Cal  Thomas

DENVER - In selecting Sen. Joseph Biden as his running mate, Barack Obama gains some needed foreign policy expertise, but loses some credibility. If Washington is as bad as these two say it is, was Biden a contributor or an enabler during his six Senate terms? If 36 years in the Senate doesn't make you an "insider" and part of the problem, what does?

Presidential candidates love to run against Washington and pretend they are outsiders, even when they have been insiders. The same applies to John McCain, who has been an insider for 26 years, 24 of them in the Senate. But while McCain has been critical of some Bush administration policies - notably the initial way the Iraq War was fought with too few troops - Biden has a litany of criticism of Obama, which the McCain campaign will use to undermine whatever enhancements Biden brings to the Democratic ticket.

Last August on "The Diane Rehm Show," Biden said, "If the Democrats think we're going to be able to nominate someone who can win without that person being able to table unimpeachable credentials on national security and foreign policy, I think we're making a tragic mistake." If Democrats buy the line that Biden's foreign policy credentials as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee make up for Obama's foreign policy deficiencies (Obama has said his opposition to the Iraq War "came from a set of experiences that come from a life of living overseas, having family overseas, being able to see the world through the eyes of people outside our borders"), aren't they making the Republicans' case for putting Dick Cheney on the GOP ticket in 2000?

While 180-degree turns are common in politics, Biden has a record of substantive criticism of Obama and of support for the Iraq War that will be difficult to explain, even in our cynical age. Presuming that Biden once held these views out of strong conviction, how does he now reverse himself without being charged with a willingness to say and do anything in order to win?

On "Meet the Press" last September, Biden attacked Obama for his vote against funding American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq: "If you tell me I've got to take away this protection for these kids in order to win the election, some things aren't worth it." This sounds similar to McCain's charge that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win an election.

Cal Thomas

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Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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