Brian Birdnow

Late Friday night NBC interrupted their interminable Olympic coverage to issue a special news bulletin. Technical difficulties drowned out half of the news flash but the gist of the message turned out to be the fact that Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee from Illinois , had selected a Vice-presidential running mate, Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware . The news, while not completely unexpected since Internet sources had been discussing this likelihood for at least a day, certainly merited the importance attached to it by media outlets. The Vice-Presidency undoubtedly carries more weight than the office formerly held and certain second bananas, most notably Al Gore, have developed followings based on a cult of personality that would have made Benito Mussolini blush.

Given the increased profile of the office and the significance the media attaches to the celebrity factor, it came as no surprise that Obama’s choice would dominate the news cycle. Obama, the revered figure, had teased the country for six weeks or longer about his running mate, and the nation waited on pins and needles to see who the vaunted agent of “change” would select as the figure who could step in and run the government if the worst should come to pass. The press and public speculated that Obama would make a bold choice. He might select Hillary Clinton and bind the party wounds. He could choose a Reagan Democrat like Senator James Webb of Virginia , thereby attempting to unify the country by truly reaching out to the other side. If Jim Webb proved too bitter, clinging to guns and religion, former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia could have been employed to lend the ticket some defense and foreign policy heft. Obama could also opt for one of the promising women in his party like Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius or Senator Clair McKaskill from Missouri in order to satisfy the gender equity bean counters. No one knew for sure, but Obama, showing that his pitch for “change” was more than a mantra, would make a bold and decisive choice. He would prove, by his decision, that he was daring and courageous, he was a visionary of post-ideological politics! Obama thought through all of his options and gave his supporters…Joe Biden! Yes, Senator Obama confronted his first momentous decision and settled upon Senator Joe Biden, the consummate Washington insider, as his Vice-Presidential running mate.


Brian Birdnow

Brian E. Birdnow is a historian and teaches at a university in the St. Louis area.