The new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Delaware Senator Joe Biden said on Meet The Press yesterday "I am running for president".
Biden, first elected to the United States Senate in 1972, would be at the top of my list of candidates running for president in 2008 who knows what he is talking about when he discusses foreign policy and international relations.
As I said in my TransAtlantic Magazine last year in our May/June issue: "Senator John McCain for the Republicans and Senator Joe Biden for the Democrats seem to be the most knowledgeable, articulate and concerned potential candidates who are speaking out on foreign policy issues almost on a daily basis at this time. Turn on your television set any weekend and sure enough there will pop-up Senators McCain and Biden-one supporting the president on Iraq and the one saying "President Bush's war" may turn out to be the biggest foreign policy blunder in America's history. If you are following the campaign even a little you can figure out which one supports the president and which one does not".
Biden, who is beginning a month long series of hearings at the Foreign Relations Committee on the Bush Administration's policies in Iraq, has held public office longer than any of the other potential candidates for president of either party.
As Howard Fineman, the political correspondent at Newsweek says, "the senator would make a formidable candidate for the Democrats and a great president for the nation." Biden can be a bit strident in many of his remarks and he has been accused of being a bit longwinded but no one doubts he has the expertise in foreign affairs to hit the floor running if he became our next president.
"In terms of both domestic and foreign policy expertise, Joe Biden is clearly the best qualified of any of the announced and potential candidates of either party. He is incredibly bright, and he masters the issues at a level of detail like no other American politician," says Mike Haltzel who is now a senior fellow at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Dr. Haltzel previously served as staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on European Affairs and was formerly a senior foreign policy advisor to Senator Biden.
Of all the candidates who may run for president in 2008 Biden, as far as I can tell at this point, is the only one with a well thought out plan for the future of Iraq. His plan calls for maintaining a unified Iraq "by decentralizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis their own regions... The plan is not partition-in fact it may be the only way to prevent violent partition and preserve a unified Iraq... This plan is the only idea on the table for dealing with the militia, which are likely to retreat to their respective regions... I believe it is the best way to bring our troops home, protect our fundamental security interests, and preserve Iraq as a unified country. The question I have for those who reject this plan is simple: what is your alternative?"
Biden has a plan for Iraq. On paper it seems to make sense. It is certainly the most detailed and thought out plan of any of the potential presidential candidates of either party running for president. It is certainly easier to understand than the Administration's current Iraq policy.
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is totally against the president's idea of a "surge" of putting more American troops into Baghdad to reduce the violence. As Biden says in his press release: "If the president proposes escalation in Iraq, I will oppose him and so will many of my colleagues in Congress."
The senator from Delaware can run as a candidate who lives outside the Beltway. Biden "lives in Wilmington, Delaware and commutes to Washington, DC when the senate is in session." He is a man of many interests and "has been an adjunct professor at the Widener University School of Law, where he teaches a seminar on constitutional law."
Biden is the antithesis of the last Democratic candidate who announced for president in December, John Edwards. While the former senator from North Carolina is stressing his domestic credentials he rarely talks about foreign policy unless he is asked. Biden always is discussing foreign policy issues and as the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he has a broad stage to present his views and make news.
If I were the new chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee I would be very content with that position. However, the current chairman obviously has bigger fish to fry and would like to run American foreign policy from the White House rather than discuss and debate it on Capitol Hill.
If Americans in 2008 care about foreign policy over domestic issues Biden will be a formidable candidate. However, if Americans are turned off of foreign policy issues because of Iraq then Edwards could be on the right track. Only time will tell.
Will Biden be able to raise the money he needs and do the traveling to the early primary states as often as he needs to do and still be an effective chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee?
Will Biden, who is a good campaigner, be able to give shorter speeches?
Will the Delaware senator appeal to a new generation of voters after serving his public life in the US Senate?
Biden has the resume and the foreign policy experience to be an effective president. The question is does he have the campaigning skills and charisma to defeat Hillary and Obama. With a fickle public looking for new faces every month or so Biden might seem as if he has been in the senate too long.
Biden, a qualified candidate. A foreign policy expert. A good campaigner.
All he has to do is sell himself to the American voter!