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BIDEN -- THE STRATEGY

Strong Enough To Be Your Man

Here's a selection of televised Obama camp reaction to Biden's VP nom:

Obama VP vetter Caroline Kennedy, asked Biden was at the top of her list: "Of course. Well he would be at the top of any list, right?" ("Meet the Press," NBC, 8/24).

 

Obama strategist David Axelrod, asked if the camp decided that adding another change candidate was "simply too risky": "He picked Joe Biden because he felt Joe Biden was the best partner for him. Joe Biden is a guy who obviously is accomplished and knowledgeable. ... He's an independent guy who will tell the president what he needs to know, even if he doesn't want to hear it. ... That's what you want in a vice president. But mostly, I think what attracted Senator Obama was Biden's wisdom. And not the kind of wisdom you get in Washington, D.C., but the kind of wisdom you get when you overcome adversity, tragedy in your life as he has; the kind of wisdom you get in the working class communities of Scranton, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware, where he's lived all his life. He's never lived a day in Washington, D.C." ("This Week," ABC, 8/24).

Obama comm. dir. Robert Gibbs: "I think this choice says a lot about the judgment of Senator Obama. He went through a very methodical, pragmatic process. He listened to a lot of people. He talked to each of these candidates several times and came to what I think was a very good choice. He picked somebody who has unparalleled expertise on foreign policy, somebody who will help him rebuild the economy, put people back to work, make our country independent of energy. But I think, you know, Senator Joe Biden's personal story has been tested many, many times by personal crises. He's somebody that works in Washington but doesn't live there, and I think that says a lot about him -- doesn't forget where he's from. ... We're comfortable with our pick. We had a lot of great choices and we talked to a lot of different people. But I think we settled on a great pick and a great partnership to bring about change in this country."

Gibbs, asked if Biden helps with voters' concerns about Obama's experience: "I think Senator Biden, again, has unparalleled foreign policy experience. And I think if you look at not just what was said yesterday by Democrats about this pick, but look what was said by Republicans. Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Chuck Hagel, an unparalleled expert on defense policy, Senator Arlen Specter, another Republican, this time from Pennsylvania all spoke very highly of the choice of Joe Biden."

 

Fox's Wallace: "But what about change? Joe Biden has actually been in the halls of Congress 10 years longer than John McCain has. So this whole message about change ... doesn't that go out the window?"

Gibbs: "No, because again, as I said to you earlier, Joe Biden works in Washington but he doesn't live there. Every night, he goes home on an Amtrak train, where he knows the names of the conductors, to his wife and family in Delaware."

Gibbs, on Biden being on the record repeatedly questioning Obama's experience and judgment: "Obviously, you can pull up a lot of quotes from August when these two guys were running against each other. But ... if you look at the statements just recently, Joe Biden says ... Barack Obama has the judgment, the intellect and the spine of steel to lead this country in a different direction."

Wallace: "Joe Biden talks too much. He was known during the John Roberts Supreme Court hearing for asking what many believe to be the single longest question in the history of the Senate. Has Obama or has someone on your staff talked to Joe about keeping it quiet?"

 

Gibbs: "On occasion he's asked long questions. I think he'd probably plead guilty to that. ... I think that may be something that a lot of them are guilty of. But look, we didn't hire him for his stunning good looks. We hired him for his judgment to lead this country if something happens to Barack Obama, and the judgment and the advice that he'll give the next president of the United States, and we think we've got a fabulous pick" ("Fox News Sunday," 8/24).

More Gibbs: "I think what we have in Joe Biden is somebody with unparalleled national security experience. Somebody who the cops and firefighters know as just Joe. Somebody who has never forgotten their middle class background, where they come from, and somebody who can work across party lines to get things done. And most of all, Senator Obama wanted somebody who would give him unvarnished advice. Just tell it like it is. And we've got all of that in one package in Joe Biden" ("Fox & Friends," FNC, 8/25).

Help Doesn't Hurt

The TV debate continues over whether Biden helps or hurts Obama's WH chances.

Those against Biden helping:

• Fox's Garrett: "While he's a solid pick, Joe Biden is clearly not a perfect fit for Barack Obama. On the biggest question that the nation has had to deal with in the post-Cold War era, the Iraq war, Barack Obama was against it. Joe Biden voted for that authorization. And while the surge debate was going on, Barack Obama criticized Joe Biden's plan to have a loose ethnic confederation in Iraq of three different separate ethnic groups" ("Fox News Sunday," 8/24).

• Fox's Hume: "I don't think Joe Biden's selection does much to assuage the outrage that a lot of Hillary backers feel. Whether that will translate into some disaffection that lasts till election day among Hillary voters I think is very much an open question. ... Does Biden bring anything in terms of reaching out to voters beyond those that Obama might otherwise attract. On foreign policy, perhaps so, but on all the other range of issues he is virtually every bit as liberal as Obama is. This ticket, therefore, offers not very much to centrists and conservatives, and this is, after all, I think, still a center-right country" ("Fox News Sunday," 8/24).

• Rudy Giuliani: "Joe is a friend of mine ... and [I] have great respect for him. I just think that this is a problem for Senator Obama more than anything else, not for Joe Biden. Senator Obama has made a choice more out of weakness than strength. It's quite clear from all of the commentaries, all of the things I've heard from Democrats in particular. The strong choice would have been Hillary Clinton. The obvious choice would have been Hillary Clinton. She had 50 percent of the Democratic vote. Obama has 50 percent of the Democratic vote. You almost have to go to extraordinary lengths to avoid her as the vice presidential pick of the party. And it seems to me that for whatever reason that hasn't been explained, a choice was made out of weakness than strength. You know don't go with your strongest candidate, and then go with a candidate that actually emphasizes all your weaknesses and has been quite vocal about them" ("This Week," ABC, 8/24).

• Conservative radio host Martha Zoller, on whether the fact that Biden went after Obama in the past will be used against him: "Of course. Everything said on the record is going to be able to be used. The Republicans are going to use them. The Democrats are going to use them. But Joe Biden is an interesting choice, because not only does he love to talk, he's made lots of mistakes over the course of his career and what he's had to say. He has even a longer career in the Senate than John McCain does, so that sort of makes moot the argument that John McCain is just the same old thing that you're going to get anywhere. Plus, I think it was a big mistake [with] two senators" ("American Morning," CNN, 8/25).

Those for Biden helping:

• NBC pol. dir. Chuck Todd: "It's almost [Obama] hired himself a defense lawyer, and he said, 'I'm going to get him to defend me against some of these attacks. I'm going to have him go out and make the case against McCain a little bit, and I'm going to have him go out and sell my biography a little bit better because I don't do it very well.' And in one speech, Biden showed he can sell the biography of Obama better than Obama himself could" ("Meet the Press," 8/24).

• VA Gov. Tim Kaine (D), asked "what, if anything," Biden can do in VA: "Joe comes from a state, Delaware, that borders Virginia. The eastern shore part of Virginia and Delaware are not only bordering but very, very similar. And I think there's a lot in common, and Joe understands that. Virginia's a very military state. ... Joe's long track record on foreign relations matters, strong support for the military, but strong support for America being great at the diplomacy area, will go over very well in Virginia. And I think he's a heart guy. I mean, as he campaigns, he's a great retail campaigner who really connects with people on a visceral level, and Virginians like that. And so I think the pick of Joe Biden will do very well in Virginia."

• Kaine, asked if Biden blunts the message of change: "If you look at what Joe's done as a senator, he's done some things that I think will resonate well with Virginians and others. ... He's got a solid record of accomplishment. And I think they're a good team personality- wise. They complement each other well. I think you're going to see them really enjoying being out on the trail together."

• Kaine, asked if Biden can solve Obama's weakness on nat'l security and experience: "Yes. ... I'm just using a Joe Biden line. As you remember, you know, I'm going to answer a question with a 'yes.' Look, Joe's got a great track record, and Barack's got a record of being right on the critical issues. I mean, we've got judgment. We've got experience. We fuse them together in one ticket" ("Fox News Sunday," 8/24).

• CO Gov. Bill Ritter (D): "I think it was a smart choice because Joe Biden does have the experience to, number one, be president. He could be president on day one, and secondly, really, because he has this national security and, really, foreign relations background. We're in a challenging time. Everybody knows that. It's good to have a vice president that can complement the president, fill the ticket out and say, 'We can rise to the challeng'" ("Fox News Sunday," 8/24).

• NBC's Gregory: "I think there are some really important things that Biden will bring. He can lend credibility ... to Obama's candidacy. ... He can help create that comfort for a lot of voters. ... Just like Dick Cheney was for George Bush, a sense of reassurance. And that really is how this pick is being measured in a lot of circles" ("Morning Joe," MSNBC, 8/25).

Time's Halperin, on how Biden will help Obama: "I think another thing that Biden brings, and we saw it on his speech on behalf of Barack Obama. He will be, along with Michelle Obama, a great testifier, on behalf of the story of Barack Obama: What he's done in his life and what he'll done as president. I think he'll be extraordinarily effective" ("This Week," ABC, 8/24).

• Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), on GOPers saying Biden underscores Obama's vulnerability on nat'l security and foreign policy: "Oh, I think it shows to me just the opposite. It shows that Barack Obama is someone who is prepared to bring into his administration talented people from all walks of life that will be able to help him move forward, but it will be clear that he will be the president. I had the privilege of being with him to visit with President Karzai in Afghanistan, with Prime Minister Maliki in Iraq, and I saw in both cases a very firm, very determined, very articulate spokesperson, or representative, who could deliver a message, a tough message in both cases. He was urging our allies to do much more, and they should do much more. And I think he's type of person, through his intellect and his temperament, that can bring in strong, forceful and experienced people, but be clearly the leader, clearly the president, clearly the one who will mark the course for this country going forward" ("Late Edition," CNN, 8/24).

• CBS' Pitts, asked if Obama has already passed the media test: "I think so. And look, I think that that was part of the calculation. When you're picking this close to the convention, 72 hours before the convention, you don't necessarily want to pick someone who is an unknown commodity. The media will get to know that person, either in a good or a bad way, and almost everyone who has covered politics has had some kind of experience with Joe Biden. He's an affable guy. He's the kind of guy that you know you could spend 25 minutes talking to. ... Joe Biden was one of the very few senators who you could sort of go up, and he would spend 15 or 20 minutes with you talking to you."

CNN's Kurtz: "Or 25 or 30 or 35."

Pitts: "I was trying to be charitable" ("Late Edition," CNN, 8/24).

• Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA): "I think this is a very strong ticket not only for Pennsylvania, but for the country. And historically, Pennsylvania has always been close, so we expect a close race. But I think Senator Obama and Senator Biden together form a very strong team, a strong team that understands the struggles that people are facing in this economy, and I think that will be a strong message for the people of Pennsylvania" ("Late Edition," CNN, 8/24).

But Does He Have Any Change In His Pockets?

• Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asked if Biden is a card-carrying member of the Dem establishment because he has been in the Senate for 35 years: "I don't think so. First of all, let me say it's an excellent choice. It's a real sign of the leadership of Senator Obama that he would choose Senator Biden, recognizing the issues of the day are the economic and personal security of the American people. ... It isn't a question of what Senator Obama needs. He's the full package. He has great judgment and knowledge and can draw upon expertise. This is what brings balance and brings reinforcement. Anyone who knows Senator Biden knows that he is a disrupter. This is not your standard Washington fare. This is a person, a senator who goes home every night, lucky for him, to Delaware. This is a person who has challenged the status quo. And he's even criticized Senator Obama, so it's a tribute to Senator Obama that he's not just choosing a 'yes man,' but a person who will speak what he believes" ("Meet the Press," NBC, 8/24).

• Gibbs: "I think you can work in Washington, but not be of Washington, and I think that's what Joe Biden is. He's worked the strength in our crime laws, he's worked to prevent violence against women. He's done a lot of stuff that a lot of people don't yet know about, but we'll get a chance to tell his story, and he's got a terrific family" ("Fox & Friends," FNC, 8/25).

• Progressive radio talk show host Ed Schultz, on whether selecting Biden undercuts Obama's message of change: "You can't change things unless you know how things work. And Joe Biden comes with a wealth of experience and legislative victories. He's been around a long time, he's got a lot of connections. He has a way of, when he talks, people listen. ... He has tremendous respect of his peers. But there's another thing to this I think is important. It's a personality pick. ... Barack Obama has said all along he wants diversified opinions. Joe Biden is the perfect personality to walk right in and say, this is where we were. This is where we are. This is my opinion. This is what I think you ought to do" ("American Morning," CNN, 8/25).

The Printed Word

Here's a selection of the print press' wisdom on Biden:

•Biden is nobody's "yes person." He is both the Dems' "most compelling spokesman on foreign policy ... and a smile-and-a-beer glad-hander who campaigns with brio among blue-collar voters." There is a "scrappiness and a forthrightness to Biden that make him an outsider despite his establishmentarian perch." Ex-DNC chair David Wilhelm: "He's the guy who, for all his Washington experience, is not beloved by the K Street crowd [of lobbyists]. He's told too many people what he thinks" (Shapiro, Salon, 8/23).

•Biden "may have been the only one of the putatively short-listed running-mate candidates withe the ability to reassure those wavering voters" (Kornacki, New York Observer, 8/23).

•In many ways, "Obama's decision to tap Biden is reminiscent of" George Bush's choice of Dick Cheney in '00. Bush "chose an eminence gris, an experienced Washington hand, and someone knowledgeable on foreign policy and military affairs" (Zuckman, "The Swamp," Chicago Tribune, 8/25).

•While Biden "is touted as giving Obama needed credibility in foreign policy, equally important may be mending fences with voters who remain loyal to Clinton." What might help: Biden sponsored the Violence Against Women Act in the '90s, "a measure that provided a framework for future national and state laws that criminalized some attacks on women and helped communities coordinate programs to protect and help victims' (Montgomery, Wilmington News Journal, 8/25).

•New York Sun's Blackwell writes, it is "debatable whether Mr. Obama's greatest need is foreign policy." Voters rightly see the president's primary duty "as protecting American lives and the American homeland." While diplomacy and knowledge of world events is part of that, "it is only one part." Nat'l sec. "is central to protecting American lives. That involves intelligence work, fighting terrorism, and securing vulnerable entry points. The instrument of our national defense is our military" (8/25).

•RealClearPolitics' Wilson writes, "Biden is one of a few people, along with Ted Kennedy, George Mitchell, Sam Nunn and perhaps a handful of others, who can be called a senior statesman in the Democratic Party. Experienced, intelligent and savvy, Obama's choice, in retrospect, could not have been anyone else" (8/23).

Chicago Sun-Times' Mitchell writes, Biden's prescence on the ticket "may be enough to comfort the nervous nellies who still don't know what to make of a Barack Obama" (8/24).

•GOPers "made it clear that Biden's words and time in Washington would be used against him" (Blake, The Hill, 8/23).

•Biden "has described himself as a 30-year friend of a key figure in the Rezko trial who pleaded guilty to a federal extortion charge in Chicago and is awaiting sentencing" (McKinney, Chicago Sun-Times, 8/25).

Slate's Dickerson writes, "Obama has made a serious pick. He didn't choose his Delaware colleague because Biden would generate buzz, and Biden brings no Electoral College benefit." DE "is a blue state, and being born in the swing state" of PA "doesn't really count." Obama picked Biden because, as chair of the foreign relations cmte and ex-chair of the judiciary cmte, "he has extensive experience" (8/23).

San Francisco Chronicle's Coile writes, "While Biden is a skilled orator, he can be long-winded and can come across as arrogant. He's beloved by the press corps for his candor, but his aides sometimes fear what may come out of his mouth" (8/24).

Some Non-Issues

•Biden's ex-law school classmate says that Biden's "alleged flirtation with plagerism" in '65 is a "non-issue now." Ex-state workers' compensation judge Arthur Cooper: "I'm an Obama supporter, and I think he made a good choice. ... I think [Joe] has learned a lot" (McCarthy, Buffalo News, 8/25).

•Biden's son Hunter has "lobbied for two drug companies and five universities." Biden Senate spokesperson Elizabeth Alexander: "Hunter Biden does not lobby and has not lobbied Senator Biden's office" (Burger, New York Sun, 8/25).

•During the years that Biden "was helping the credit card industry win passage of a law making it harder for consumers to file for bankruptcy protection, his son had a consulting agreement that lasted five years will one of the largest companies pushing for the changes" (Drew/McIntire, New York Times, 8/25).

This article appears in the August 25, 2008 edition of Latest Edition.

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