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?