Now that the not-so-secret courtship of Joe Biden has culminated in a most public union with Senator Barack Obama, many Conservatives are breathing a sigh of relief. For those who have worried lo these many months about a last second surprise "Dream Ticket" with Hillary Clinton or some combination featuring Evan Bayh, Jim Webb, Chuck Hagel, or others who might offer centrist appeal, we instead got a gift from the Obama Campaign.
It would be wrong or foolish to underestimate Joe Biden; he is very smart, caustically funny, a cunning and skilled political operative of the first degree, and a fierce and unrelenting partisan. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to an Obama campaign that was sorely lacking in certain key areas.
However, Joe Biden is ideologically not a balance to the ticket; he is only marginally less Left than Obama on many significant issues, and has a reputation for fiesty stubborness that does not bode well for much bi-partisan cooperation. Tales of his temper flashes rival those of John McCain. And, he is a known one-man gaffe machine who can sometimes be a loose cannon.
He is, in the gracious and understated words of the Los Angeles Times, "famously verbose," who struggles to articulate issues in a succinct manner; unless, of course, he is cutting someone down, in which case he can be razor sharp.
One of my favorite Biden moments, as recounted by the above-mentioned LA Times was when he was still running for President:
Biden's arming cluelessness was on display in a recent ABC news interview. The famously verbose senator was asked to state in 25 words or less why Democrats should nominate him. His response was 45 words. I suppose that, by Biden's standards, coming in at just under twice his allotted length counts as a victory of sorts. Biden then explained why he could win:
If people learn my story, learn my record, I think I can compete. The question is, can I raise the money. This is sort of like me saying that I think I can compete for a starting NFL quarterback job, but the question is, can I avoid injuries. It's a question, but it's certainly not the question.
If Biden can use a sports metaphor, then so can I. My terrible golf skills are redeemed in this one regard: even though I can't hit the ball straight, I can't hit it very far. Biden not only has a propensity to toss out the gaffes, but given his verbosity, when he goes off course, it can be a whopper.
Who can forget Biden's earlier Presidential run (OK, poor choice of words) back in 1988, when he had to drop out due to the discovery of him plagerizing a speech from a UK politician? As the LA Times and others have noted, Biden more recently raised eyebrows with his awkwardly-worded praise of Obama as being the first mainstream Presidential candidate who was black, "clean," and "articulate."
Reverends Jackson and Sharpton were not amused.
In Biden's defense, neither Sharpton nor Jackson were exactly "mainstream" or had a chance to actually win the elections, and when Biden used the unfortunate phrase "clean," he was picking up on an old 1950s complimentary word meaning "really sharp and together." Sharpton, who is not always sharp or together, immediately spun Biden's comment to mean that black politicians had heretofore practiced poor hygiene, and much hysteria ensued. And, Biden didn't help his image as being racially insensitive when he said, "you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent."
Few of Biden's statements may come back to haunt him more than this one, as reported today in the Daily Mail UK:
However, Mr Biden, 65, is known for being talkative and is prone to making statements which get him into trouble.
Last year he said Mr Obama was "not yet ready" for the presidency, a remark which will now be seized upon by the Republican attack machine ahead of the general election on November 4.
Even before Mr Obama confirmed his selection this morning, McCain campaign spokesman Ben Porritt said: "There has been no harsher critic of Barack Obama's lack of experience than Joe Biden.
"Biden has denounced Barack Obama's poor foreign policy judgment and has strongly argued in his own words what Americans are quickly realising - that Barack Obama is not ready to be president"'
On the other hand, Biden has made many warm comments about John McCain, and even suggested that he would consider being McCain's running mate:
I would be honored to run with or against John McCain because I think the country would be better off.
One thing is certain: we will be hearing a lot more about these quotes and gaffes in days ahead. Another thing is certain: we have not heard the last words from Joe Biden about these issues. Not by a long shot.
This "O'Biden" ticket (I want to trademark that) is a bit of an odd couple, and it's pretty obvious which one is Oscar and which one is Felix. Will the cautious and lawyerly Obama be undone by the caustic and careless Biden? Time will tell.