Barack Obama has picked Senator Joe Biden of Delaware as his vice presidential running mate.
As a longtime admirer of Biden, and as one who favored him in his brief campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination this year, I’m pleased and (after some of the goofier speculation) rather relieved. If one of your criteria for choosing a president is his ability to make smart decisions on important matters, then I would say Obama– in his most crucial decision so far– comes out looking pretty good.
Not only is Biden (chairman of the Senate Foreign Relation Committee) one of Congress’s strongest experts on foreign policy, he has a remarkable ability to cut through the crap. He may need to curtail this somewhat in public now, and to control his frequent long-windedness, but he seems to understand this. He performed impressively in the Democratic debates.
And yes, expect to hear once again about the Neil Kinnock business.
My guess is that Republicans, while hoping that Biden will make some gaffes they can pounce on, would have preferred someone with less experience and less foreign policy credibility. I suspect some on the Democratic party’s antiwar wing are equally disappointed. Biden voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq, although he’s been an insightful and persistent critic of the conduct of the war.
It’s always good to keep in mind that running mates historically have had little impact on the outcome of elections, even when the difference in quality between the two vice presidential candidates is striking (remember Lloyd Bentsen versus Dan Quayle in 1988). The only exception that comes to mind is Lyndon Johnson, who certainly helped John F. Kennedy carry Texas in 1960. It may be the triumph of hope over experience, but I feel better about Obama’s chances this morning than I did last night.
Update: It may have pissed off some, but I liked Biden’s response to one of the questions in the “YouTube” debate:
Further update: You can watch Obama’s and Biden’s joint appearance in Springfield, Illinois, here:
Best line (from Biden):
Ladies and gentlemen, your kitchen table is like mine. You sit there every night after you put the kids to bed and you talk, you talk about what you need. You talk about how much you’re worried about being able to pay the bills. Well ladies and gentlemen, that’s not a worry that John McCain has to worry about. It’s a pretty hard experience — he’ll have to figure out which of the seven kitchen tables to sit at.