Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 28, 2008

A SCRAPPY KID FROM SCRANTON.... The political world has certain expectations about the kind of speech a vice presidential nominee is going to deliver at his or her convention. It's going to be polished, there will be a few clever turns of phrase, and there may be some call-and-response thrown in for good measure.

Joe Biden's speech last night didn't follow the script, literally or figuratively. It had a certain fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants quality, based on Biden's assumption that he could just say what's on his mind, and it'd be just as good as what the speechwriters put in the teleprompter. And as it turned out, he assumed correctly.



In all likelihood, no one will ever tell tales of Biden's oratorical skills, but under the circumstances, it doesn't much matter. Biden came across as earnest, honest, and sincere. He was likable. He made a powerful argument based on substance, but did so with the kind of raw emotion we very rarely see in speeches from candidates for national office.

In terms of the substance, Biden had two principal high points. First, on domestic policy, Biden demonstrated, with pure populism, that the Democratic ticket understands full well the challenges facing middle-class families: "Almost every night, I take the train home to Wilmington, sometimes very late. As I look out the window at the homes we pass, I can almost hear what they're talking about at the kitchen table after they put the kids to bed. Like millions of Americans, they're asking questions as profound as they are ordinary. Questions they never thought they would have to ask: Should mom move in with us now that dad is gone? Fifty, sixty, seventy dollars to fill up the car? Winter's coming. How we gonna pay the heating bills? Another year and no raise? Did you hear the company may be cutting our health care? Now, we owe more on the house than it's worth. How are we going to send the kids to college? How are we gonna be able to retire? That's the America that George Bush has left us, and that's the future John McCain will give us."

Looking abroad, Biden slammed McCain repeatedly for his poor judgment on everything from Iraq to Iran to Afghanistan to international diplomacy: "Again and again, on the most important national security issues of our time, John McCain was wrong, and Barack Obama was proven right."

After Biden's well-received speech, Barack Obama made a "surprise" appearance alongside his running mate. There was a chance Obama's arrival would step on Biden's remarks, but it offered an opportunity to get their picture on the front page together. If for no other reason, it was a good idea.

Ultimately, Biden struck me as a genuine guy with a few endearing rough edges. If Americans watching at home didn't connect with him, I'd be very surprised.

Steve Benen 7:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Comments

Think of Biden's extreme likeability, easy banter and obvious good sense. Now picture Mitt Romney giving the VP candidate's speech next week. Or Tim Pawlenty. Or Joe Lieberman. Or Charlie Crist.

Actually, I have no idea what Pawlenty or Crist are like as speakers, but just the thought of Mittens's robotic delivery or Joey Leebs' whiny croaking makes me smile.

Posted by: shortstop on August 28, 2008 at 7:50 AM | PERMALINK

It's nerve wracking. Think about it. Biden's out there. In America. Talking to groups. Multiple times a day. Without a script. And his mouth could go off at any time. It's a ticking time bomb. Tick-tick-tick.

Posted by: Pat on August 28, 2008 at 7:56 AM | PERMALINK

I too thought he was very good. And he was well served by the emotional, intelligent intro from his son.

Posted by: Todd on August 28, 2008 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

Joe is just as much of a "ticking timebomb" as any other citizen of this country (considering the last 8 years)...most of us operate without a script and feel pretty much feel exactly as he phrased it...talking bout "timebombs"...heard Mccain cant take criticism or stress...hmmm

Posted by: locanicole on August 28, 2008 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

Don't forget the intro by his son. Beau did an amazing job telling the story of his dad and turning creature of Washington into the Regular Guy of the Year. Hearing about this side of Biden, I can't help but wonder if the ticket might be the other way around if he approached his run the right way. I also had another thought. Biden's tragic history is news to most folks, but if John McCain had lived it, each attack against him would be answered with, "But my wife died in a car accident..."

Posted by: NHct on August 28, 2008 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

FINALLY!

Finally, a Democrat calls out the Republicans on their alleged strength, national security and foreign policy. For decades the Rs have been able to claim these issues by throwing money at weapons that either don't work (Star Wars and missile defense in Poland) or prepare us to fight the last war or the one before that (fighting the gangsterism of Al Queda with the 101st Airborne, an Army designed to fight the Red Army in Europe). The Ds have rolled over and let them call this waste and foolishness an actual policy and the press has gone along.

That litany of specifically how McCain has been wrong and Obama has been right on all the big national security issues is just what has been missing for the last forty years.

Posted by: xtalguy on August 28, 2008 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

"Ultimately, Biden struck me as a genuine guy with a few endearing rough edges."

Great, we're going to have my dad for VP.

I wonder if Joe likes to tinker with John Deere tractors and listen to Gordon Lightfoot.

Posted by: 2Manchu on August 28, 2008 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Finally, a Democrat calls out the Republicans on their alleged strength, national security and foreign policy.

And to think, it only took eight years of Bush's conspicuous incompetence to do it!

I wholeheartedly believe Democrats need to hammer the myth of Republican competence in national defense, but it was Bush who truly ruined the GOP's decades-long branding effort.

Posted by: Gregory on August 28, 2008 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

One thing I've seen few people mention so far. During Beau Biden's introduction of his father, there was literally (to use one of Joe's favorite words) not a dry eye in the house. In that sense, Joe Biden's story connects with people in a way that simply saying "I had a middle class upbringing" does not.

Posted by: shawn on August 28, 2008 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Great, we're going to have my dad for VP.

I suppose you would rather have the VP sneer and say "fuck you" while shooting you in the face at an undisclosed location during top-secret meetings with corporate shills? Biden is authentic, and everyone can tell, which is why he terrifies Republicans. Would you be one of those?

Posted by: PJ on August 28, 2008 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Biden demonstrated several reasons why so many of us who've met him were hoping he'd be the pick. Wonder if the McCain campaign is as delighted now as it pretended to be a few days ago.

And, we could use more Gordon Lightfoot in the national dialogue, especially the earlier UA stuff.

Posted by: ericfree on August 28, 2008 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

In all likelihood, no one will ever tell tales of Biden's oratorical skills

See, I think he showed big-league (if not All Star or Hall of Fame) speaking skills last night. He knows how to deliver a speech to a big hall, which a lot of speakers this week (hello, Mark Warner and Kathleen Sebelius) clearly don't know how to do yet. Let me revise that: Biden knows how to seem a regular guy speaking from the heart while doing it in a way that fills up a big hall. That's skill.

Posted by: Steve M. on August 28, 2008 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Nicely played ericfree @ 9:45....

Posted by: Little Dick on August 28, 2008 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Please Dems, stop saying merely "More of the same." Start saying "Worse than the last 8 years!" Bush II inherited a decent economy and budget surplus. If McCain continues his 'Bushinomics 101' with the economy as it stands, it will be worse than the last 8 years! Much worse!

Posted by: Paul M. Lyren on August 28, 2008 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Please Dems, stop saying merely "More of the same." Start saying "Worse than the last 8 years!"

I have to disagree with you there. "More of the same" is catchy, and voters are simply fed up with the Republicans, which is why all they have to offer is Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

Bush II inherited a decent economy and budget surplus. If McCain continues his 'Bushinomics 101' with the economy as it stands, it will be worse than the last 8 years!

This is, however, an excellent point. We simply can't afford four more years of credit-card "conservatism."

Posted by: Gregory on August 28, 2008 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

A SCRAPPY KID FROM SCRANTON

I'm kinda kitsched out from all the show biz cliches of this political season, but it's phrase like that that makes me barf a little. A little too gosh-golly for me. Biden's a seasoned politician who's done some good things and really fucked us on behalf of credit card companies.

Dale

Posted by: Dale on August 28, 2008 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Beau was impressive but his father seemed disorganized. I like Biden and think he was a good pick, but I turned him off. He reminded me too much of those breathless actresses receiving an Oscar. That will probably play well, though.

Posted by: jen f on August 28, 2008 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

I thought the speech was very good, but not quite great -- he did stumble a few times, it seemed to meander a bit, and he even got a few figures wrong.

But overall, you really could see he was sincere, impassioned, and ready to go. And when he was talking about the problems Americans are facing, it was stone silent in that huge place and, for a second, I thought even Biden got a bit choked up.

Between he and Clinton (who NAILED IT), it was a damn good night, IMHO.

Now if Biden would just stop constantly protecting the credit card industry at every turn ...

Posted by: Mark D on August 28, 2008 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Loved the "Freudian slip" moment- he deftly recovered and rolled with it- a man who is actually listening to what comes out of his own mouth.

Posted by: RmemberNovember on August 28, 2008 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

PJ,

Sorry, I was being sarcastic.

I WANT my dad for VP. He's a Joe Biden clone.

Posted by: 2Manchu on August 28, 2008 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Sen. Biden's remarks about Georgia were a signal to the defense industrialists that they have nothing to fear from a Democratic administration. If the public finances spent in Iraq are to be discontinued, they were reassured that the Cold War would resume. Sen. Biden struck me as a samo samo, businesss as usual political guy. I was surprised he did not bring up Iraqi partition, though.

Posted by: Tommy on August 28, 2008 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

OK Joe, please show you can be a populist now that you don't need help from MBNA and DuPont in DE. Don't support things like the Bankruptcy Bill anymore, or at least sensible types of reform (is it assured, the BB was not? Just curious.)

Posted by: Neil B on August 28, 2008 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

PJ,

Sorry, I was being sarcastic.

Oops - sorry I missed that! Hair-trigger troll gun...from my years as a POW.

Posted by: PJ on August 28, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

A few months ago, Mark Kleiman paid Team Obama the 'ultimate compliment' from a political junkie,
"If they make a decision and I disagree with them, I assume they are probably right and I am wrong."

People from TCBR know how strongly I was for Sebelius. I still think she might make a better President if needed -- but only barely. But Biden is by far the better candidate.

I can only echo Mark and continue to stand amazed at the best run campaign in history.

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on August 28, 2008 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Biden has been likable for a while. At least since he started his presidential campaign. Wathcing the early debates, I noticed that he was the only likable candidate among the candidates. Hillary had that weird smile. Obama was stiff. Kucinich was crazy. Edwards was creepy. Richardson -- well, ok, he was likable, but he just didn't have the confidence. He had "cabinet member" written all over him. Biden was smart, funny, confident, and seemed kinda like a normal guy. Best candidate since Clinton.

Posted by: kevin m on August 28, 2008 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

I completely understand, PJ.

Blog trolls are like silverfish: if you leave them alone for too long, you'll wind up with a serious infestation problem.

Posted by: 2Manchu on August 28, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Obama could not have asked for a better vepee. Biden from the beginning has shown a lot of charm and integrity, yet knowledgeable and sharp. Obama/Biden marriage (ticket) seems to be made in heaven. He seems to be quite popular with young voters, too. A friend of mine sent me this video of a yound senior talking about Biden late last year. http://www.schooltube.com/video/3454/Joe-Biden-Should-Be-Our-Next-President .Truly Biden is very charismatic and a great orator

Posted by: Sandy on September 1, 2008 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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