Speaking Of A Talent For Speaking
So much now will be written and said about Joe Biden, from his heartbreaking life story to his mixed record in the Senate. I always have a soft spot for people who survive horrendous personal traumas, but I also agree with those who think Biden's record is too conventional, and the farthest thing possible from real change, when it comes to crime issues. Jeralyn at TalkLeft is all over that, as it directly touches both her career and the purpose of her blog, but I hope she will end up supporting the ticket. I know that her instinct will be to do so. Those who strongly believe a woman should have the choice to terminate a late pregnancy, should her life or health be endangered, also won't be enthused by the idea of voting for Biden. He's also been much more hawkish on the war than have Barack Obama and most of his supporters, and on the most fundamental level, this career insider is not exactly a face of transformation. Even David Brooks likes him.
The most important factor for Obama, in selecting his running mate, should have been to ensure that the person a heartbeat away from the presidency is up to the job. Biden clearly qualifies. The second most important factor should have been to ensure Obama's election against an opponent who truly might be even worse than the worst president ever. On that, Biden was not the best choice. We can debate who would have been best, but there are at least a handful who would have been better. But Biden does bring one critically important strength to the campaign, and it is not his much-touted experience. Paradoxically, it is something for which he is also often criticized- his oratorical skills. An already legendary speaker, himself, Obama must have taken particular notice.
As others have pointed out, having conquered a youthful stutter, Biden now loves to speak. Endlessly. He is a one man filibuster. But he also has a unique talent for coining a memorable phrase, and I will be surprised if he doesn't rip a couple zingers that we will all long remember. It was Biden, in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, who most concisely excoriated the Bush Administration's initial refusal to seek help from our allies in rebuilding Iraq, with his oft-repeated line that we had to stop acting like we had won some sort of prize. It was also Biden who eviscerated the entire rationale for Rudolph Giuliani's miserable candidacy for president, with what was probably the most memorable line of the campaign season, thus far- "There's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, and a verb and 9/11." People are already riffing on that as McCain reflexively excuses or rationalizes his every failure by recalling his youthful heroism as a POW- now four long decades ago.
Biden's impact on the election is hard to predict, and for true liberals there are many reasons to be less than thrilled with his selection. But campaigns often turn on the most absurd simplicities of image or rhetoric, and Joe Biden may very well create such a turning point with his quick wit, sharp mind, and unique ability to distill issues and political dynamics into the most searingly effective sound bites. Do not underestimate the importance of such a talent.