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August 23, 2008



What makes him a "tough guy" in your eyes? I can't wait for this answer.


Prof. Lynch,

What do you make of Reidar Visser's take on Biden? http://www.historiae.org/obama.asp


jonst- the man loves to argue, and knows his stuff.

Christopher - Reidar's got a particular problem with Biden, because of the partition plan which he thinks got Iraq terribly wrong (I criticized it too, and thought Reidar made some excellent points). But I'm less worried about this now because the terms of the debate have shifted so far and Obama's got his own Iraq policy which doesn't include partition. Worth watching though.



Yes, he loves to argue. And he does "know his stuff". And the two elements combine to, often, provide the illusion that strong and heated arguments against the TACTICS of a given policy, are, in fact, arguments against the policy itself. At this point, I would argue, real strength, or toughness, as you put, is best demonstrated by an individual that can challenge the 'insider DC foreign policy establishment status quo', whose policies and ideas have, to put it nicely, grown stale and exceedingly counter productive to the interests of America. The neocons, and the ziocons, have trained the MSM to pounce and attack, usually with a whiff of a claim of antisemitism, on any proposed deviation from this "status quo". Arguing for, however aggressively, and however knowledgeably, a more effective and coherent implementation of the 'status quo' in American foreign policy will lead to no good. Its akin to replacing a bungling and arrogant knee surgeon, with a more skilled and level headed one. And then having the latter operate, with all his skills, on the wrong leg. The surgery is a success but the injuries are not dealt with.


Welcome back Marc,
I thought Biden was an excellent choice too, and it does complement Obama, although the polls today for the general election are not favorable, or maybe not quite yet. I must admit though that the picture of Obama and Biden together on TV does not look right; Biden looks so presidential and Obama looks so Vice presidential and apparently Obama himself was thinking the same when his tongue slipped while introducing Joe Biden in Springfield as the next “president”. I honestly think Biden's partition plan was the most realistic solution for Iraq's current situation knowing its history. It is only a brutal and authoritarian regime like Saddam's that can keep Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites together. It is almost impossible for Western style democracy to unit Iraqis or maintains a fragile stability in a country that’s so divided along faith, ideology and alliances lines.


Since I expect Sen. Obama to win this election, I reacted to Sen. Biden's selection with relief.

Having said that, I'd note also that we appear to have passed some kind of milestone with respect to how the top of the American executive branch is organized. Apart from presiding over the Senate and casting tie-breaking votes in that body, the Vice Presidency is assigned no portfolio by the Constitution; a Vice President cannot be dismissed, but is not formally responsible for anything unless the President says he is.

41 Presidents addressed this subject by assigning ceremonial and nominal duties to their Vice Presidents; some valued their advice as counselors and occasional trouble-shooters, but all recognized the downside to assigning important responsibilities to the one subordinate they could not fire.

Bill Clinton departed markedly from past precedent, allowing his Vice President a large staff and effectively making of the OVP a free-floating power center within the administration, empowered to intervene in policy issues that attracted Vice President Gore's interest but did not involve his views and President Clinton's in direct conflict. George W. Bush's administration went far beyond that. No Vice President in over 200 years has come close to wielding the authority that Dick Cheney has during the last seven and a half years; obviously, a major reason for this is that the smart and experienced Cheney served under a President largely ignorant of policy in many areas when he took office and inclined to personal laziness besides.

The Obama-Biden ticket is not analogous to the Bush-Cheney ticket in this respect, but it is much more like it than it is like most of its predecessors. What would this mean for the future of the Vice Presidency in American government? How would the presence of the Democratic Party's most articulate and energetic spokesman on foreign affairs in the West Wing affect the role of the Secretary of State in an Obama administration? How are foreign governments to know who speaks for the American administration at any given time -- a recurrent problem under Bush -- and to whom would the Vice President be accountable for his activities within the executive branch?

If the answers to these questions are anything close to what they have been under George W. Bush, we'll have a problem. Dick Cheney may have abused the lack of accountability inherent in his position, and the Bush administration may have emasculated Cabinet secretaries even more than Clinton's did, but an Obama-Biden administration appears likely to follow more of the precedent set by Bush and Cheney than it rejects.

It should be obvious that I disapprove of this, but if something is going to happen there is only so much value in complaining about it. I'd just like it if someone, somewhere in the media, took a break from being spoon-fed today's message about scrappy kid who grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania to ask Obama what he expects his Vice President to do.

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