Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The case for Biden

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Okay, enough with the Palin-centrism for a moment -- or at least for this post. (Although I will continue to make the case that Americans deserve to know the truth about Sarah Palin, I've certainly been caught up on the whole Palinpalooza phenomenon, if on the highly critical side of it.) There is, after all, a genuinely admirable and qualified person who was tapped as a major-party running mate, and of course that's Joe Biden. I made the case for him a while ago, back before Obama picked him, but, with all the attention on Palin, and with McCain surging (for lack of a better word) out of the convention on Palin's instant celebrity-status among Republicans and with the media, Biden has been a forgotten and seemingly invisible figure these past couple of weeks (seems longer, but a couple of weeks are a long time in politics).

I've been meaning to write another pro-Biden post, but, for now, I want to point you to a
good post on Biden by Jason Zengerle over at The Plank. Like Jason, I still think Biden was the right pick (although, yes, I can make the case for Hillary, too, as I did back then), and he explains the current dynamic well:

[T]he truth is, there's no one Obama could have picked as his running mate--save maybe for George Clooney--who could have won the battle for attention with Palin over these last few weeks. Even Hillary Clinton -- the preferred veep choice among many of Biden's harshest critics, including one HuffPost-er who's urging Obama to dump Biden for her now -- would have been swamped by Palinpalooza. Sure, the press would have paid attention to Hillary initially, but once she demonstrated that she had no interest in engaging in a "cat fight" with Palin, reporters would have turned their full attention back to the newbie from Alaska. Her story is simply too fresh -- and too weird -- for them to ignore.

At least for now. As the campaign goes on and Palin becomes a more familiar figure, the Palin bubble is likely to deflate. Indeed, you can already see Palin fatigue setting in among voters, with her
favorability ratings plunging over the last week. And the moment Palin stops selling magazines or boosting TV ratings or generating page views, you can bet the press will go back to covering her the same way they cover an American Idol winner who isn't making news with a "platonic baby-making partner" -- in other words, not that much. (When was the last time you heard much about Ruben Studdard?)

And that's when the advantages of the Biden pick will come more clearly into focus. Because even the Obama campaign's description of that pick as a "governing decision" is, of course, political posturing. Yes, Biden doesn't have the celebrity wattage of Palin, but in the midst of an economic crisis and two wars, it's likely that voters are ultimately not going to be making their pick on star power.

Let's hope so. Palin's story is still weird, and worse, but the freshness has worn off. Meanwhile, as Jason points out, Biden "gave 54 interviews or press conferences" to Palin's one (with Charlie Gibson) in the two weeks after her nomination.

In short, Biden's out there, campaigning on the issues, proving that he is more than qualified for the job.

In addition to his regular campaigning and appearances on the network and cable news shows, I would like to see him make some high-profile speeches at some high-profile events with some high-profile supporters -- say, with Hillary on women's and economic issues -- but, regardless, as the race goes on, voters will start not just to pay attention to what's going on but to get serious about what is at stake in this election, to take the candidates and what they stand for seriously, to look to the candidates for serious solutions to America's problems, to their own problems, including the mess that is the economy and its impact on their daily lives.

It is Biden, not Palin, who has the stature, experience, and expertise to speak directly to the concerns of voters, to show leadership in a time of crisis, to be taken seriously, and to win the confidence of voters.

It has been Palin's time. It will soon be Biden's. Obama made the right pick, the serious pick. Unless the media refuse to take this election seriously and continue to promote Palinpalooza, we will soon see why.

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