The Plank

Biden? Yeah, That Works.

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Well-connected Washington insider Steve Clemons has already reported that signs point to Joe Biden as Barack Obama's running mate. Now comes this tidbit, coutesy of the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray: Tony Blinken, the Biden foreign policy adviser who accompanied Obama on his overseas trip, left Washington to go on vacation late last week. Destination? Hawaii. 

The timing of Blinken's trip isn't clear. Maybe he got there after Obama left. Or maybe he really was on vacation. (The article doesn't explore this possibility, although perhaps Murray was just being coy.) But keep in mind that Blinken is married to Evan Ryan, who was Biden's deputy campaign manager. (Note: See updates below.)

If Biden is the choice, I think it would speak well of Obama's judgment. Biden has a deep and impressive resume: Not only is he the guy who orchestrated the defeat of Robert Bork back in the 1980s, but he can also claim among his legislative accomplishments the Violence Against Women's Act, which is no small feat. He's smart, articulate, and is a bona fide expert on foreign policy: In other words, he's certainly capable of assuming the presidency in an emergency, which is really the most important criteria of all.

Biden's record is not without blemishes: He supported that awful Republican bankruptcy bill--most likely out of parochialism, since Delaware is home to the credit card industry. His performance in the Clarence Thomas hearings was as bad as his performance in the Bork hearings was good. Still, Biden has shown genuine foresight and courage in his career, perhaps most memorably as an early advocate for American intervention in the Balkans. Overall, his voting record is strongly progressive.

The other downsides to Biden are primarily political: He has a habit of straying off message and making impolitic comments, like the time he referred to Obama as "articulate" and "clean." Anita Dunn, Dan Pfeiffer, and the rest of the communications team had better keep antacid handy. But that implusiveness is also one of Biden's strengths: He speaks directly and bluntly, giving him an undeniable air of authenticity. Delaware, of course, is not a swing state. But Biden, who grew up in a working-class family, has always been adept at speaking to voters gripped by economic anxiety. As Paul Krugman notes today, that's exactly what the Obama campaign needs right now.

Update: Josh Marshall also approves

Update 2: A friend writes to tell me Blinken planned his Hawaii vacation some time ago. Oh well. He could have conducted business while he was there, right? Meantime, here's a reposting of an old Ezra Klein item touting Biden. Make sure to check out the YouTube clip, which I'm reproducing below. The expression at the very end is priceless. An Obama-Biden ticket keeps sounding better...

Update 3: The clips below, from an MSNBC debate during the primaries, provide a really good sense of Biden's style. He's aggressive, passionate, and usually very effective. Even nuanced answers come out with force and emotion. (See, in particular, his answer to the question of whether he'll let Iran get a nuclear weapon.) Of course, you get the feeling that he's always on the edge of saying something imprudent. Like I said above, if Biden is the choice, the Obama communications staff will have many anxious moments.

--Jonathan Cohn 

Related: The New Republic on Joe Biden

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