The case for Joe Biden

The Republicans who can hit him with authority on civil liberties, like Paul and Perry, may not even survive the summer. And on the left, when it comes to an ideologically checkered past, Team Clinton is on as shaky ground as Biden. If Biden decides to run, President Obama won’t undermine him. In fact, even if Obama refuses to endorse Biden — a move that would come off as a bizarre and humiliating act of self-repudiation — he wouldn’t endorse any of Biden’s challengers. With or without Obama’s help, Biden can sidestep whatever criticism comes his way by announcing that his eight years in Obama’s White House taught him the error of his former ways. He has been chastened. Humbled. Bettered.

Turns out, that’s the kind of figure Americans secretly want to lead them: someone who has been scourged and ennobled in the scourging. We’ve been waiting a long time for that kind of candidate — Democrats especially. After all, the last contender to achieve that sorrowful but powerful status was Bobby Kennedy.

And here’s where Biden has the kind of advantage that reaches down into the political arena from somewhere on high. Not only could he be the first presidential candidate since RFK to infuse his campaign with a tragic personal grief that echoes our national dismay even as it puts it into a higher, deeper perspective. He could work the magic we Americans love to see most — using that poignancy to achieve a gracefully centered kind of levity. If Democrats are looking for their anti-Trump, Biden’s it.