Barack Obama made an interesting choice by tapping Joseph Biden as his running mate. Mr. Biden certainly helps to address one of Mr. Obama's greatest weaknesses. But Senator Obama has three challenges he must face to win the White House, and while Mr. Biden aids one, it leaves the other two as even more problematic. It also cuts against the central theme of Mr. Obama's campaign.
Mr. Biden has a long resume. Serving in the Senate since 1973, he has been a presence in Washington for thirty-five years. During that time he has been involved in a number of issues.
Certainly Mr. Biden's greatest strength is foreign policy. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has been involved in the intricacies of many foreign policy issues facing the nation for years.
It is widely believed Mr. Obama's greatest weakness is foreign policy. His lack of experience with foreign policy issues, and his lack of familiarity with world leaders, has been touted by some as the greatest risk to his White House bid.
Mr. Obama's choice of Mr. Biden certainly addresses foreign policy. Mr. Biden can confidently advise Mr. Obama on foreign matters, and has longstanding relationships with foreign leaders. While Mr. Biden's approach to foreign affairs represents the Democratic emphasis on multilateralism, interventionism, and working through the U.N., there is no doubt that he is an authority on foreign affairs.
But it is debatable whether Mr. Obama's need is foreign policy. Voters rightly see the president's primary duty as protecting American lives and the American homeland. While diplomacy and knowledge of world events is part of that, it is only one part. National security is central to protecting American lives. That involves intelligence work, fighting terrorism, and securing vulnerable entry points. The instrument of our national defense is our military. Despite Mr. Biden's general familiarity with these things, he has never served in uniform, or in the Defense Department, or been responsible for national security. He certainly helps in this general area, but he is not seen as an expert on all of these issues.
Regardless of that, there are two other issues with which Mr. Obama must grapple, and far from helping with any of these, Mr. Biden actually makes Mr. Obama's path more difficult.