Obama Introduces 'that Scrappy Kid From Scranton'

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THE PLANK AUGUST 23, 2008

Obama Introduces 'that Scrappy Kid From Scranton'

Barack Obama is speaking in Springfield as I write this. And I think it's a pretty revealing window into the political logic* behind the selection. Obama has touted Biden's ability to get past foreign policy that's about "bluster and bad judgment." But the heavy, heavy focus is on Biden's personal story--a story of working-class roots, then overcoming the tragic death of his wife and daughter--and Biden's ability to aritculate the economic anxiety average Americans are feeling. Some quick excerpts:

Time and again, [Biden] has made a difference for the people across this country who work long hours and face long odds. This working class kid from Scranton and Wilmington has always been a friend to the underdog, and all who seek a safer and more prosperous America to live their dreams and raise their families. ...

He never moved to Washington. Instead, night after night, week after week, year after year, he returned home to Wilmington on a lonely Amtrak train when his Senate business was done. He raised his boys – first as a single dad, then alongside his wonderful wife Jill, who works as a teacher. He had a beautiful daughter. Now his children are grown and Joe is blessed with 5grandchildren. He instilled in them such a sense of public service that his son, Beau, who is now Delaware’s Attorney General, is getting ready to deploy to Iraq. And he still takes that train back to Wilmington every night. Out of the heartbreak of that unspeakable accident, he did more than become a Senator – he raised a family. That is the measure of the man standing next to me. That is the character of Joe Biden. ... 

Joe Biden gets it. He’s that unique public servant who is at home in a bar in Cedar Rapids and the corridors of the Capitol; in the VFW hall in Concord, and at the center of an international crisis.

That’s because he is still that scrappy kid from Scranton who beat the odds; the dedicated family man and committed Catholic who knows every conductor on that Amtrak train to Wilmington. That’s the kind of fighter who I want by my side in the months and years to come.

That’s what it’s going to take to win the fight for good jobs that let people live their dreams, a tax code that rewards work instead of wealth, and health care that is affordable and accessible for every American family. That’s what it’s going to take to forge a new energy policy that frees us from our dependence on foreign oil and $4 gasoline at the pump, while creating new jobs and new industry. That’s what it’s going to take to put an end to a failed foreign policy that’s based on bluster and bad judgment, so that we renew America’s security and standing in the world.

One final thought: I suspect we'll be hearing a lot about Biden's Amtrak commute. The image of the average guy, riding a train, is powerful. As a fan of trains and public transportation, that makes me even more pleased.

*Just to reaffirm, I still think Biden's ability to serve as vice president matters a lot more than his ability to help the Obama campaign politically.

--Jonathan Cohn 

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posted in: the plank, health, labor, social issues, family relation, person career, joe biden

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