Ross Mackenzie

Isn’t the Joe Biden nomination wonderful? A working-class kind of guy who has risen to chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees?

Wonderful for John McCain and conservatives and Republicans.

But Biden is so moderate, centrist, mainstream, middle-of-the-road.

Wrong. Last year the National Journal, a moderately liberal enterprise, named Barack Obama the Senate’s No. 1 leftie senator, Ted Kennedy No. 2, and Biden No. 3.

Surely it’s important that he has so much experience — six terms as a U.S. Senator, compared with Obama’s four undistinguished years out of the Illinois legislature. And in the Senate club he is so, you know, popular.

Maybe. And so much for Obama’s “change” and “outsider” mantras. Biden is the paradigmatic Washington insider — a practitioner of the same ol’ inside-the-Beltway same-ol’. What’s more, he exudes an engaging cluelessness. He comes right out of central casting as perhaps the worst possible national candidate for anything.

Isn’t he strong on foreign policy and the courts — and thus a counterpoise to Obama’s weaknesses?

On foreign and national-security policy, let’s see what the experience of Biden brings to the ticket. In 1991, he voted against the war to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. In 2002, he voted for the resolution authorizing the 2003 invasion of Iraq (which Obama says he would have voted against). Yet both he and Obama opposed the surge and refuse to acknowledge that it has worked. Oh, and both oppose offshore drilling to help achieve energy independence.

And the courts?

Both voted against John Roberts and Samuel Alito. Obama says that as president, he never would have named Justices Clarence Thomas (terming him inexperienced and insufficiently intelligent) and Antonin Scalia. Biden voted against confirming both Thomas and (earlier) Robert Bork. Not a whole lot of difference between Obama and Biden there.

Still, look at how Biden, from Scranton blue-collar origins, has ascended the heights.

If Obama had wanted someone with ties to Pennsylvania’s small-town voters, whom Obama disdained as “clinging to guns and religion” because they are “bitter,” he might have picked the senator who won them in the Pennsylvania primary, Hillary Clinton — whose father hailed from Scranton.

Biden is an embellisher of his own record and a serial plagiarist. At the Syracuse College of Law, he plagiarized a law-review article for a paper. Campaigning for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, he plagiarized a speech by British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock — and shortly thereafter withdrew.

He nevertheless strikes me as a thinker, a very serious person.


Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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