Say it Ain't So, Joe

Monday, October 06, 2008


In a previous post, I came to the defense of Sarah Palin. It wasn't intended as an endorsement of her or that I supported her in some way. I will admit that I like her and agree with her on some policies, but I also don't think I know enough about her to be really supportive and I still believe she should have turned down the nomination and waited. The point I was trying to make was that I didn't think that many of the attacks on her were substantive and did little to help me form an opinion.

There is no need to rehash that discussion. In this entry, I want to focus on Biden and what I see as double standard. Before I dive in, I want to point out that I am in no way suggesting that Palin is above criticism or that the press shouldn't question her policies and positions. I just feel that the same level of scrutiny hasn't applied to Senator Biden and his past gaffes, positions, and policies.


In the past few months we have heard all about Sarah Palin's past, her husband's past, and all sorts of other tidbits. We haven't heard as much about Joe Biden. Some have suggested that it is because he has an extensive record that is already well known. That may be part of it, but I doubt that most of the public knows very much about him. I want to highlight a few incidents that have gotten little coverage and, IMO, would have been more thoroughly covered if it were Sarah Palin.


I have vague memories of plagiarism accusation when Biden was trying to get the nomination in 1987. An ad by Dukakis showed how Biden copied parts of another speech by British Labor Party leader Neal Kinnock. Apparently, he had done this several other times. There was also an incident in law school where he receieved an "F" in his legal methods course for plagiarism. Both of these events happened a while ago and it seems that he has learned his lesson. Personally, I don't see this as all that big of a deal, but some will.


Academic records and achievements are frequently brought up by campaigns. Obama has a great record that shows how well he did in all levels of higher education. McCain has wisely downplayed his graduating near the bottom. Palin hasn't really brought up hers, but the opposition has pointed out her transferring and how she went to mediocre schools. What about Biden? He is often portrayed as being very sharp, but I don't recall hearing much about how he did in school. Granted, it is a long time ago, but so was McCain. He received a BA in Political Science and History from the University of Delaware in 1965, where he graduated 506th out of 688. This article draws some interesting parallels between Biden and Quayle. Biden attended a middling law school where he graduated 76th out of 85.


I don't know how well he did in Constitutional Law, but he appears to not understand the Constitution all that well. There was this exchange during the debate:



IFILL: Vice President Cheney's interpretation of the vice presidency?
BIDEN: Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history. The idea he doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.
And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.
The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he's part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.


Todd Zywicki, over at Volokh, does a good job of explaining the problems with this exchange. It certainly bothers me that he is wrong, but it is even more troublesome considering that he went to law school, teaches a class on Constitutional Law, and has been a member of the Legislature for more than 3 decades. He should know this. Brian Kalt, over at the National Post, looks at some other Constitutional issues that relate to Biden. I tend to agree with Kalt's assessment, but I am willing to concede that reasonable minds may differ. Incidently, Kalt was my Con Law professor for two semesters.


There was also Biden's comment in regards to the depression. I hadn't heard anything about this in the MSM. I liked how Jesse Walker titled his article, And if you owned an experimental TV set in 1929, you would have seen him. And you would have said to yourself, "Who is that guy? What happened to President Hoover?" I don't know if this is all that big of a deal, but it seems like something he should have known, since he has a degree in History. If Palin had made this comment, I am sure it would be used as evidence of how unprepared she is and that she clearly doesn't understand economic issues.


I must also admit that I know very little of Biden's policy stances or what kinds of legislation he has sponsored in the past. This is just my opinion, but in looking around, I am not impressed with much of what he has done. In terms of foreign policy, I can't complain too much. His idea to partition Iraq into 3 provinces seems like a good one to me and one that my foster some kind of lasting stability. He also favors military action in Darfur. I am not so sure about this, but I don't know enough about specifics to really comment.


On the domestic front, I am far less impressed. He is a huge supporter of the War on Drugs. He has sponsored and supported many bills in this area. I am strong believer that the War on Drugs is mostly a failure and that it we do not benefit from locking up users for decades. I think the money and resources could be better used elsewhere. He is also a strong supporter of the federalization of other crimes. His Violence Against Women Act would have created a federal cause of action for women who were victims of crimes. The Supreme Court overturned this law on the grounds that it wasn't interstate commerce. He has also supported every gun control law that has come up for a vote and was one of the priciple supporters of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1994. This law gave us the Assault Weapons Ban and also brought the death penalty for crimes related to drug dealing, civil-rights related murders, murder of a Federal officer, and acts classified as terrorism. I have a problem with almost all parts of this law.


This isn't all that big of a deal to me. Ultimately, it is the policies of McCain and Obama that should count the most, not the VP candidates. I just wonder why Biden is getting such little scrutiny, while Palin is getting so much.

18 comments:

Mike 6:06 AM  

I dunno, Steves. I think you're twisting and contorting, but in the end I wish you'd just stop the qualifying and say it: you support the McCain-Palin ticket.

Otherwise, what's this all about? The point, and the only point, is that McCain, Obama, Biden (and Hillary, Huckabee, Romney) are clearly over the line that says, "Generally Qualified to be President."

Palin, like Bush, like Quayle, like others we've seen, is not.

That's the whole point of this "criticism" you seem so up-in-arms about.

I don't like Biden (and in fact if you feel like scrolling down at my blog you'll see the post where I lambasted Obama for picking him), and I obviously don't like McCain. Hell, I don't even like Obama very much.

But 5 minutes with those guys shows you that they read, they ask questions, they've thought (however misguidedly) about "the issues." But Palin? No, she hasn't.

Is she a moron? Profoundly uncurious? Stubborn? Arrogant? I have no idea, but I know one thing, as does every honest American: she is unfit to be President of the U.S.

Biden, schmuck or hack or liar or goofball that he may be, is qualified.

Anonymous,  6:22 AM  

Amen, Mike.

Rickey Henderson 7:42 AM  

So he cribbed a paper? We're all whores sometimes. He's a reasonable human being who won't flush our nation down the shitter. What's the hold up here?

Sopor 7:59 AM  

"Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job." -Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

Everything I need to know, I learned from The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

B Mac 8:14 AM  

I've read Article I. But based on the experience of the past 221 years, it has been shown that in reality the Vice President has two principal jobs:

1) Breathe
2) Be prepared to take over the country under circumstances that will be, by definition, traumatic and destabilizing.

The VP doesn't take power in a smooth, seemless transition. (S)he only takes the oath if SERIOUS crap has gone down; president dies, president resigns in scandal, president impeached and removed, etc.

The thought of President Biden isn't a great one for me. I've got some disagreements with him, and I think we've had enough of gaffe-prone presidents.

But the thought of President Palin scares the ever-living shit out of me.

At least Biden is a known quantity. He knows enough about the world. He knows the system well enough. He's owned a passport for more than a year and a half. HIS unknowns are of personality and judgment (as is true of all candidates). HER unknown is capability, which is the worst possible trait a Veep candidate can have.

Plus, she can't pronounce the word "NUCLEAR". The "C" is right next to the fucking "L". And where the hell are you getting the extra "U"?

Smitty 8:55 AM  

In steves' defense, I don't think he supports the M/P ticket any more than the O/B ticket. he's a contrarian, and I think he is trying to point out that Biden has received nowhere near the scrutiny that Palin has received (and that maybe, as an Obama supporter, I should be pretty happy with that).

I think the larger force at work here is campaign know-how. The republicans in my mind clearly picked Palin because it would allow them to dominate the press. All of Biden's skeletons, as steves points out, have been unearthed over 3 decades in Congress. But Palin was a virtual unknown on the national scene and by selecting her, they knew the MSM would do all the vetting for them and again allow them to dominate all of the news stories. Smart political move, until the MSM caught-on.

As for the role-of-the-veep answer, I think Biden knows full-well taht the things Cheney did as veep are perfectly acceptable. I think he needed to answer that way to show that Cheney is somehow a manipulative bastard and almost wholly responsible for all of our current crises by stepping outside of the traditional role of veep because his Prez is woefully silly. I think Biden's answer was a politically-motivated answer to a question the average American doesn't really know about. I don't think it shows ignorance of the very subject he teaches. I think it shows a politcal assault most people couldn't call him out on, including his opponent.

Bob 9:57 AM  

I have so missed steves contrarian point of view. We here at ATK get ourselves caught up in the whole rock star personal that the media has made for Obama. I get disappointed when steves doesn't call me out on my own B.S.

I think directly following the announcement of Palin as running mate, the attacks on Palin were a little over the top, but it was as much the fault of the McCain campaign as anyone else’s. It definantly wasn’t driven by the Obama campaign, in fact, at the time of the conventions, they probably wanted a lot of the Palin coverage – whether good or bad – to just end.

The McCain/Palin campaign made a really elementary mistake when handling the media. They left a whole lot of voids in the information about her that allowed the media to fill in the gaps.

When left without information, the media will do its own fact finding/creation.

About a year an a half ago, the House Democrats in Michigan pulled together some sort of press conference on the budget or education. The message they were trying to convey wasn’t clear. They hadn’t really done their homework. During the press conference, one of the reps tried to make an off the cuff comment about new technology in the classrooms, which is now including the use of I-Pods to record podcasts as a teaching tool. He pulled an I-pod out of his pocket to illustrate his point. Because their overall message wasn’t well-defined, the media reported it as the Democrats wanted the state to spend millions to put new I-Pods in the hand of every child.

This is what happened to Palin directly following the running mate announcement. The media drove the story, not McCain, because the campaign refused to provide any substantial information about her, or offer her up immediately for interviews.

Since the conventions, it hasn’t gotten much better, because she was a recluse. Once she did come out and failed to provide a decent interview, she was fair game. She had time to prepare, yet still sucked. After that point, it became clear to the public that the media was now asking fair questions, it was now Palin who was unqualified to answer them.

Bob 10:00 AM  

Oh, was this post about Joe?

Yeah, he's a blowhard, but at least he isn't a sissy like the last few Democratic nominees.

B Mac 10:02 AM  

Ah, the iPod scandal.

Memories...

steves 12:50 PM  

In steves' defense, I don't think he supports the M/P ticket any more than the O/B ticket. he's a contrarian, and I think he is trying to point out that Biden has received nowhere near the scrutiny that Palin has received (and that maybe, as an Obama supporter, I should be pretty happy with that).

Thanks. This was exactly my point. To those of you that think I should just come up for McCain, I have to say WTF?!?!? Show me any post where I have said I supported McCain. I like Obama and have praised him on many occasions.

Mike, sorry, but Biden's ignorance of the Constitution may not bother you, but I would prefer to have someone in there that seems to understand it better than the current president and VP...Biden is not that.

Smitty 1:28 PM  

Biden is not that

I think he does understand it. I think he was making a shrewd jab at the current Veep, whom many (however erroneously) think has overstepped the bounds of a Veep. Earlier, I stated: As for the role-of-the-veep answer, I think Biden knows full-well taht the things Cheney did as veep are perfectly acceptable. I think he needed to answer that way to show that Cheney is somehow a manipulative bastard and almost wholly responsible for all of our current crises by stepping outside of the traditional role of veep because his Prez is woefully silly. I think Biden's answer was a politically-motivated answer to a question the average American doesn't really know about. I don't think it shows ignorance of the very subject he teaches. I think it shows a politcal assault most people couldn't call him out on, including his opponent.

It's a populist message. The People (yes...we know about the collective intelligence of The People) collectively perceive that Cheney "runs the administration" and has greatly overstepped the bounds of the Veep. That's what I think Biden is playing off of; not a lack of understanding of the role, but a politicized critique of what many people already think is truly the case.

Tony 2:10 PM  

Steve,

Only want to say this is a good, thought-provoking, fair post. I will echo what Bob said; glad you're around, even to call this preacher out on his own BS.

Good calls, all of them. Later.

Mr Furious 2:27 PM  

If Palin had a record or actually granted interviews or held a press conference you wouldn't have to write this post Steves.

That's all there is to it.

McCain has been the nominee for six months and sprung a complete unknown onto the stage at the last minute. He then locked her in a Cone of Silence for a month.

The media HAS to subject her to extra scrutiny just to piece together a biography beyond what the McCain camp allowed her to say in a convention speech that wasn't even written by or FOR her.

Biden has been on the national scene for decades. Is a Sunday morning fixture. Ran for President this freaking cycle. His cards are on the table so to speak. Palin has even told us what we're playing and the hand's already been dealt.

steves 5:15 PM  

Smitty
No doubt, Cheney is/was a shitty VP. Bush certainly surrounded himself with bad advisors, for the most part. Overall, I still think Biden is not a good student of the Constitution, but he would only be the VP. I don't agree with Obama's take on some cases, but it more of a difference of opinion with him. He does understand the Constitution.

McCain/Palin made a big mistake in not allowing interviews. If you can't handle lightweights like Couric and Gibson you won't be able to handle anyone. Cheney is a dick, but at least he isn't scared of the press. I think I would like Palin more if she had more experience and media savvy, but she just seems too nervous and gaffe prone. Besides "nuclear", I heard her talk about the Kelo case and say "imminent domain"...good lord!

Tony
Thanks for stopping by.

B Mac 6:51 PM  

What's wrong with the doctrine of 'imminent domain'?

After all, some domain is gonna happen RIGHT NOW. What would you call it?

steves 8:08 PM  

Imminent eminent domain would be scary.

B Mac 8:35 PM  

Wait until you see immanent imminent eminent domain...

Mike 6:16 AM  

Mike, sorry, but Biden's ignorance of the Constitution may not bother you, but I would prefer to have someone in there that seems to understand it better than the current president and VP

Huh? So he mistakenly said that Article I describes "executive power" and that means he doesn't understand the Constitution? I'm lost here.

I'm sorry Steves, but because Glenn Reynolds and a coupla' ying-yangs at Volokh (which I respect for legal, but not political analysis) say something that's obviously partisan doesn't mean I salute and say, "yup. you're right."

Biden was talking about executive overreach, and Palin's comment about expanding the VP's role over the legislative process is far more newsworthy than Biden's remark.

Sorry, but I think you're reaching so far here as to lose to balance. It's one thing to be contrarian where it matters; another to be contrarian just for the sake of doing it.

If you think Palin is in Biden's league (and that ain't exactly the big leagues, IMO) you've lost touch.

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