Aug 242008
Authors: Sean Reed

Barack Obama may not look much like the other presidents you see on dollar bills, but his running mate sure does.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the Obama campaign released the news that Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware will be vice president of the United States, should the presumptive Democratic nominee be elected in November. And really, when it comes to responding to critics of his campaign, he couldn’t have made a better selection for his partner this election season.

For those critical of Obama’s relative newness to the political scene — which they call inexperience — Biden has six terms under his belt in the U.S. Senate.

Along those same lines, the questions raised by Republican leaders as to Obama’s ability to handle touchy foreign relations issues, prompted by the recent hostilities between Russia and the nation of Georgia, are likewise silenced by Biden’s selection.

Biden is not only the current chair of the Senate foreign relations committee — which is, in and of itself, enough to convince the most hardcore critic of his international street cred — according to The New York Times, he spent the last week in Georgia, working with its government to end the confrontation with Russia.

For those who question Obama’s ability to lead based on his relative inactivity when it comes to passing actual legislation, Biden again counters their attack with a strong record of attempted and passed legislation, including the landmark 1994 Violence Against Women Act that strengthened the government’s ability to investigate and prosecute violent acts against women.

As for the obvious differences, Biden is an old, non-threatening, blue-collar white guy — more typical political fare for those Democrats and swing-voters who would otherwise be more reluctant to vote for the more unconventional Obama.

In short, Biden, at least on paper, appears to be everything that Obama is not. And that’s the point. The question is now, will it pay off?

Sure, Biden has the look and legislative history that pundits are sure to salivate about, but when it comes down to it, his role in the White House would amount to little more than a glorified adviser to Obama.

For all his experience and political savvy, when it comes down to it, the buck will stop at the president’s desk, and if they disagree, it’s Obama’s word that goes.

For the younger crowd, that’s really not too big an issue. But for the “experience” crowd, it might not be enough.

There’s another problem here, too. As recently as January, during primary season, Biden was among the many Democrats and Republicans trying to convince Americans that Obama was not even close to being ready to lead our nation. And their major opponent, Sen. John McCain, has already jumped all over it.

On Saturday, before Obama and Biden were able to appear at their first rally together as running mates, McCain’s camp had already released an advertisement with a clip of Biden telling prospective voters that Sen. Obama was “not ready” to be president.

Granted, those remarks were made more than six months ago, and to many, they still represent a division within the ticket and the party between the old and new, the “experience” and “hope” crowds within the Democratic Party — a division that is sure to play out next week at the Democratic National Convention.

Time will only tell if this odd-couple will survive to see the White House, but one thing is for sure: a rocky road lies ahead.

Editorials Editor Sean Reed is a senior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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