Buzz on Biden

John McCain's campaign offered a textbook case of rapid response politics early Saturday, swiftly putting up a new TV spot and posting a rich web page to attack Barack Obama's selection of Senator Joe Biden as his Democratic running mate.

Not long after the Obama camp sent out its much-heralded text message announcing the pick to millions of supporters at 3 a.m., McCain was already airing the new ad, which features clips of Biden dissing Obama as unqualified to be president, during a primary debate, and praising McCain to the skies, during a 2005 interview.

The "Off Message Man: Joe Biden Fact Center" page came out fully loaded with scores of other hits, ranging from an encyclopedic collection of Biden's past gaffes and plagiarisms to a laundry list of statements on which he disagreed with Obama over issues. McCain's instant rip job on Obama-Biden is
found here.

August is the slowest of news months, and the hurricane of coverage and commentary that followed Obama's announcement reflected the need for the 15,000 journalists descending on the Democratic convention in Denver to find something to do to earn their pay (working as the Chronicle's city editor one August, I hired an alligator hunter from Florida to fly to San Francisco to lead a search for a 10-inch long white gator that someone had acquired as a pet and then dumped in a lake near the Presidio now that was a slow news month).

The weighty pronouncements, lofty thoughts and blinding insights issued by chrome domes, partisan shills and Beltway pundits across the blogosphere and on cable TV shows seemed to boil down to three basic pluses and three minuses that will sort themselves out over the next two-and-a-half months.

Why Biden is a Good Pick

1-He's qualified to be president. In choosing Biden, Obama made a governance decision, selecting a vice president who is well-prepared to take over if necessary, rather than a political calculation designed to bring a tactical boost to the campaign against McCain and help win over a specific constituency (Hillary Clinton: blue collar Democrats), state (Tim Kaine: Virginia) or region (Evan Bayh: midwest).

2-He's an authoritative voice on national security. Biden is among the most knowledgeable voices on foreign policy in Washington, can help to neutralize McCain's growing advantage in this area among voters, and will speak from a position of strength instead of a defensive stance on national security, as Obama has been doing.

3-He's an attack dog. Although Biden can be loquacious, he's also a fiercely competitive speaker and debater with a talent for zingers (most notable recent example: his primary season hit on Rudy Giuliani as someone whose every sentence contains only three elements: "a noun, a verb and 9/11") who will prove valuable in bashing back against the combative McCain camp.

Why Biden is a Lousy Pick

1-He doesn't juice the electoral vote count. Like Obama, Biden is a liberal Democrat senator who doesn't politically extend the campaign's reach, beyond ensuring Delaware's three, already safe, electoral votes, and maybe lending some support in his neighboring childhood state of Pennsylvania, in contrast to other possibles (see#1 above).

2-He highlights Obama's weakness. By turning to a far more experienced foreign policy voice, Obama only underscores the shortcomings in his own resume, and makes himself look more uncertain than ever about his own ability in foreign affairs.

3-He undercuts the message. The message of the need for change and a new brand of politics that brought Obama the nomination is belied by Biden, the ultimate Washington insider, who's been a Senator for decades and trails only John McCain in lifetime appearances on the Sunday talk shows.

The Swami says: Biden will prove a net plus for Obama because he has the stature among the national media to tie up McCain on national security, freeing Obama to own the issue of the economy, which outranks foreign policy and terrorism among the concerns of voters.

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