could actually lose. A cocky, holier-than-thou Obama who expects His Will to Be Done would have been much easier for McCain to beat.


Listening to Obama try to go negative this week was simply painful. He’s got the same problem Harry Potter has with the Unforgivable Curses (“You need to mean them, Potter” the evil Bellatrix Lastrange mockingly observed): he is uncomfortable when direct attacks come out of his mouth. Joe Biden doesn’t have that problem. He likes the campaign rough-and-tumble — and, because he has a healthy respect for dissenting opinions, he takes the time to craft effective counter-arguments. Biden is not a Cambridge liberal (“I don’t have to debate you, because everyone already knows I’m right”). He’s a classic Democrat, and he’ll say the things that need to be said in a way that many Americans will be comfortable hearing.

In the final analysis, I still think Biden will be a net negative, and for two reasons: His choice is a tacit admission by Obama that he’s not ready to be president, in the same way that picking Hillary would have been an admission that Obama wasn’t strong enough to take on the Clintons. And Biden is a lead-pipe lock to say something on the campaign trail that will cost Obama several days of rosy press coverage.

A few days could be crucial, because the McCain campaign’s only hope is to keep this election close. If Obama is able to maintain a post-convention bounce until October 1, McCain probably won’t be able to make up the lost ground. Jabbermouth Joe — who buys his shoes one at a time, because one foot is permanently lodged in his mouth — will almost certainly take the Obama campaign off-message and prevent Obama from running away with this election.

So why did Obama pick Biden in the end? Because he had to. The fact that Obama recognizes it is not good news for John McCain.

Michael Graham is an NRO contributor.

Michael GrahamMichael Graham was born in Los Angeles and raised in South Carolina. A graduate of Oral Roberts University, he worked as a stand-up comedian before beginning his political career as ...


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