Dear Baseball Fan, I ask you to excuse this brief, one-time digression from baseball coverage. Ordinarily, the only allegiance this blog endorses is to the greatness of America's pastime, in general, and to its polestar and standard-bearer, in particular, the New York Yankees.
I published the endorsement that appears below for Biden's Presidential candidacy back in January, the day before the Iowa primaries in fact. However, now that Barack Obama has chosen Senator Joe Biden for his Vice-Presidential running mate, I thought it worth re-printing. All of the personal and political virtues I then touted when Biden was running for the Presidency are as applicable and relevant now that he's become the Democrats Vice-Presidential nominee. He's an excellent choice; Kudos to Obama.
With tonight's Iowa caucuses commencing American Presidential primaries season, I'd like to interrupt, or rather to supplement, my baseball commentary with a plug for the candidate I consider best equipped to deliver the nation from its current malaise-- a malaise bred by a gratuitous, catastrophic war in Iraq and the dogmatic President whose cavalier arrogance, slipshod judgment, and criminal ignorance led us there.
That candidate is Joseph R. Biden, Jr., the senior Democratic Senator from Delaware. His candidacy at the moment is a quixotic one, I concede; Biden registers, on average, about 4% in the polls. However, Iowans cherish the leading role they play in the Presidential selection process and have a habit of defying pundits and subverting expectations. Republican Pat Robertson finished 2nd in the Iowa primaries in 1988, as did Democrat John Edwards in 2004. And finally, as every politican historian is fond of observing, an obscure one-term, Georgia governor emerged from nowhere in 1976 with a victory in the Iowa caucuses that catapulted him to the Presidency.
BIDEN THE MAN
Why Biden? Well, taking up the woman's movement old maxim that assumes the "personal is political," let's start with the Biden, the man.
Now, at one time in my life, election politics captured my imagination with something of the fervor only baseball, literature, and occasionally, the law, can today. As such, I've had the equivocal pleasure of becoming acquainted with my fair share of poltical candidates: Biden during his first Presidential election campaign in 1988; Bill Clinton, four years later, while working for his campaign during the Democrats nominating convention at Madison Square Garden and later in Pennsylvania during the general election cycle; and Al Gore, Jr, in 2000, providing legal counsel, albeit in a minor role, to his campaign's post-election challenge to Florida's results. (The latter, perhaps the more frustrating case I've ever been involved with as a lawyer and certainly, the most infuriating miscarriage of justice I've ever witnessed.) Finally, over the years, I've attended more political breakfasts, lunches, and dinner than I care to count. At which, many a Senate and gubenatorial candidates have shaken my hand with their right arm while endeavoring to pick my pocket with their left.
Yet in all this time, I've met precisely two candidates whose public demeanor, if not a facsimile of their private personality-- after all, whose is?-- impressed me as at least of reflection of it: Mario Cuomo and Joe Biden. Perhaps, out of principle, they disdain the artifice and dissimulation politics normally requires. Perhaps, they simply can't act. Whatever the reason, unlike with the ever protean Clintons, liberals one day, triangulators the next, with Biden (and Cuomo) you get what you vote for.
And when I vote for Joe Biden-- if his candidacy, that is, survives through the New York primary -- I, at least, will have the confidence of casting a ballot for a man I both like and admire.
Sure, Biden, on occasion, talks too much. But rarely, unlike his colleagues, does he say too little. Biden, in his volubility, is often trenchant, cogent, and erudite. And his candor, Biden is always seductive and endearing. Even when indiscrete, in fact, his glibness has the virtue of its sincerity and the extenuation that it's largely free of malice.
As for the personal qualities that inspire my admiration of the man. Well, Biden has suffered the personal tragedy of losing both a wife and daughter with more grace, resilience, and poise than we should expect of any man. Americans, it's true, too often exaggerate the relationship between domestic vritue and professional competence. That being said, how can one not admire a man, who at the age of 29, months after he wins his first Senate election, discovers a car accident has killed his wife and three-year-old daughter and nonetheless summons the strength and discipline not only to nurse his two critically injured sons back to health without ever neglecting his legislative responsibilities, but also exhibits the loyalty and devotion to commute 3-hrs back and forth to Washington every day to ensure he's home with them and the rest of his family every night for the rest of their lives.
BIDEN THE SENATOR
Biden's experience in public life commend his candidacy as well. Indeed, in a time when politicians imagine themselves qualified for the Presidency before they've completed a single-term in national office and/or hold out their last names as a Presidential credential, as though America were some kind of a aristocracy rather than a democracy, Joe Biden, US Senator for 35-years, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relation Committe, foreign policy expert and visionary, eminence grise of the Democratic party, and self-made man of a modest working-class origins provides a welcome and bracing relief.
Now, it's true that the importance of Presidential candidate's command of foreign affairs dwindles in times of peace and prosperity. Alas, 2008 isn't one of those historical moments. Not with Iraq confronting the U.S. with its most momentous foreign crisis perhaps since the Soviets installed missles in Cuba.
And no other candidates is more equipped to resolve the Iraq imbroglio than Joe Biden. Indeed, the confederal arrangement he proposed for Iraq over two years ago is perhaps America's last best hope for curtailing Iraq's civil war, restoring a viable state, establishing a functioning government, ejecting its foreign jihadis, and resurrecting Iraq's critical role as a buffer to Iran, a reliable source of oil, and a secular, moderate Arab bulwark in region inflamed by Islamic fundamentalism: all of which are indispensable to bringing U.S. troops home safely and quickly.
What's more, Biden recognizes that the U.S. has vital geo-political interests abroad, in the Middle East and elsewhere, and therfore never can retreat entirely from international engagement. However, he has never subscribed to the neocon's utopian delusion that American can transplant its pluralist democracy in Iraq or anywhere else, for that matter, and would pursue a course that restores realism, sanity, and restraint to our foreign policy without shriking from America's commitments, jeopardizing its interests, or surrendering its pivotal international leadership.
Finally, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., to my mind, is the only candidate with the intellectual gravity, moral authority, verbal facility, vision, expertise, and temperament to lead that fluid, constantly evolving, great democratic enterprise our Founding Fathers once called the "American Experiment."