a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

The Biden pick: could have been worse, I guess

Posted by Thomas Nephew on August 23rd, 2008

Sure, Biden voted for the Authorization of Military Force against Iraq. (So did Clinton, McCain, and Bayh.)

Sure, Biden voted against the Levin Amendment, the last, best hope to forestall that war vote and that war. (So did Clinton, McCain, and Bayh.)

Sure, Biden cast both of these votes even though he allegedly did read the 2002 Iraq National Intelligence Estimate. (Bayh and Feinstein were the only other Democrats to pull off this particular stupid trifecta.)

Sure, he voted for the Bankruptcy Bill. (So did Bayh and McCain; Obama voted against it, Clinton wasn’t there –her husband was sick, if I recall correctly.) Sure, he voted for the Patriot Act — who didn’t?

But in fairness, he also voted against the Military Commissions Act. (So did Obama, Bayh, and Clinton, while McCain voted for it.) He voted against the FISA Amendment Act. (So did Clinton. Obama, Bayh, and McCain all voted for it.) He voted against ending debate on the Alito nomination. (So did Clinton, Obama, and Bayh).

And by my admittedly subjective scoring, Biden had the best presidential powers survey score of all the candidates at the time. I gave him slightly better scores than Obama on questions on executive privilege and signing statements, because I think I found them to be briefer(!), more definitive answers. In retrospect, Obama’s curiously passive answer to the warrantless wiretap question (“The Supreme Court has never held that the President has such powers”) should have got him a lower score than Biden’s on this question as well.

So Biden has gotten some big issues wrong that Obama got right, and at least one right — the FISA Amendment Act — that Obama got wrong. Biden may also be a bit more of a voice for reining in the executive branch. On the other hand, his views on the matter won’t be as important as Obama’s — and they may melt away he’s part of that branch, just as Obama’s may have once he was in hailing distance.

Visually and by resume, he’s not exactly a harbinger of change to believe in. But it could have been worse. And at least Delaware’s 3 electoral votes are now all but guaranteed this November.


  • Radley Balko (“The Agitator”), libertarian — disappointed, points to Biden’s support for key measures in the “war on drugs,” the Iraq war (initially), for interventionism generally (Kosovo, Darfur), and for expanding the list of death penalty offenses. “He’s an overly ambitious, elitist, tunnel-visioned, Potomac-fevered Beltway dinosaur, with all the trappings. He may well have been the worst possible pick among congressional Democrats when it comes to the drug war and criminal justice.” (Via Jim Henley, who reports that on the other hand, Biden has an 82% ACLU rating.)
  • Bill Day (“Web Undone”), — “Biden has a reputation as a street fighter; and we need a bruiser to sink the Swift Boaters. Hopefully, Biden will not sink himself first.”
  • Mick Arran (“fact-esque”) — “So Biden is a corporate slug. What’s important, as all the papers bleated in unison today, is that Biden has foreign policy experience.”
  • Andrew Sullivan“…suggests a serious, adult attitude toward the enormous burden that the next presidency will be, especially in foreign policy.”
  • Ezra Klein: “They needed an arguer. Someone able to make the case that the other guy is wrong, and Obama is right. That’s, fundamentally, what Biden represents. Biden doesn’t presuppose belief. He’s a persuader. […] For progressives, this is encouraging pick. More encouraging than Bayh, or Kaine, or even, in a way, Sebelius. More encouraging than picks who might have been more progressive, but less pugnacious. Elevating Biden suggests that the Obama campaign has decided to have an argument.”

3 Responses to “The Biden pick: could have been worse, I guess”

  1. eRobin Says:

    Excellent observation about DE’s electoral votes. I think that’s been ignored in the corporate media. 😉

    I like Ezra’s argument about Biden’s ability to make and win the argument that people should vote for Obama/Biden. And in my promised role as Obamabot until November 5, 12:01AM, I want to believe that to the extent a VP matters at all, Biden will not be a bad influence on Obama. But Mick is right, the guy is corporate through and through. That may mean that he’ll push for the renewal of American greatness understanding that that way real prosperity for all lies. It may mean that we’ve got more Barriers to Bankruptcy Bills in our future. I think it comes down to what you and I and Mick and increasingly others say – it’s going to be up to how hard we push them to do the right thing.

  2. Blog Sampling on Biden « mirabile dictu Says:

    […] is the best that Thomas Nephew can do at newsrackblog: Visually and by resume, he’s not exactly a harbinger of change to believe in. But it could have […]

  3. » Blog Archive » Told you it could have been worse Says:

    […] With all due skepticism about Joe Biden, at least he’s no Sarah Palin […]

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