Obama, Biden bound
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, digests the Obama-Biden ticket.
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2008 07:36


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"I really would not like to be vice-president. 

"I don't want to - I had this bad habit of being, if not straightforward, at least blunt … I promise you, I do not want to be vice-president. 

"And I made it clear, as I did with John Kerry, I don't want to be on anybody's list."

Joseph Biden, February 25, 2008


Barack Obama's choice of Joseph Biden for the post of vice-president is politically savvy.

The decision by the Democratic candidate for the US presidency signals a determination to go beyond micro-politics to building a national campaign that breaks away from the policies of the Bush administration.

But will it help him win the presidency after recent significant falls in the US opinion polls?

Joseph Biden comes with no little controversy.

From voting for the war against Iraq to plagiarising entire lines from a speech by Neil Kinnock, the former leader of the British Labour party, during the 1988 presidential campaign, he will have much explaining to do.

Moreover, the senator comes from the second-tiniest state in the union, Delaware, and commands no particular advantage in certain sectors of the population (such as women and Latinos) or in important swing states.

On the other hand, he's an accomplished national politician with working class credentials and a wealth of knowledge in foreign affairs- areas that are seen by some American voters as being two of Barack Obama's weak points.

A confident, self-made man with a sharp tongue and a loud mouth, Biden was chosen because of his presumed appeal to the white majority, whether liberals or working blue- and white-collar Americans.

Unlike so-called "limousine liberals" or "caviar leftists", the centrist senator is known to be more of a people's man.

As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee he can dispel fears that an Obama presidency would be inexperienced.

Experienced vice-presidents like Richard Nixon, Bush Senior and Dick Cheney have had great (at times, horrific!) influence on inexperienced presidents when it comes to world affairs.

Biden will be that kind of influential vice-president, especially as he sees eye-to-eye with Obama on most important foreign policy questions.


Biden reckons Bush's original sin was "starting a war of choice [in Iraq] before we finished a war of necessity" in Afghanistan.

Soon after 2003, he turned against the war in Iraq to become a sharp critic of the Bush administration's war policies.

The Obama campaign will also be broadcasting the fact that Biden's accomplished son, Beau, a reservist in the national guard, will soon be serving in Iraq.

In a controversial article he co-authored with Lesley Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations, he supported the idea of dividing Iraq into three autonomous areas.

Alas, 98 percent of Iraqis reckon dividing their country along sectarian lines would be bad for Iraq, according to a recent poll.

Like Obama, Biden supports troop withdrawal from Iraq in order to deploy more forces in Afghanistan.

He also advocates strengthening Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, who in his words, was turned into no more than "mayor of Kabul" thanks to the policies of George Bush.

Interestingly, the candidate vice-president reportedly does not believe in the so-called "War on Terror" and reckons the doctrine behind it is problematic because it lumps together very different groups and countries who use "terrorism" toward very different goals. 

He wants both the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and the "terroristologists" to be shut down.

During his failed 2008 bid to become the Democratic Party's presidential candidate, Biden ridiculed Rudy Giuliani, who was trying for the Republican nomination, for waging a campaign based on "a noun, a verb and 9/11".

As a foreign policy liberal, he believes in the utility of the United Nations, has supported sending troops to Darfur and also pushed for a strong alliance with Europe, a partner he says he will ask to "shape up or step aside".

A "realist", Biden reckons a war against Iran would be a disaster and doesn't believe in promoting democracy in the world when it conflicts with US national interests.

This sets him apart from the neoCons in Washington who are hostile to his ideas.

He’s reported to be a self-proclaimed Zionist who advocates strong relations with Israel as the cornerstone of US policy in the region.

In other words, expect more of the same imbalanced Washington policies towards the so-called Middle East "peace process".

"Did you say, 'change'?"

It will be difficult to make a case for radical change with a running mate who's been a fixture of the Washington establishment for more than three decades.

In the past, Biden has led the Judiciary and Foreign relations committee [EPA]

However, Biden's hostility towards the Bush administration's policies (which he underlined during his last campaign for the Democratic presidential candidacy) promises "change" in an Obama White House.

He believes a John McCain presidency would be "a continuation of a failed policy".

For the liberal chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, president Bush's single-greatest damage to the United States of America has been undermining "the faith of the American people in their government to be able to deliver, their military to be able to engage, and their diplomats to be able to succeed".

On the other hand, Biden thinks he and Obama, being two of the most liberal Senators in US Congress, will probably lead one of the most liberal administrations ever assembled in the history of the United States.

Contrasted with the Neoconservative/evangelical Bush White House, this will be a major change.

At the end of the day, Biden will probably give Obama a certain boost in the following few weeks and especially after the Denver convention.

That's indispensable for the Democratic candidate to put up a better fight, but doesn't necessarily seal the presidency for him.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera
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