For many of us, this may be damning with faint praise, and perhaps not even creditable to Barack Obama himself. When Russia invaded Georgia seven years ago, suddenly foreign policy appeared to take precedence in the 2008 presidential cycle for … about five whole minutes. Nevertheless, Obama picked the 35-year Senator in order to counter John McCain’s obvious advantage in foreign affairs, even if the only two people who thought Biden was a foreign-policy heavyweight both happened to be on the same presidential ticket.
But I digress. Over the past seven years, Obama has graciously said on a few occasions that picking Biden as his running mate was the best political decision he has ever made. When ABC’s Jon Karl asks Josh Earnest today about Biden’s potential preparation for a third presidential run, Earnest reminds Karl of Obama’s earlier remarks. And then Karl reminds Earnest that Obama also decided to appoint Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State — which prompts the question of whether Earnest was handing out an oblique endorsement of Biden over Hillary:
Karl sticks the landing on this dig. “So I assume that means the President would support Vice President Biden if he were to run?” Karl asks. “This was obviously a better decision than the Secretary of State he chose, so …” When Earnest starts to demur, Karl follows up, “You said it was the best decision he made!”
All kidding aside, keeping Biden where he could do little harm was a pretty good decision. He should have found something similar for Hillary Clinton, because it’s now pretty clear that this was by far the worst of the two decisions Obama made.
Karl’s torment of Earnest underscores a point that tends to get lost in this e-mail scandal. It’s not just Hillary who should be answering for it. Obama appointed her, knowing full well of the Clintons’ penchant for opacity and disdain for rules and regulations, and yet Obama did nothing to follow up on Hillary to make sure she was operating within the law. Sharyl Attkisson reminds her readers of the same point:
The news media largely treats Clinton’s email scandal as if it’s somehow separate and apart from the Obama administration; rather than intertwined with it. In fact, Clinton was Obama’s choice for secretary of state, and the alleged misdeeds occurred under his administration’s watch. Substitution game: if Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been caught operating a private server, allegedly transferring classified information and giving false information about it, the same news media would likely have made it George W. Bush’s scandal. Again, this is not intended to say that either approach is right or wrong; simply that they are disparate.
So even if Biden jumps in to take the nomination from Hillary, it’s still an issue of at least competence for Obama … and the way Biden operates in public, the competence issue will come up in more than one way. The only realistic shot Biden will have will be if Hillary has to withdraw, as the Washington Post’s Matea Gold implies. Biden will meet with major Democratic fundraisers, but don’t expect much to come from it:
Still, while there is deep affection and admiration for Biden, donors said many remain skeptical whether the 72-year-old vice president could mount the kind of operation needed to take on Clinton and then win a general election contest.
Many top Obama backers are now strongly committed to Clinton, and said they would remain so even if Biden jumped in.
Andy Spahn, a major Hollywood fundraiser who advises Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg, wrote in an e-mail that he has “much respect for the job Joe Biden has done as VP but it’s too late in the game to mount a credible campaign. Hope he will join us all in support of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.”
So this will be more of a “keep quiet and get on the bus” meeting, then?