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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On Grasping At Straws, Or, We've Got Biden Right Where We Want Him

John McCain is all excited today, because, in his mind, Joe Biden has really Screwed It Up This Time by claiming that Obama will be tested by a foreign policy challenge, that Obama will act in a way we might not immediately trust, and that we should stand by him if it happens.

Oh My God You Have To Vote For Me, is the McCain response, because we can’t afford someone who will be tested in office.

As it turns out, Joe Biden is the smarter guy in this argument, a few calm words are in order...and I’m here today to offer a response that will set McCain’s foolishness right back on its heels.

So let’s get to it.

Let’s begin with the basics: what, exactly, did Biden say?

"Mark my words," the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers Sunday. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."

"I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate," Biden said to Emerald City supporters, mentioning the Middle East and Russia as possibilities. "And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."

Biden goes on to suggest Obama’s “steel spine” will come through, to America’s advantage, as the challenge plays out.

These words, as we mentioned above, have set the Palin-McCain ticket into a momentary frenzy...

"Just last night, Senator Biden guaranteed that if Senator Obama is elected, we will have an international crisis to test America's new president," reads a memo from the McCain campaign. "We don't want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis and Americans are already fighting in two wars. ...

"Senator Obama wont have the right response, and we know that because we've seen the wrong response from him over and over during this campaign. ... We cannot spend the next four years as we have spent much of the last eight: hoping for our luck to change at home and abroad. We have to act. We need a new direction, and we have to fight for it," the statement said.

The background having been set, let’s offer a bit of recent history.

In the run up to the end of the Democratic primaries and just around the time of the Republican convention there was a great clamor, in Democratic circles, for Obama to become more toss a lot more “red meat” to the electorate

Many may recall that Pat Buchanan was an especially aggressive proponent of this point of view—and with all due respect to Buchanan, Hillary is not the nominee...and McCain is playing from well behind.

Many will also recall that the pages of “Daily Kos” were full of the same advice...and many will recall that Democrats were among the toughest on Obama in this regard.

I would suggest Obama did not choose the red meat approach, on the one hand, because he sees that the voting public is looking for a different, less “Rovian” form of politics...and on the other hand, because he is positioning himself not just to win the election—but to govern afterwards.

As it turns out, Obama is, at the moment, ahead...and it is starting to look as though his decision to be less aggressive was the right one—even though many of his own supporters did not think it was at the time.

And that’s what Biden is trying to tell us: Obama will make decisions that will seem unusual compared to what we have been used to these past several years, those who are still used to doing things as they have been recently will think the new approach is strange...and maybe even dangerous...we need to take the lessons of the Presidential elections and apply them to how Obama would govern...and we need to actively support smart thinking, even if it is unexpected, coming from a President.

Obama seems to rely upon Lincoln’s model of winning elections (the “out of nowhere” choice competing against far more likely choices, lots of organization, lots of “intelligence”, a restrained personal approach, and assertive surrogates); and I would encourage observers to read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals” for insight on how Obama might actually solve problems, should he take office.

Should Obama face such a test, by the way, he has Joe Biden right there, who personally knows the leaders of Pakistan, and Russia...and Palestine and Iran, to boot.

And who thinks McCain won’t also be tested early in his Administration?

Should McCain face such a test, Sarah Palin will have to move to India...because that way, she can see Pakistan from her house.

So let’s wrap all this up for today: Biden has uttered Truth, the McCain folks are again acting tactically by creating the “Outrage Du Jour”, an Obama Administration will act in ways that are unusual—especially compared to Mr. Bush’s—we should look to the primaries and this Presidential campaign for an example of how unusual thinking makes good sense...and we may have to actively remind voters of all these facts.

And of course, if McCain wins, we have to ask ourselves: in a time where we need to control Government spending, can we really afford a Vice Presidential residence in Kashmir?

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