Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Chase for Change 2008: A Missed Opportunity for Obama's VP

So the worst kept secret is finally out of the bag – it’s Joe Biden. I never got around to outlining what I thought was required for Obama’s VP pick, but had I done so I would have said (you’ll just have to trust me on this) that the VP pick should have executive experience (e.g., be a governor), be able to put some Southern and Midwestern states in play (e.g., be from the South or Midwest), be a woman (because so many female Democrats felt let down by Hillary’s loss and it would give them a milestone to still fight for, not to mention it's well past time), be able to reach out to Hillary Clinton’s supporters (e.g., someone who worked on Hillary’s campaign or Hillary herself) and have solid foreign policy experience. Joe Biden only has the last one so I would count him as a disappointment and a missed opportunity.

What states is Joe Biden going to help Obama with? Will he help win Virginia, Indiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado? I’d say no – in fact McCain will be happy to cast the ticket as two liberal Northern Senators who don’t represent the rest of America.

How does Biden help counter the critique that Obama has no executive experience?

If Obama really wanted experience he should have gone with Bill Richardson, he doesn’t meet all my criteria (to be fair no one did), but at least he’s a Midwestern governor with solid domestic AND foreign policy experience, ties to the Clinton administration (even though Carville hates him now) and would have been another first – the first Hispanic (the fastest growing demographic) on the ticket. For those who say Americans couldn’t stomach two "firsts" and Obama needed an old white guy I say that’s offensive and I just don’t think that holds water.

I also thought the argument against Hillary Clinton was that she had been in Washington too long and it would go against his “change” message? So he picks someone who’s been in Washington two decades who has made countless gaffes while he’s been there and who said quite emphatically and he did NOT want to be Vice President? (Yes I know there was the Bill Clinton problem too but that could have been managed) How does Biden help reach out to Hillary supporters? The fact that he slammed Obama so much during the race doesn’t seal the deal I’m afraid and the disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters I fear are going to be fuming.

My top picks would have Kathleen Sebelius (Governor of Kansas) and Janet Napolitano (Governor of Arizona). While they lacked the foreign policy experience Biden has and were Obama supporters they satisfy the other criteria and were strong female governors (which would appeal to many disaffected Hillary supporters who still feel it’s crucial to have a woman in the oval office) who could have helped Obama win in the Midwest and ultimately that’s what Obama needs to win and Biden doesn’t really help much with that from what I can see.

John McCain may now pick a female VP (though I’m certain she’ll be anti-choice and not really onside with the women’s movement) and while I hope not many women get fooled (just imagine someone like Cheryl Gallant leading the country) – I think it would win over some former Hillary Clinton supporters and Obama has left this opportunity wide open for McCain by not just choosing a well-qualified woman himself.

To be clear I’m sure Joe Biden will make a great VP and he is well-qualified and certainly miles better than anything John McCain will put up. To be fair, I’ll refer you to two posts on why Biden will be good for the ticket. Still, from a strategic standpoint I personally just don’t understand this and I happen to feel strongly that there were better, more qualified people who deserved the position more. And as a woman I'm disappointed that this sends a message to wait until 2016 for a woman on the ticket.

The fact remains though that America and Canada and the rest of the world still needs Barack Obama as President. I’m disappointed because I think this pick works against that. No going back of course, but I’ve been frank on the faults made through this Presidential race by any candidate and will continue to do so. Obama is only human and he can learn from his mistakes pointed out by his supporters and recognize the weaknesses that still remain for a Obama-Biden ticket.

In the end I (and I hope many others, particularly in the U.S. so the media takes notice) and many others will continue to point out that John McCain would be MORE CONSERVATIVE on domestic policy and MORE HAWKISH on foreign policy than George W. Bush and would therefore be even worse on both fronts, not to mention he would set back women’s rights 30 years. And I will continue to point out all the great qualities an Obama Presidency would bring. So it won’t be hard to say Obama-Biden is by far the best option for Americans on November 4th. I still look forward to watching the Democratic Convention.

UPDATE: So after reading more posts in favour of Biden and watching his speech in Springfield with Obama, and a couple other videos, I must say I feel a lot better about him as the choice, I think he'll do better in states like Ohio than I gave him credit. When you are getting praise from Republican Senators AND Michael Moore at the same time, along with the high favourability ratings Scott Tribe noted, that is quite a good testament of cross-partisan support. I now feel better that he'll do well for the campaign and he definitely had some good lines in Springfield. That said some of the drawbacks I outlined remain - no executive experience, no regional balance to the ticket, and kind of goes agains the long-standing Obama arguments of "you can't change the culture in Washington by sending the same old faces back and expecting a different result" or that you can't credibly run against John McCain on Iraq when you voted for the war (which Biden did). Also the fact that Biden is on record saying he would be proud to be ON John McCain's ticket and that he encouraged John Kerry to take McCain as his running mate will take some of the sting out of Biden's attacks on McCain. Obama would do well to be well aware of these remaining weaknesses and Biden ought to have an answer ready of why he said he would be willing to be on McCain's ticket or wanted Kerry to have him in 2004.

But I did want to update this to say I feel better about him than I did before so the title of this post has changed a bit. Still a missed opportunity though, I would have liked to seen a strong female governor chosen and I still believe others would have done better and been more qualified for the ticket, for instance, I've yet to hear one argument why Joe Biden was a better pick than Bill Richarson. Biden will be a great VP though regardless. Still looking forward to the big convention speeches :).

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Anonymous said...

I think it is a tough call. I do like Joe Biden.

I understand your desire for a greater change, but I think the reality is this is a wise choice for the general election. I do think Biden can help with Virginia and Indiana and Colorado. Maybe not so much with NM or Nevada.

Though, in general, I do think Joe can help with white men, which in reality is an area where Obama needs to build support. He may not get a lot, but he can gain some.

I was a Hillary supporter from way back when, but at the end of the day those women who say now they ABSOLUTELY would not support Obama without Clinton will have to make up their own minds (and appear to have from day one). Strangely I feel they hurt her cause because Obama would never have lived down the insinuation that he chose Clinton "because he had to." For every vote he secured, he would have lost others. I didn't really believe that at first, but it did become clear as time went on - in commentary and even polls.

Every time I saw a "more likely" "less likely" poll on Obama choosing Clinton, they either canceled out or skewed towards possibly turning more people off.

In the end, I think it was a tough call. But I do understand the type of rationale they had to be considering.

At the end of the day, Biden will erase some of the "experience" deficit McCain is trying to exploit.

P.S. For McCain's VP, I'm betting on Pawlenty because McCain wants to try to snag Minnesota. In my heart I hope its Romney because in my opinion he turns off as many people as he attracts. There's a reason he did poorly in the Republican race, and I hope the Republican braintrust is too enamored to realize it.

Scott Tribe said...

Why was Biden chosen? Perhaps for the reasons listed over here.