Let’s go down memory lane a bit, as this will help to put Obama’s selection of Joe Biden in proper perspective.
JFK- picked his convention opponent and Senate powerhouse, Lyndon Johnson., to the consternation of his supporters. JFK acted in the overriding interest of electoral victory.
Reagan-the magnanimous Gipper chose his primary opponent, a selection reflecting great self-confidence. And a practical one, too, building a needed bridge to the GOP establishment.
Mondale- the interest-group-obsessed Mondale wanted to appeal to the emerging “woman’s vote” block, and picked an unknown Congresswoman from Queens NY, Geraldine Ferraro. Reagan went on to carry the woman’s vote, the Italian-American woman’s vote and the state of New York. Whoops!
Bush I- GHW Bush opted for generational change by picking Dan Quayle, which was a good move in itself. Unfortunately, he underestimated the resolve of the Democrats to pick Quayle off, abetted by an increasingly vicious media culture.
Dukakis- reached into the Senate establishment and chose Lloyd Bentsen. In an unforgettable (but highly unstatesmanlike) media moment, Bentsen dispatched Quayle in the debate. It did not matter. Bentsen could not fix Dukakis’s inability to connect with voters outside the Democratic base.
Clinton- Bill Clinton opted decisively for generational change, showing great self-confidence and political acumen. Too bad Al Gore morphed into such a dork.
Dole- had the wisdom to recognize his problems with the conservative base, and reached out to them with Jack Kemp. Unfortunately, Kemp was a flop on the stump. No pick is perfect. But Dole tried.
GWB- George W Bush opted for the solidity of Dick Cheney and his experience on the world stage. GWB was an established political star, having defeated a Democratic icon in Texas, then going on to become a hugely successful governor. Cheney rounded the team out without upstaging his No. 1.
Gore- understood the poisonous overhang of the Clinton scandals and reached out to Joe Lieberman as a purgative. An inspired choice. Let us mourn the passing of this Al Gore, who has been replaced by the media demagogue.
Kerry- chose his primary opponent, John Edwards. This was a sound choice, reflecting self-assurance and a recognition that Edwards could bring some badly needed oomph to the Kerry ticket. One of Kerry’s better moments.
And now Obama and Biden. Obama also reached into the Senate establishment for his guy, especially for his international experience. That’s a good thing in itself. But the need for Biden highlights the presumptuousness of Obama’s July European tour, which was a political disaster in any case. Furthermore, Biden is a realist on foreign policy, despite the occasional liberal bromides, and Obama definitely is not. So whose views will prevail? Will Obama defer to Biden? This will generate the same criticisms that Bush received re Cheney. To the power of 10.
Two Senators, Two Lawyers.Now we get to the heart of the problem. Both men have never run anything in their lives besides their staffs. They have spent most of their careers in the legislature. Obama’s state legislative record is mediocre at best, artificially enhanced by a Chicago political fixer. Biden is as known for his gaffes as his Senatorial record. His Senate experience is valuable. But he does not round out the top guy the way Cheney did with Bush. He highlights Obama’s deficiencies and the wild gamble the Democratic party is taking on the charismatic novice.
A final point. Obama appears to have gone out of his way to diss Hillary Clinton with the selection process and the way in which it was announced. This is not evidence of the workings of a mature mind. Barack Obama might think Biden solidifies the team, but Biden can not compensate for Obama’s lack of judgment. Or as Lloyd Bentsen might put it, “Senator, you’re no John Kennedy!”