Well, Barack Obama has tapped (or will soon tap) Senator Joe Biden as his running mate. Color me unimpressed.
I remember Biden from his failed 1988 run for the big seat, and I’m certain that the circumstances of that fiasco will be thoroughly and completely re-hashed in the days to come. But there are a few details that will most likely be overlooked in the process — details I think that ought to be kept in mind.
I have a special fondness for the 1988 election cycle. It was the first time I could vote for president, for one. For another, I was an editor on my college newspaper in central New Hampshire, which means I got a heavy dose of presidential politics — a stronger dose than I was prepared to handle, to be perfectly honest. I got to speak with Jack Kemp and Ron Paul, and had NO idea what i was doing, to be perfectly honest.
Anyway, Joe Biden was doing quite well until someone noticed that he tended to quote British politician Neil Kinnock quite frequently. They started videotaping Biden giving his stump speech, and caught him once giving the talk without crediting Kinnock. That was quickly spliced into a video showing Biden repeating Kinnock’s speeches (including biographical facts that didn’t apply to Biden) and quietly slipped them to the press. That triggered a landslide effect — people started digging into Biden’s past for other instances of dishonesty and plagiarism, and found them. Biden had been caught plagiarizing a term paper in college, and had lied about his graduating rank from law school. At that point, Biden saw the writing on the wall and hung it up.
The “someone” who sank Biden was a guy named Joe Sasso — campaign manager and longtime crony of Michael Dukakis, the eventual Democratic nominee.
Appropriately enough, Dukakis was also gravely wounded by another “blue on blue” political hit. It was Al Gore’s campaign that discovered the case of Willie Horton, the convicted murderer serving life without parole in Massachusetts who while on “furlough” committed a brutal rape and armed robbery in Maryland. That brought the whole furlough program to light, as well as Dukakis’ support for a system that gave even those serving life without possibility of parole a chance to leave prison as long as they promised to behave themselves and come back. The Bush campaign just took what Gore first brought up and ran with it.
So while everyone talks about Biden, keep in mind that it was his own flaws that brought him down when he sought the presidency himself twenty years ago — and it was his fellow Democrats that took him out. I am certain those details will be overlooked in the rush to declare him the noble warrior, fitting companion to The Great Champion of Hopey Changefulness.
Friday afternoon, on Howie Carr’s show, one of his callers came up with what ought to be the default description of the Democratic ticket:
“Empty suit and stuffed shirt.”