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New York Times Op-Ed – I Hope it’s Biden as VP

Hoping it’s Biden

Barack Obama has decided upon a vice-presidential running mate. And while I don’t know who it is as I write, for the good of the country, I hope he picked Joe Biden.

Biden’s weaknesses are on the surface. He has said a number of idiotic things over the years and, in the days following his selection, those snippets would be aired again and again.

But that won’t hurt all that much because voters are smart enough to forgive the genuine flaws of genuine people. And over the long haul, Biden provides what Obama needs:

Working-Class Roots. Biden is a lunch-bucket Democrat. His father was rich when he was young — played polo, cavorted on yachts, drove luxury cars. But through a series of bad personal and business decisions, he was broke by the time Joe Jr. came along. They lived with their in-laws in Scranton, Pa., then moved to a dingy working-class area in Wilmington, Del. At one point, the elder Biden cleaned boilers during the week and sold pennants and knickknacks at a farmer’s market on the weekends.

His son was raised with a fierce working-class pride — no one is better than anyone else. Once, when Joe Sr. was working for a car dealership, the owner threw a Christmas party for the staff. Just as the dancing was to begin, the owner scattered silver dollars on the floor and watched from above as the mechanics and salesmen scrambled about for them. Joe Sr. quit that job on the spot.

Even today, after serving for decades in the world’s most pompous workplace, Senator Biden retains an ostentatiously unpretentious manner. He campaigns with an army of Bidens who seem to emerge by the dozens from the old neighborhood in Scranton. He has disdain for privilege and for limousine liberals — the mark of an honest, working-class Democrat.

Democrats in general, and Obama in particular, have trouble connecting with working-class voters, especially Catholic ones. Biden would be the bridge.

Honesty. Biden’s most notorious feature is his mouth. But in his youth, he had a stutter. As a freshman in high school he was exempted from public speaking because of his disability, and was ridiculed by teachers and peers. His nickname was Dash, because of his inability to finish a sentence.

He developed an odd smile as a way to relax his facial muscles (it still shows up while he’s speaking today) and he’s spent his adulthood making up for any comments that may have gone unmade during his youth.

Today, Biden’s conversational style is tiresome to some, but it has one outstanding feature. He is direct. No matter who you are, he tells you exactly what he thinks, before he tells it to you a second, third and fourth time.

Presidents need someone who will be relentlessly direct. Obama, who attracts worshippers, not just staff members, needs that more than most.

Loyalty. Just after Biden was elected to the senate in 1972, his wife, Neilia, and daughter Naomi were killed in a car crash. His career has also been marked by lesser crises. His first presidential run ended in a plagiarism scandal. He nearly died of a brain aneurism.

New administrations are dominated by the young and the arrogant, and benefit from the presence of those who have been through the worst and who have a tinge of perspective. Moreover, there are moments when a president has to go into the cabinet room and announce a decision that nearly everyone else on his team disagrees with. In those moments, he needs a vice president who will provide absolute support. That sort of loyalty comes easiest to people who have been down themselves, and who had to rely on others in their own moments of need.

Experience. When Obama talks about postpartisanship, he talks about a grass-roots movement that will arise and sweep away the old ways of Washington. When John McCain talks about it, he describes a meeting of wise old heads who get together to craft compromises. Obama’s vision is more romantic, but McCain’s is more realistic.

When Biden was a young senator, he was mentored by Hubert Humphrey, Mike Mansfield and the like. He was schooled in senatorial procedure in the days when the Senate was less gridlocked. If Obama hopes to pass energy and health care legislation, he’s going to need someone with that kind of legislative knowledge who can bring the battered old senators together, as in days of yore.

There are other veep choices. Tim Kaine seems like a solid man, but selecting him would be disastrous. It would underline all the anxieties voters have about youth and inexperience. Evan Bayh has impeccably centrist credentials, but the country is not in the mood for dispassionate caution.

Biden’s the one. The only question is whether Obama was wise and self-aware enough to know that.

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Barack Obama Ready to Announce Running Mate

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WASHINGTON: Senator Barack Obama has all but settled on his choice for a running mate and set an elaborate rollout plan for his decision, beginning with an early morning alert to

supporters, perhaps as soon as Wednesday morning, aides said.

Obama’s deliberations remain remarkably closely held. Aides said perhaps a half-dozen advisers were involved in the final discussions in an effort to enforce a command that Obama issued to staff members: that his decision not leak out until supporters are notified.

Obama had not notified his choice — or any of those not selected — of his decision as of late Monday, advisers said. Going into the final days, Obama was said to be focused mainly on three candidates: Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia and Senator Joseph Biden Jr. of Delaware.

Some Democrats said they still hoped that he would choose Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, or Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, who has been under steady consideration by Obama’s campaign.

By all indications, Obama is likely to choose someone relatively safe and avoid taking a chance with a game-changing selection. A similar strategic choice now faces Obama’s Republican rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, who has been under pressure from some Republicans to make a more daring choice.

Obama’s advisers said he all but reached his decision while on vacation in Hawaii. They said it was the end of what proved to be an unexpectedly intense process, condensed because he did not want to start actively vetting potential running mates before Clinton quit the race in June.

By contrast, McCain, who had wrapped up the Republican nomination months earlier, began his process in late spring.

That gave Obama’s team of lawyers less time to review candidates, and several Democrats said it appeared that the list of candidates who were deeply vetted was limited to about a half-dozen people. (Campaigns typically check the background of candidates who are not necessarily in play, as a way of gaining favor with various constituencies or to keep the other party off balance.)

The team of advance workers and aides involved in planning the rollout — timed to galvanize Democratic voters as Obama heads to Denver next week for the party convention — have not been told who Obama will be selecting.

If all goes according to plan, the announcement will be made with text and e-mail messages to supporters early in the morning, in time to capture coverage on the morning news shows and take advantage of a full day’s news cycle.

Obama and his running mate will begin, perhaps that day, a visit to swing states. Plans call for them to be on the trail together for much of the time between the day of the announcement and the day Obama arrives in Denver, a week from Wednesday, but their most intense campaigning together will come after the convention.

Obama’s schedule calls for him to awaken on Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, and by the end of the day be in Raleigh, North Carolina. By Wednesday, he is scheduled to be in Virginia. The Obama campaign has cautioned against reading anything into his schedule, saying it could be changed in an instant to accommodate the plan to introduce the running mate.

Aides said the announcement would come at the earliest on Wednesday morning.

Obama’s advisers said they wanted to time the announcement to get maximum publicity going into the convention, after a stretch in which Obama was on vacation in Hawaii and McCain made good use of having the political stage largely to himself. Vice-presidential announcements are one of a handful of moments when the presidential candidates are given a clear grab at the public spotlight, and both Obama and McCain have put much thought into the timing of their announcements.

If Obama is looking to build excitement going into the convention, McCain’s aides have looked to announcing his choice right after the Democratic convention, which ends Aug. 28, a Thursday, as a way of stepping on whatever bounce Obama enjoys from his nomination.

The Republican convention begins the following Monday.

Democrats close to the process said the ability to turn up information on the Web had made it easier for Obama’s search team — Caroline Kennedy and Eric Holder, a former deputy attorney general — to plumb the backgrounds of prospective running mates with relatively little notice. In addition, because so many of the candidates were senators, they were required to file annual financial disclosure reports.

Holder and Kennedy have been working largely out of Holder’s law firm in Washington, using lawyers in his firm and others — many of whom are veterans of the process from having worked for Senator John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000 — to check the backgrounds of the potential candidates.

Obama was briefed frequently throughout the proceedings — receiving updates by telephone and e-mail — and came to Washington for a handful of meetings with a small group of senior advisers in the law offices of Covington & Burling, where Holder is a partner. With the vetting concluded, there was no activity on Monday in the firm’s suite of offices on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Unlike in previous selections, Obama has been largely spared the obligation of staging elaborate cloak-and-dagger processes to interview prospective running mates because he has been campaigning with them in close quarters, giving him a chance to get to know them.

The rampant speculation during the selection process encompassed many of the best-known names in the party, including Kerry and Gore, Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico and former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia.

The big choice for Obama, advisers said, was the extent to which he needed to choose someone who would fill perceived holes in his résumé — lack of experience, particularly in foreign policy — versus a candidate who would reinforce his promise of change or one who might help him win a contested state.

Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, clearly fell into the category of helping Obama on foreign policy, while Kaine is a relative newcomer to national politics and would reinforce the notion of change. Both Kaine and Bayh would help Obama in a state that Democrats are trying to put in play.

For all the attention to Obama’s deliberations, it is by no means assured that his choice will make a big difference in the outcome of the campaign.

“Vice-presidential candidates can make a marginal difference,” said Matt Bennett, the co-director of Third Way, a Democratic advocacy group, “but they rarely matter in terms of winning a state or region — as Mike Dukakis and John Kerry found out. And a weak candidate doesn’t really drag the ticket into the drink — as George H. W. Bush found out.”

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New York Times on Joe Biden as the VP elect

As Running Mate, Biden Offers Foreign Policy Heft but an Insider Image

Eric Thayer for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — While other potential vice-presidential nominees were appearing on the Sunday talk shows, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. spent the weekend in Tbilisi, Georgia, meeting with the country’s embattled president, Mikheil Saakashvili. The trip was made at the request of the Georgian leader, who is trying to rally international support after Russia invaded his country this month.

Mr. Biden’s visit to Georgia (he was expected to return to Washington on Monday) highlighted his standing as an expert on foreign policy — he is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — who is known and respected in capitals around the world. But it also emphasized his status as a Washington insider at a time when Americans say they are hungering for change.

The two sides of Mr. Biden’s extensive résumé are likely to be receiving a closer look as Senator Barack Obama prepares to announce his running mate, probably sometime this week.

Only Mr. Obama and a handful of close and very discreet aides know where the vice-presidential selection process stands with the Democratic National Convention in Denver just a week away. But several people close to the campaign say Mr. Biden, of Delaware, is among those who are under consideration.

Political etiquette requires potential vice-presidential picks to deny any interest in the post and assert how much they love their present job, all the while coyly batting their eyelashes at the nominee to signal their availability.

But Mr. Biden, anything but coy, has left little doubt that he wants the job.

Asked in May whether he would accept the vice-presidential slot, he said, “You’d have to consider it. I mean, how could you just blow it off?”

A month later, he was asked again. He first told Brian Williams of NBC on “Meet the Press,” “I am not interested in the vice presidency.” But with very little prodding, a moment later he said that if Mr. Obama asked him to be his running mate, “Of course I’ll say yes.”

Mr. Biden’s strengths and weaknesses as a vice-presidential nominee are glaringly obvious and in many cases overlap. At age 65, he would bring heft, knowledge and nearly four decades of experience in Washington to a ticket headed by a relative political newcomer. But that experience — he was first elected to the Senate at age 29 and has served for nearly four decades — would undercut Mr. Obama’s image as an agent of change.

Mr. Biden is among the best-informed lawmakers on international affairs, a gap in Mr. Obama’s résumé. But Mr. Biden’s broad knowledge, his committee chairmanship and his longtime membership in the most exclusive debating club in the nation also feed his biggest flaw: a verbosity and love of his own voice that drive many, including, by some accounts, Mr. Obama, nuts.

Mr. Biden supported the 2002 Iraq war resolution and thus is at odds with Mr. Obama, who opposed the war from the start and has made his judgment on the question a centerpiece of his campaign. But Mr. Biden tempered his support for the conflict by saying it should be limited to ending Iraq’s weapons programs, and he has been a sharp and persistent critic of the war’s conduct.

Last year, he said giving the Bush administration the authority to wage war was a mistake. “I regret my vote,” he told Politico, the politics Web site. “The president did not level with us.”

Mr. Biden’s appeal as a national candidate is suspect. His first bid for the presidency, beginning in 1987, famously flamed out after he was caught stealing passages from a speech by Neil Kinnock, the leader of the Labor Party in Britain at the time. His 2008 campaign never really got off the ground, little noticed in a field of well-financed candidates. He finished fifth in the Iowa caucuses, edging out “uncommitted.” He promptly dropped out and, diplomatically, declined to take sides in the slugfest between his Senate colleagues Mr. Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

After the primaries ended, he enthusiastically endorsed Mr. Obama, though Mr. Biden had offended many around Mr. Obama early in 2007 by describing him as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” If there were any hard feelings, they appear to have been forgotten.

Mr. Biden, normally among the most accessible of senators, declined to be interviewed for this article.

Despite his poor showing in the presidential race, Mr. Biden was generally thought to have acquitted himself well. His debate performances were uncharacteristically crisp, and he delivered two of the more memorable lines of the campaign.

Asked in an April 2007 debate whether he had the self-discipline to lead the free world, Mr. Biden answered, “Yes.”

The moderator, Mr. Williams, and the other candidates waited for a soliloquy in explanation, but Mr. Biden stood mute and smiling. The panelists and audience cracked up.

At another debate, in October, Mr. Biden lacerated former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York, a Republican, with a pithy one-liner: “There’s only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, a verb and 9/11.”

Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, said Mr. Biden’s age was an asset, not a liability, particularly among many of his constituents in Florida, a perennial swing state. “You can’t do better than Joe Biden for vice president,” Mr. Nelson said. “He appeals to the kind of swing voters in Florida you have to have to win here because of his gravitas.”

Mr. Biden is a Roman Catholic who supports abortion rights. He grew up in a working-class family in Scranton, Pa., helping him with a group of voters that Mr. Obama had trouble attracting in the primaries.

Though his principal portfolio in the Senate now is foreign affairs, Mr. Biden has been chairman of the Judiciary Committee and oversaw the hearings on Robert H. Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court. He has written a number of major crime and civil liberties bills and is popular among police groups and firefighters.

He also has a compelling personal history.

Between his election to the Senate in November 1972 and his swearing-in two months later, his wife, Neilia, and 13-month-old daughter, Naomi, were killed in a crash with a drunken truck driver. His two young sons suffered severe injuries but fully recovered. One, Beau, is now the attorney general of Delaware. The other, Hunter, is a lawyer in Washington.

He has a daughter, Ashley, by his second wife, Jill, whom he married five years after the accident. Mr. Biden has commuted home to Wilmington on Amtrak every night since he took office.

Mr. Biden also suffered cranial aneurysms in 1988 that almost killed him.

He is up for re-election this fall, against token opposition, so the worst outcome for him would be to continue as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in a Senate that is likely to be more Democratic than the current one.

Friends and supporters of Mr. Biden say he would be an asset as a vice-presidential candidate and as vice president, provided that he could subordinate himself to a rookie senator nearly two decades younger.

“He would bring to any administration a tremendous credibility and talent,” said Richard C. Holbrooke, a former ambassador to the United Nations and a potential secretary of state in a Democratic administration. “He knows the world leaders, he knows the Congress, he knows the issues and he passes the first test — he’s qualified to be president. In the end, it’s just a question of personal chemistry and the choice of the nominee.”

from The New York Times article

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Kansas Governer Backs Obama!

 Obama wins backing of Kansas governor

from The Baltimore Sun

by John McCormick

EL DORADO, Kan – Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has won the endorsement of the governor of Kansas, a state where no Democratic nominee since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 has won electoral votes.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius arrived at the end of an event here, in the hometown of Obama’s grandfather on his mother’s side, because of high winds and snow in Kansas.

“Right now, I think we are with the next president of the United States,” she said.

Democratic presidential candidates had sought her backing, even though George W. Bush carried the state by large margins in the 2000 and 2004 elections.

Sebelius said Obama has “Midwestern values” that he got “from his grandparents and from his mom.”

With the Kansas caucuses being part of the 22 states that will hold nominating contests a week from today, Sebelius urged more than 2,000 people gathered in a community college gymnasium to support Obama.

“Don’t just applaud, but you caucus for him,” she said.

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