I formed my final judgment of the man Barack Obama has chosen as his running mate years ago, during the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas, who'd been nominated to the Supreme Court, when the Senator offered the world the spectacle of a sleazy sort of male-bonding that came close to provoking me to smash my television set. Such outrage and disgust, obviously, was simply an emotional reaction. Calmer, less resentful commentators have in recent days been delivering more cogent judgments. This morning, Josh kindly directed me to the Guardian's Medium Lobster, who succinctly sums up the man's character:
Pros: One of the Senate's oldest and most respected experts in the field of Joe Biden; vast bullshit reserve could be tapped for its methane, powering nation for decades; fondness for partition and ethnic cleansing could be a valuable asset during the Second American Civil War of 2013.
Cons: As a wholly-owned subsidiary of DuPont, may be ineligible to hold office.
Here's David Sirota's judgment (What Biden Means):
The Good: As the Drum Major Institute shows, Biden has a fairly progressive record on basic economic issues, and has gotten more progressive on specific issues like trade. He’s also been a strong voice opposing unilateral war against Iran. And rhetorically, he seems comfortable painting a stark contrast between Democrats and Republicans on issues.
The Bad: He is one of the most arrogant and conceited people in Washington - one of the jokes in D.C. when I was there is that Biden uses the term “I” more than anyone else. Because of this self-importance, he consequently shoots his mouth off in ways that can undermine progressives. For example, he has made insulting racial comments about African Americans and Indians. This might not only be dredged up by Republicans, but Biden may commit additional errors in his new platform as VP nominee. Additionally, Biden is an insider’s insider, having spent most of his life in Washington, D.C. That doesn’t exactly underscore Obama’s message of change.
The Ugly: He was one of the most ardent supporters of the credit card-industry written Bankrupty Bill of 2005, which was one of the most regressive pieces of economic legislation in the last generation. And though he cites his foreign policy experience as an asset, he used his position as one of Democrats’ top foreign policy voices to support the Iraq War.
So, all in all, the Biden choice is a shade on the good side of mediocre, though Obama’s willingness to anoint a senator who voted for two landmark travesties - the Bankruptcy Bill and Iraq War - gives us some disturbing clues about the Illinois senator’s attitude toward the economic progressive movement and the antiwar movement. It also shows how much work those movements have in front of them - and how, in particular, the antiwar movement’s strategy of focusing all attention on Republicans has actually helped create the situation whereby the Democratic Party feels perfectly comfortable rewarding supposed Serious Foreign Policy Voics like Biden even after they voted for the war.
Robert Dreyfuss, writing for the Nation, offers a column warning that On Iraq, Biden Is Worse than McCain:
Barack Obama may be doing the one thing that might have seemed impossible: he's picking a running mate whose ideas about Iraq are even worse than, and stupider than, John McCain's.
Obama, whose mushy Iraq plan excites no one, is marrying his own's flawed ideas -- which mostly revolve around beefing up US forces in Afghanistan and unilaterally attacking Pakistan -- with Biden's discredited notion of partitioning Iraq into three squabbling mini-states.
Indeed, last year it was the passage by the US Senate of a resolution in favor of Biden's dangerously misguided ideas that sparked an outburst of Iraqi nationalism. More than the Blackwater killings, more than US efforts to forcibly privatize Iraq's oil, it was the Biden idea of splitting Iraq into three pieces that galvanized Iraqi Arab nationalists. (It does, of course, excite the Kurds no end.)
Need we point out that, in addition, Biden joined McCain in voting for the war resolution in 2002 that propelled the United States into Iraq? How, exactly, does Obama enhance his anti-war stand by selecting a pro-war hawk as his running mate? Among other things, Obama makes it impossible for himself to criticize McCain's pre-2003 Iraq bloodlust by selecting a bloodthirsty Democrat as his running mate.