John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Biden-Obama Ticket

Posted on August 23, 2008



            My wife likes Joe Biden and I agree with her that there is a lot about him to like.  He seems like a good guy, he is outspoken, he doesn’t seem to completely full of himself.  He is also blunt and pretty honest in his expressing his feelings. 


            Biden would be a good guy to have a few beers with.  He would probably tell some off-color jokes, he would always be entertaining, and he would know everybody at the bar.  So, from my perspective, there’s a lot to like there.


            Which makes me wonder why the Democrats would nominate Barack Obama instead of Joe Biden to be the President.  Biden has vast Senate experience, he has a working knowledge of foreign affairs (having sat on the committee for a hundred years), has a pretty liberal voting record, and on the big issues, he is an orthodox Democrat.


            Sure, he has a big mouth.  Sure, he voted for the war before he voted against it.  Sure, he was wrong on the surge (but so were all the Democrats).  Sure, he has had no other jobs in his whole adult life other than the United States Senate.  Sure, he has publicly stated that he has never worked for anybody his entire life.  Sure, there are some questions about financial hanky-panky related to a local bank and the purchase of his house.


            But these are not the big questions that will be raised about Joe Biden and Barack Obama. 


            The big question raised by Joe Biden’s selection of running mate is:  shouldn’t this be the other way around?  Shouldn’t Biden be running for President and Obama be running for Vice President?   Should Biden be the one calling the shots?


            Biden’s only experience is in the Senate, but at least he has some experience.  Obama has none.  Biden’s has some accomplishments.  I can’t name any of them but after spending most of his life in the Senate, he has to have some accomplishments.  Obama has none.  Biden has some experience cutting deals in the Senate.  Obama has none. 


            Ron Fournier of the Associated Press put it this way: “In picking Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate, Barack Obama sought to shore up his weakness—inexperience in office and on foreign policy—rather than underscore his strength as a new-generation candidate defying political conventions.”


“He picked a 35-year veteran of the Senate—the ultimate insider—rather than a candidate from outside Washington, such as Govs. Tim Kaine of Virginia or Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas; or from outside his party, such as Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska; or from outside the mostly white male club of vice presidential candidates. Hillary Rodham Clinton didn't even make his short list.”


“The picks say something profound about Obama: For all his self-confidence, the 47-year-old Illinois senator worried that he couldn't beat Republican John McCain without help from a seasoned politician willing to attack. The Biden pick is the next logistical step in an Obama campaign that has become more negative—a strategic decision that may be necessary but threatens to run counter to his image.”


            This reminds me of the Dukakis pick in 1988.  Dukakis seemed to be sure winner in the summer of 1988, and when he picked Lloyd Bentsen, it seemed that the dream ticket was complete.  But as the campaign went on, Bentsen started to outshine his running mate.  He looked Presidential to Dukakis’s stiffness.  He had the southern drawl, and seemed moderate on taxes, he looked reasonable.  People started to wonder why he wasn’t on the top of the ticket.  And then doubt about Dukakis became opportunity for Bush. 


            The same thing will happen to this “dream” ticket.  People are going to wonder why Biden isn’t at the top.  They are going to wonder why Biden isn’t debating McCain..  Biden is going to look better and better, the call for change is going to grow fainter and fainter, and then people are going to decide that as long as I am going to vote for experience and know-how, I am going to vote for the ticket that has experience at the top.


            Biden seems to be a smart tactical choice for Obama, but in the long run, it will be the wrong strategic choice.  If the American people are going to vote for experience over change, they are going to vote for McCain, not for Obama-Biden.