AP: Biden choice demonstrates lack of confidence; Update: Plagiarism flashbacks

posted at 8:20 am on August 23, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Ron Fournier makes the obvious analysis with Barack Obama’s selection of Joe Biden as running mate.  The AP’s political analyst says the move acknowledges Obama’s weakness in experience and foreign policy, and shows the pressure coming from Democrats worried about losing the election:

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.

It’s an admission that Obama’s inexperience has finally begun worrying voters, and not just Democratic power brokers.  There really is no other way to see an addition of Biden to the ticket.  Obama can’t be worried about carrying Delaware, after all; it’s as safe a state that Democrats have.  Nor does Biden have a natural national constituency, as his own flop of a presidential campaign proved this cycle.

The Biden choice is an act of desperation borne of a summer-long catastrophe.  There isn’t any other reason for Obama to choose a 35-year veteran of the Senate with as long a history of gaffes and flat-out dishonesty as his second on the campaign for Hope and Change.  In fact, I can’t wait for writers to twist themselves into knots to avoid the cardinal sin of writing, plagiarism, which Biden committed more than once, as Jim Geraghty recounted in 2003:

“Much like Gary Hart, he’s identified more with the party’s presidential past than its present or future,” said political scientist Larry Sabato, a professor at the University of Virginia. “He was, after all, forced out by a mini-scandal which would come up again.”

In 1987, Biden quit the Democratic primary race early after the revelation that he had delivered, without attribution, passages from a speech by British Labor party leader Neil Kinnock. A barrage of subsidiary revelations by the press also hammered Biden’s image: a serious plagiarism incident from his law-school years, boastful exaggerations of his academic record at a New Hampshire campaign event, and the discovery of other quotations in Biden’s speeches pilfered from past Democratic politicians.

Now Obama, who supposedly represents a new brand of politics, has instead hitched his wagon to an old-time pol who has trouble coming up with his own words when he campaigns.  That’s desperation, and what’s more, it’s obvious desperation.  And in politics, just as in dating, desperation is not an aphrodisiac.

Update: E.J. Dionne contemporaneously covered Biden’s plagiarism in college and on the 1987 campaign trail in detail for the New York Times.  Note that in lifting Neil Kinnock’s speech, he attributed to his own family the humble origins of Kinnock’s — which wasn’t true.

Update II: Maureen Dowd also covered the plagiarism of Biden’s speech in 1987 for the New York Times, and contrary to what Biden claims now, he didn’t credit Kinnock in other deliveries of the speech:

Mr. Donilon noted that Mr. Biden – who has been working to overhaul his message, which earlier included themes and words reminiscent of John F. Kennedy, as his campaign got off to a shaky start – had credited various ideas he took from Mr. Kinnock at several other campaign appearances. But, at those times, Mr. Biden was talking more generally about Mr. Kinnock’s concept of building a party that could be a platform for the middle class to improve their lives and the lives of their children.

Asked which of Mr. Biden’s relatives had been coal miners, Mr. Donilon said the Senator had not necessarily been referring to his own relatives but had been talking about the ”people that his ancestors grew up with in the Scranton region, and in general the people of that region were coal miners.”

Told that Mr. Biden had used the phrase, ”my ancestors,” Mr. Donilon said, ”Evidently he had a great-grandfather who worked in a mining company.” Asked the name of the man, the company and the sort of job he held, Mr. Donilon pronounced himself at a loss.

How delicious is it that the two reporters whose work recalls Biden’s theft of Kinnock’s personal anecdotes as well as speech are Maureen Dowd and E.J. Dionne?

Update III: My friend Jazz Shaw relates his shock at the Biden pick at The Moderate Voice, as does Tony Campbell.


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CynicalOptimist on August 23, 2008 at 12:18 PM

Be careful what you wish for, showing videos of a Biden with much more hair and different colored hair makes it look like one is grasping at straws. Besides he has that Bush-like regular guy thing going without the Andover education, aristocratic dynasty, and idiotic stuttering to detract from him. The real killer is that he comes from Scranton and lives right outside of Philly, so Obama just took the Philly suburbs and NEPA, two areas McCain had a chance of picking up and needed desperately to take PA. It also makes a Ridge pick useless since his real VP opportunity came eight years ago, kind of like McCain’s real opportunity to be President.

LevStrauss on August 23, 2008 at 1:31 PM

It does sort of let the air out of the Hopenchange Balloon, doesn’t it.

EJDolbow on August 23, 2008 at 1:36 PM

I don’t think so on the plagiarism charges, and really that is the best that anyone can come up with? Biden explained that in detail on Hannity and Colmes, when he was running for President. There is video. So what is plan B?

Dr Evil on August 23, 2008 at 1:37 PM

MB4 on August 23, 2008 at 12:09 PM

That doesn’t string together too well. In order to make it fit, dubya and Obama both have to have been equally inexperienced in executive matters when they ran. I understand the need to ignore things like this, but still,…..

a capella on August 23, 2008 at 1:37 PM

LevStrauss on August 23, 2008 at 1:31 PM

Unfortunately, I don’t think Palin would do well in debate against Biden, either.

a capella on August 23, 2008 at 1:40 PM

It does sort of let the air out of the Hopenchange Balloon, doesn’t it.

EJDolbow on August 23, 2008 at 1:36 PM

Perhaps “letting the air out of the tires” :)

Squid Shark on August 23, 2008 at 1:48 PM

i think that the Biden pick may put Delaware in play for the democrats. /s

custer on August 23, 2008 at 2:04 PM

a capella on August 23, 2008 at 1:40 PM

Yeah, its Romney, Lieberman, or a wildcard that I have no idea who it would be. Pawlenty would be an absolute disaster, I have said for the longest time that it is the equivalent to “taking a knee”. Lieberman would be useful just from the standpoint that him and Biden agree on domestic issues so it mollify that portion of the debate and make McCain seem much more moderate and take the argument to national security. If Lieberman was in the debate he wouldn’t really be debating Biden, he would end up debating Obama by proxy and that could be very useful since Biden would spend the majority of his time defending Obama. Romney-Biden would make for good TV at least with the choices available. Fred would have been a good fit as a wildcard, but he is too cozy with lobbying and the biggest thing that killed any chances of him was throwing his Presidential campaign to split the conservative vote to ensure a McCain victory.

The biggest downside to Biden being VP is that it might be very hard for him to assume the role of No. 2. He is such a personality that if he has to change his game to being a cheerleader that could eliminate his upside qualities. As time goes by Obama gets stiffer and stiffer by the day, his excitement quality is declining. This is kind of the opposite of the Clinton/Gore ticket where the dynamic personality is at the bottom of the ticket and it will be interesting to see how that works out.

LevStrauss on August 23, 2008 at 2:09 PM

Update: E.J. Dionne contemporaneously covered Biden’s plagiarism in college and on the 1987 campaign trail in detail for the New York Times. Note that in lifting Neil Kinnock’s speech, he attributed to his own family the humble origins of Kinnock’s — which wasn’t true.

As I must relate everything to TV sitcoms, remember when Les Nesman stole Bailey Quarter’s unfinished article on the show WKRP in Cincinnati. He read it in the first person. And when he read this line:

As one who’d like to someday bear children …

He realized his mistake and added:

On my shoulders. Men DO that, you know.

On the spot Biden should have said “IF my family was poor. They weren’t, but they could have been.”

Paul-Cincy on August 23, 2008 at 2:12 PM

Pawlenty would be an absolute disaster,
LevStrauss on August 23, 2008 at 2:09 PM

On what basis? Too smart?

RBMN on August 23, 2008 at 2:12 PM

Obama plagiarizes the mayor from Boston, gets lost without a teleprompter, and in August is already so desparate that his is running ads against his opponents shoes.

pedestrian on August 23, 2008 at 2:20 PM

Some republican strategist on Fox just said “The selection of Joe Biden is a tacit admission that an Obama White House would need adult supervision”.

I LOVE THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

IrishGirl17 on August 23, 2008 at 2:28 PM

The real killer is that he comes from Scranton and lives right outside of Philly, so Obama just took the Philly suburbs and NEPA, two areas McCain had a chance of picking up and needed desperately to take PA.

If Obama was actually worrying about PA then McCain is in even better shape than I thought he was.

Missy on August 23, 2008 at 2:56 PM

RBMN on August 23, 2008 at 2:12 PM

Have you seen him? Do you even know who he is? If so that puts you in the minority. First off looks wise he doesn’t look like a leader, Biden would take his lunch money and give him wedgie. The guy had a mullet until like last week. Second off I seen him on Meet the Press and there was nothing that screamed Nationwide potential to me, Sanford outperformed him and the whole time, he came off as second best choice in a room that small, and I was watched the whole time wondering why the hell they had him on there. Just like Kaine, who looks cartoonish and failed miserably when they gave him the chance at the SOTU response, he is best off staying in his home state and being successful there because that is as far as he will go besides maybe cabinet positions. McCain might win Minnesota but he’d lose other close states by making the choice. Besides is there anyone in the room who thinks he could hold his own in a debate against Biden?

If you think I am being too superficial, let’s discuss something other than election year politics, anyone who is looking for something past superficial already has their mind made up. What is the political IQ of a “swing voter”?

LevStrauss on August 23, 2008 at 3:05 PM

There were so many considerations to be weighed by Barack Obama in his VP choice-so many that there was no perfect choice. But in the end, Obama made the best choice possible in selecting Joe Biden.

To be sure, Biden is not perfect. He has an abrasive personality-at least in public-and has a history of putting his foot in his mouth. This was the man who, not so long ago, described Obama as “bright, clean and articulate”-with all those unconscious racial implications. When he appears on C-SPAN talking down to witnesses in Senate Committee hearings, you find yourself wishing that someone would tell him off for his arrogance. And yes, I did refer to him in a past posting as “Joe the Jerk”. He also has an embarrassing past issue of plagiarism that will surely be brought back by his opponents.

In addition, his selection seems to contradict the whole Obama message of freshness and change that has proved so popular up to now. Biden, a 6-term senator, is pretty much Mr Insider in Washington.

Perhaps most troubling for Obama is the fact that during the primaries, when Biden was a presidential candidate, the Delaware senator publicly questioned Obama’s readiness for the presidency. Not only that, when asked about it at a debate, Biden stood by the remark-with an obviously uncomfortable Obama standing next to him. That will be sure to get a lot of play in the coming months. How many times will Biden be asked what made Obama ready to be president between then and now?

As for the other choices; Tim Kaine would have only added more inexperience to the ticket. Evan Bayh would have put everybody to sleep in the first week. Bill Richardson would have been a good choice as far as experience was concerned. Hillary? Aside from placating a few million women, Obama knew it wasn’t worth the headaches. Bill and Hillary are not comfortable in any other place but number one, and Obama knew it. He would have been crazy to choose Hillary-if she really wanted it.

Biden gives Obama precisely what he needed; someone with political and foreign policy experience plus one perceived as more to the center. (God, I hope these politicos don’t revive that word, gravitas.) A few months ago, I opined in this blog that of all the Democratic candidates, Joe Biden was probably the most qualified to be president. Given Obama’s glaring lack of experience, that consideration had to be the deciding factor in the decision. (Not that I said it, I mean rather because…….oh, never mind.)

gary fouse
fousesquawk

gary fouse on August 23, 2008 at 4:33 PM

gary fouse on August 23, 2008 at 4:33 PM

I think it was the worst pick Obama could have chose, they have the MOST EXTREME Ticket that we have probably seem in over 30 years.

Obama THE MOST LIBERAL SENATOR and Biden is the 3rd MOST Liberal! so.. 2 Extremists on 1 Ticket!

Both of them to the left of an avowed Socialist! come on.

Chakra Hammer on August 23, 2008 at 6:16 PM

LOL, thanks Oblahblah. Biden, another zero, nada, ziltch…LOSER!

byteshredder on August 23, 2008 at 6:44 PM

Obama-Biden 08. The Democratic Affirmative Action Supervision Solution.

Geronimo on August 23, 2008 at 7:12 PM

Paul-Cincy on August 23, 2008 at 2:12 PM

Biden gave an ENTIRE SPEECH where he lied about events of his childhood. He stole the ENTIRE SPEECH from a British politician. Not a gaffe or ‘mis-statement’ or a simple mistake to ‘move on’ from

He stood there and spoke extensively about events from his childhood WHICH NEVER HAPPENED. Who does that?

Janos Hunyadi on August 23, 2008 at 8:19 PM

Romney is at least battle tested but Mormons, but who the hell are the book burners going to vote for anyway?

LevStrauss on August 23, 2008 at 1:24 PM

Can’t say for sure, obviously, but being one of those Christofascist “book burners” myself, I can say that whomever we choose to not vote for tends to lose rather spectacularly.

Oh, and I don’t have a problem with Romney.

Misha I on August 24, 2008 at 2:48 AM

Biden adds gravitwinkle to the ticket.

Akzed on August 24, 2008 at 7:26 PM

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