Monday, August 25, 2008

Change Personified

One of the premier reasons many have taken to mocking Barack Obama's persistent and pretentious rhetorical flourishes is that he has proven himself time and again to be as much an establishment figure as every other candidate to quadrennially roll out the hope machine before him. Each election brings a new character who promises a break from the past, and each time he receives plenty of donations from the same sector as everyone else because those benefactors know he's nothing of the sort. Whether it's engaging in a race to see who can be the bigger hawk on Russia, suggesting a compromise on offshore drilling (read: indefinitely prolonging dependence on foreign oil), or selecting one of the longest-tenured members of the foreign policy hierarchy as his running mate, one thing remains clear: those who Obama claims are living on borrowed time are not cowed in the slightest by his campaign.

Dissecting why Obama chose Biden is simple enough: Biden lends the foreign policy and experience credentials Obama lacks. It's a purely strategic move that should be accompanied with little confusion and even less feigned surprise. And Obama can rest easy knowing that all those who have willed themselves to believe that Obama stood for drastic change will soon do the same regarding Biden's unwavering support for Hegemony, Inc.

Writing at The Nation, John Nichols is already off to a running start with a steady stream of nonsense and non sequitors to compliment willful ignorance of everything Democrats have been screaming about throughout the Bush presidency.

But don't expect McCain's attempts to use Biden against Obama to do much damage.

Democrats, and ultimately Americans, should be able to reconcile themselves to the fact of a No. 2 who suggested Obama was not ready to be No. 1.


Bullshit barely missed the cut, or Nichols might have been writing his answer from Beijing.

By recognizing that in the modern era political-party tickets really do blend into a whole.

For all the silly talk about vice-presidential nominees being irrelevant, the truth is that they have always mattered -- either to party unity or to the broader electorate.

Presidential and vice presidential candidates run as a team, complementing one another and guarding against the vulnerabilities of their running mates.

The preceding argument of course means absolutely nothing, and serves only as a vehicle for expressing the foregone acceptance of whomever Obama had picked. Nichols would have been equally pleased with a Bayh or even a Clinton. The name on the ticket doesn't matter, it's the logo on the jersey. The proof of that becomes even more lucid a few paragraphs hence:

For all of Biden's imperfections -- a charge of political plagiarism twenty years ago, a reputation for verbosity, a record of gaffes and a wrong vote to authorize President Bush to attack Iraq -- the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee gives Obama what he needs.

Obama's whole primary campaign was staked on his inability to vote on the Iraq War resolution, but now it receives a passing notice at the end of a string of other slight imperfections. So much for principles.

Among those blemishes that Nichols glosses over ever so smoothly is Biden's history of foot-in-mouth disease in the race arena, surely no small obstacle considering his new running mate. In early 2007, Biden went with the ever-popular, patronizing angle when referring to Obama as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." (In contradistinction to the slobbering Quasimodos like Jackson and Sharpton, I presume.) Prior to that, he bemoaned not being able to "go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent." Saint Joe rounds those improvisational missteps out with a planned and pre-written eulogy of Strom Thurmond.

Apart from that elephant in the room, there is no shortage of other issues on which Biden serves to contradict, rather that compliment, the Obama campaign, all of which will be brushed aside in short order and forgotten by the obedient rank-and-file automatons that constitute the American electorate. (No, the Democrats do not hold a monopoly on blind obedience.)

Over his long career in politics, Biden's biggest financial supporter has been the giant credit card company MBNA, which was also one of George W. Bush's biggest donors in 2000 and 2004. His son, Hunter Biden, was hired as a management trainee at MBNA straight out of law school, and was quickly promoted to executive vice president. The younger Biden has since left MBNA to establish his own lawyer-and-lobbying firm, but still receives a $100,000 per year consulting fee from the bank, which has since been swallowed by Bank of America. In 2006, Hunter Biden was appointed by President Bush to a five-year term on the Amtrak Reform Board.

Corporate influence? Check.

"I can't believe the American people can't see through this. We already have a law, the Defense of Marriage Act. We've all voted-not, where I've voted, and others have said, look, marriage is between a man and a woman and states must respect that."

Reactionary religious stands? Got 'em.

And, finally, in what should be a death knell to either campaign at this point, Biden was more than open to a draft when speaking on Meet the Press in 2005:

MR. RUSSERT: In order to continue current deployments, might we need to revert to a draft?

SEN. BIDEN: Remember during the campaign you asked me that question? And I said Kerry isn't making anything up. We're going to have to face that question. I agree with Curt. I think we can avoid it by changing the mix. But the truth of the matter is, it is going to become a subject if in fact 40 percent shortfall in recruitment. It's just a reality.

Barack Obama's primary campaign teetered entirely on the fulcrum of Clinton as manifestation of the old guard, and he has now sent himself spiraling off the edge by choosing perhaps the only VP candidate that could challenge her in that regard to be his running mate. The disconnect is easy to spot, but blunter still is the realization that the rank-and-file won't care one bit.


FISA, Democrats, and False Hope, July 11
Obama Concedes on Offshore Drilling, August 2
Foreign Policy Redux, June 25

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