Do No Harm

23Aug08

Barack’s choice of Biden is a tacit admission, as we’ve discussed here before, that Obama lacks the qualifications to be President, and, more importantly, that reality has become a concrete impediment to a victory in November. But does the pick pass the most important test?

The main rule in veep-picking is this: First, do no harm.

Does Biden really do no harm? It’s true that the other choices weren’t strong…

Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana stood side-by-side with McCain in fervently advocating the war in Iraq prior to the invasion. Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia is another political newbie on the national stage with no foreign policy cred, and he has yet to rack up many accomplishments. As for Senator Hillary Clinton, with her on the ticket, the election would be as much about the Clintons as about Obama and McCain. Depending on your view, that’s either a big winner or political hell.

Ok. But that doesn’t explain why Biden is a good choice. While he satisfies the need to get some foreign policy credentials on the ticket, it also undermines the change message.

By tapping Biden, Obama does little to reinforce his core themes of change and hope. He does not amplify his Washington-is-broken and postpartisan messages. He does not boost his claim that his campaign is a movement. He does not increase the excitement factor or accentuate the historic nature of his candidacy.

One of Barack’s advantages in this election is that, having no experience, there’s also not a great deal of material to revisit in order to demonstrate hypocrisy, something that McCain has a large store of for Obama’s people to mine. Joe compensates for that.

Biden comes with decades of baggage. There are thousands of Senate floor votes for GOP oppo researchers to sift through. He’s had more than one plagiarism scandal.

One of the powerful impacts of the internet era is the ability of the opponent to kidnap a story with viral material. The new McCain ad (see below), is playing alongside the Biden story on Fox and CNN, for example.

“There has been no harsher critic of Barack Obama’s lack of experience than Joe Biden. Biden has denounced Barack Obama’s poor foreign policy judgment and has strongly argued in his own words what Americans are quickly realizing — that Barack Obama is not ready to be President.” —McCain spokesman Ben Porritt

While Biden’s damage to the ticket may be minimal, longterm, compared to the holes he fills in Barack’s credibility as a candidate, his looping attacks on Barack’s readiness to assume the presidency play to the legitimate fear that voters have about Barack – and to the weakness that the Biden selection is supposed to sure up.

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