Odd set of postings today on Delaware’s favorite son, Joe Biden. E.J. Dionne wrote in the Washington Post to argue that he ought to be on the short list of VP candidates. Ezra followed up with some pro- comments, and an instructive YouTube video. Matt Yglesias wrote the most immediately insightful followup, saying
When given the chance to talk foreign policy he’s eager to do it and confident that he’ll win the argument:
Democrats have a tendency to get timid, get defense, or get high-minded (condemning the “politics of fear” or “politicizing” this or that) when attacked by Republicans. Biden, though, just responds in kind as if he’s obviously right, and his opponents are obviously wrong and stupid.
All of these things are right. Biden is very knowledgable, and he knows it, and isn’t shy about pointing it out. If the job of President was nothing but policy-wonk-in-chief, he’d be my #1 choice, at least with regards to foreign policy. He is also not afraid to call a spade a spade, or a bullshitter a bullshitter. These are all important reasons that you want Joe Biden out on the campaign trail, active and talking and pointing out all the ways that the things John McCain says about foreign policy run the entire gamut from ridiculous to absurd, with the occasional bald-faced lie thrown in for good measure.
But, as Yglesias’ commenters are quick to point out, Biden has some definite downsides as well. He can definitely be a blowhard. He is gaffe-prone, not in the Dan Quayle sense of ‘says ridiculous things all the time’, more in the sense of ‘talks so much, he’s bound to occasionally say something silly.’ If he’s a campaign surrogate, and says something somewhat offensive or absurd, that’s one thing. If he’s the VP nominee, it’s a whole different kettle of fish.
And the YouTube Ezra and Matt post show another problem with having Biden out as a face of the campaign. It’s a not very well-held secret that nobody likes the guy who knows that he’s smarter than everyone else, especially if he’s the type to show it at the drop of a hat. The last few seconds of the interview, when he just sneers at the camera, and you can actually feel the waves of contempt for Giuliani radiating from your computer monitor, are not the sort of thing that would endear Joe Six-Pack to a Democratic nominee who is already struggling against the ‘elitist’ label.
When Obama wins, I hope that Biden is name #1 on the short list of Secretary of State candidates. It’s the perfect job for him – all foreign policy, and the secret to success is the ability to talk. And talk. And talk. Until then, let’s just keep him as an important ally of the campaign, but nothing more.