Since we’re at the beginning of this story, let me say — again (or again) — I have something of a weak spot for Biden. I think he’s an honestly smart guy. I think he’s a bleeding heart in many of the best — and worst — senses of the term. I saluted him for wanting hearings on the Iraq war. I think his behavior during the Bork and Thomas hearings was beyond disgusting and dishonorable. But we can get into all of that later.
I think it is an outright terrible decision on Obama’s part to pick Biden. Yes, he helps balance Obama’s inexperience on foreign policy, but he also reminds people of it. Yes, Biden could conceivably be effective as an attack dog. But Biden is such a gasbag he makes the Hindenburg look like a sack of rocks. Obama doesn’t need to increase his lip-flapping quotient. Biden is a gaffe machine and Obama is bad explaining faults, and his VP’s faults will inevitably become Obama’s in the Fall campaign. Biden will be fantastic at convincing people already eager to vote for Obama to vote for Obama. His ability to convince the undecided is much, much weaker, in my opinion. There’s more than a small risk that Biden will reinforce the sense that this ticket is all about hearing itself talk. I wouldn’t be surprised, two months from now, that we’ll hear a lot of talk about how Obama’s mistake in picking Biden can be explained by Obama’s inherent weakness, and love, for talky-talk-talk.
Another possible, perhaps even likely storyline: Barack Obama has just picked his Dick Cheney.
Biden’s profile as a blue collar Scranton guy sounds great on paper, and some of it probably speaks well of him as a human being, but as a political fact Joe Biden is a Senator. He talks like a Senator. He thinks like a Senator. He is a Senator. In a race where at least three of the candidates are Senators, he is the most Senatorial of them all (barring the unlikely scenario where McCain picks Bob Dole in order to make himself seem youthful).
All that said, I think Biden will give a phenomenal speech at the convention and for a week or two people will think it was a great pick.
I will leave you at this late hour with my description of Biden from a while back, which I see little need to embellish:
He says interesting things, from time to time. I think he makes a fair point here and there. He was correct, for example, that Congress needed to have a real deabte over the war. I think he has some obvious verbal intelligence. But, again, what’s fascinating — and what might be distracting some folks from seeing his underlying-yet-occassional smarts — is that he lets his ego and vanity get in the way. The man loves his voice so much, you’d expect him to be following it around in a grey Buick, in defiance of restraining order, as it walks home from school. He seems to think his teeth are some kind of hypnotic punctuation marks which can momentarily disorient the listener and absolve him from any of Western civilization’s usual imperatives to stop talking. Listening to him speechify is like playing an intellectual game of whack-a-mole where every now and then the fuzzy head of a good point pops up from the tundra but before you can pin it down, he starts talking about how he went to the store and saw a squirrel on the way and it was brown which brings to mind Brown V. Board of Ed which most people don’t understand because [TEETH FLASH] he taught Brown in his law school course and [TEETH FLASH] Mr. Chairman I’m going to get right to it and besides these aren’t the droids you’re looking for..