Public Nuisance

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The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Ezra Klein and Kevin Drum have been discussing the possibility of Joe Biden joining the Democratic race. Ezra (who is a Dean man) likes the idea, because he thinks it will strengthen Dean. He's probably right about that, but there are several flaws in his argument:
  • Ezra claims that: "[Biden] is the top Democrat on the Foreign Relation committee (that same committee Kerry is on - and this is key, Biden outranks Kerry on national security) and is quite hawkish. " There are 100 guys in Washington who actually care about who has the most Senate seniority. For everyone else, Kerry's credentials as a committee member and a decorated veteran outweigh Biden's credentials as the senior minority member.
  • "Biden is a fantastic orator, many feel he's on par with Cuomo." Uh, really? He was nothing special on MTP last week, and if I've ever seen him speak (which I think I have) it left no major impression. He isn't remotely in Cuomo's class.
  • If Biden wants to win, as opposed to merely screw over Kerry & Gephardt, he's looking at a lot of problems. For one thing, most of the top people are already committed to one or another client - at this late point it is hard or impossible to put together a really good campaign staff. And most of the money sources are also now tied to one of the declared candidates. Biden starts out far behind, and it isn't clear how he can catch up.

I have no real objection to Biden, and I always thought the plaigiarism bit from 1988 was a bum rap - most of what politicians say was written by someone else. If Biden somehow makes a fool out of me and wins the nomination, I'll have zero problems in supporting him. But I see little or nothing new that he brings to the race. The only real point in his favor against some of the existing candidates is that he's been in Washington longer. That's a legitimate argument - the idea in American politics that a President should have as little direct exposure to the Federal government as possible has always struck me as fairly strange. But election returns clearly show that a lot of voters think that way. While experience is a valid qualification, it isn't a big selling point in a campaign. If Biden does try, my guess is that Kerry knocks him out quickly, so Dean will still have to run against a candidate who has some money and a national organization.

One other thing: Biden has been around for a while, but what has he done? I follow politics far more closely than most, but really couldn't say off hand how liberal or moderate he is. I have a hard time thinking of any cause or issue that he's strongly linked to.

For an opposing viewpoint, look here. And a real sign of the times - the Biden campaign doesn't yet have an organization or a declared candidate, but it does have its own unofficial blog.