Why Joe Biden is Vital and the Right Choice

Biden's competence will help Obama be able to remain Obama. Insider or not, Biden is liked by the country -- and he's smart.
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Associated Press Washington Bureau Chief Ron Fournier has a tough critique out on Barack Obama's choice of Joe Biden as his running mate.

A lot of folks are upset with Fournier. Some went as far to suggest that "FireFournier.com" is available for purchase.

This is going to be a long campaign and we should not be looking for orthodoxy among political pundits about what we are seeing evolve -- but we should be hoping for healthy back and forth debate about political choices and policy.

So my response to Ron Fournier is that he misreads what the Biden selection means in this race. Fournier writes that:

In picking Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate, Barack Obama sought to shore up his weakness -- inexperience in office and on foreign policy -- rather than underscore his strength as a new-generation candidate defying political conventions.

He picked a 35-year veteran of the Senate -- the ultimate insider -- rather than a candidate from outside Washington, such as Govs. Tim Kaine of Virginia or Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas; or from outside his party, such as Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska; or from outside the mostly white male club of vice presidential candidates. Hillary Rodham Clinton didn't even make his short list.

Taking Fournier at face value -- Obama's decision to get someone to bolster his foreign policy/national security credentials seems like a darned smart move to me. We are entering a period of enormous national security challenges abroad and economic challenges at home. It's much easier for Obama to requisition the econ experience needed to promote health care, infrastructure, education, support for those hit hard by the real estate sub prime crisis, and the like.

National security advice is much more tough. It takes years of absorption of what the world has been doing to itself to understand how to organize an effective, disciplined strategic course for the United States -- particularly at a time when the Bush administration has wrecked whatever global equilibrium previously existed.

So, I applaud Obama for recognizing this. Fournier doesn't even mention the candidate who was neck and neck with Biden, Evan Bayh. While Bayh has many strengths, he seems to be someone who felt that conflicts and crises are great moments to seize as ways to define America's power and define the presidency. Bad call as far as I'm concerned. That's more "tough" than "smart" -- and Biden in contrast is a hybrid of both. Perhaps Fournier thought the same. . .he just doesn't say.

On the issue of supporting Sebelius or Kaine -- both impressive governors. They are nearly as new at all this as Obama. The only reason that either would have made sense is for a combination of regional, red-state oriented outreach combined with the intention that withdrawing form the international scene and focusing more exclusively on development at home was going to be the Obama package. I just think that would have been a mistake to forfeit to McCain the entire national security portfolio debate -- which picking Kaine or Sebelius might have done.

On Hagel, I love Chuck Hagel and would have loved to have seen him as Obama's vice presidential pick.

But Ron -- you are a smart analyst. How can you seriously suggest Hagel as Obama's choice when you know very well that Barack Obama has not "technically" won the nomination? Obama's nomination depends upon the continued support of "super delegates" whose loyalties and support will be declared at the Democratic Convention next week. Had Obama selected Hagel, a sliver perhaps just large enough of irritated super delegates might have abandoned Obama in favor of Hillary Clinton.

Had Obama won the nomination outright, I would have loved more serious consideration of Hagel.

And on Hillary Rodham Clinton, I have always thought that that a ticket with them both on it would be unbeatable. But at the same time, I think Obama and Clinton would have a dysfunctional relationship and dysfunctional presidency. I think that the Obama people failed to reach out as well as they might have to HillaryLand, and this was unfortunate. But I also know that the Clinton team had a lot of attitude issues that they didn't get over until perhaps too late to encourage serious consideration of Hillary.

But back to Joe Biden.

The fact of the matter is that Biden polls well with many groups of Americans -- particularly elder Americans, white working class Americans, African Americans, Juggler Moms, Hispanics, and Jewish-Americans.

Insider or not, Biden is liked by the country -- and he's smart.

And Fournier himself should remember what happened to Jimmy Carter when he tried to be the total outsider who was going to wreck Washington's ways and do it differently. He had no insider to help him maintain the success of looking like an outsider.

Barack Obama has just hired the guy who can not only continue to help Obama look fresh by helping to get the inside game into the right supportive patterns, he has hired someone who is not a knee-jerk, young study on national security issues who knows what poor shape America's global position is today.

There are many reasons why Joe Biden was exactly the right guy for Obama, but the biggest reason is that Biden's competence will help Obama be able to remain Obama.

None of the other candidates, from my perspective, would be able to deliver that as well.

-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note


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