Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ryan Lizza on Joe Biden

Last week, I reflected upon John McCain's transformation from noble politician to despicable strategist.  There is no better example of this than his surprising selection for vice president, Governor Sarah Palin.

But what of Barack Obama's choice for vice president?

Having established his intimate knowledge of the man, Biden then shook his head sadly and added, “But ladies and gentlemen, I know John well. John does not disagree with George Bush on any single substantive issue.”

Biden used that line of attack during the debate with Palin, on October 2nd, which was seen by seventy-three million viewers—more than watched either of the Obama-McCain debates. He continued to link McCain to George W. Bush, while praising Obama and promoting his agenda—the consummate Vice-Presidential candidate. Yet, unsurprisingly, Palin has dominated the coverage. The press section of Biden’s campaign plane is dominated by young television reporters who don’t get much attention from their producers in New York and Washington. One evening when I was there, several correspondents played Guitar Hero while a crew from the television show “Extra” threw darts at a magnetic board.

On some days, only a single print reporter is covering Biden, and weekly studies of the news by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism note that Biden was the subject of between two and six per cent of all stories each week in September. (Palin was the focus of between fifteen and sixty per cent of a week’s worth of news in that same period.) Pew has noted that Biden is “the virtually forgotten candidate,” someone who “has consistently been an afterthought in the coverage.”

It's hard not to like the Joe Biden that Ryan Lizza introduces us to in this week's New Yorker.  More specifically, it's hard not to respect the thought that went into Biden's selection, both on his part and on Obama's.


Before McCain's mind was made up, Governor Palin responded to a question from CNBC's Larry Kudlow regarding her VP candidacy by saying, "As for that VP talk all the time, I'll tell you, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day?"  Unfortunately, the Democrats have done to Palin what they so often charge the Republicans with; the quote is taken entirely out of context.  In fact, Palin continued, "I'm used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration.  We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position."

It's simply lazy to cast Palin as not understanding the VP's role.  If anything, she aptly suggests that many of our past VPs have done very little, and that a position of this nature would not suit her.  Ironically, this is precisely the role she has assumed in the McCain administration.


Lizza's great accomplishment is not his (superb) biographical or ideological accounts of Biden, but the clarity with which he addresses Palin's question.  I know exactly what kind of VP Joe Biden will be, and I for one, am excited.

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