Thursday, August 16, 2012
You see, what the Vice President really meant to say was ...
The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper passes along along news "that aides to Vice President Joe Biden have taken the unusual step of wrangling the press for edits to pool reports." Quoting a source I don't choose to link, this post explains that "attempting to intervene in the drafting of accounts that reporters share with one another is all but unheard of," not just regular spin. The quoted source goes on to say that this "reflects the deep concern Biden’s team has about offering any fodder to the opposition."
In other words, the political pros are trading favors and using all their influence to get friendly reporters (i.e., virtually all of them) to take it easy on Slow Joe. They are literally telling the reporters how to do their jobs in a way that will benefit the Obama-Biden[?] campaign.
("Obama-Biden[?] campaign," with that question mark in brackets, is exactly how I'm going to refer to the prospective Democratic ticket for the next three weeks or so. Feel free to do likewise, or not. I'm not in the business of telling my readers how to do their jobs.)
It's hard to imagine a more dispiriting job than being one of Joe Biden's handlers. I'm sure they tell themselves that they're star performers at the circus. In their dreams, they're high-wire performers, or perhaps trapeze artists, always skillfully recovering from desperate peril at the very last moment. But everyone else can see that they're the guys with push-brooms and wheeled trash cans who follow the circus parade to deal with the poop it's left in the streets.
The notion that Obama might replace Biden is spreading, and in addition to Hillary, New York governor Andrew Cuomo is also being floated as a possible replacement. Cuomo is indeed a rising star of the Democratic Party, but he's still a very young man. He is not yet widely known outside New York, and has never run in any sort of national campaign before; we might predict that he'd do well when rolled out, as Paul Ryan has, but Cuomo has only a tiny fraction of Hillary's current name recognition and approval nationally. Cuomo also has many future presidential election cycles in which he might plausibly compete; he's surely ambitious, but the calendar isn't his enemy like it is Hillary's. If (and I don't assume that at all) Cuomo thinks Obama is going to lose this year regardless of whether Biden's replaced, Cuomo might well think it in his best long-term interests to pass on a chance to be the Veep nominee this year. But that's a luxury I don't think Hillary has, as I've previously explained — no more than LBJ could resist JFK's offer in 1960.
UPDATE (Thu Aug 16 @ 10:08am): Meanwhile, it turns out that my whimsical title on yesterday's post has been proved prophetic: Even as I write this update, Obama, Biden, and Clinton are huddled together in the Oval Office. Doubtless the POTUS and SecState are merely drawing upon the VPOTUS' vast foreign policy experience — in which case we should expect an announcement this afternoon that Iraq is being partitioned into three parts.
Or maybe they're having a conversation that includes the phrases "take one for the team" and "good sport."
Is anyone monitoring the lockdown status of Wikipedia's entries on Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton?
Whatever other consequences might flow from Obama picking a different Veep nominee to run with him in 2012, and whatever someone like Hillary might bring to the ticket that Biden cannot, the one thing that Obama can be reasonably certain of is this: Dropping Joe Biden won't cost Obama a single electoral vote. Biden has no constituency; so long as Biden exits with reasonable grace, even the voters of Delaware — probably including Biden's close friends and family — will still vote for Obama-Whoever in at least the same numbers as they would if Biden remained on the ticket.
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(1) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Aug 16, 2012 3:29:41 PM | Permalink
Dear Mr. Dyer: I don't doubt that Biden is having a rough time as you and I write these posts. But he's actually in a strong position. Consider: Suppose The Won asks him to step down. Joe is about to turn 70. If he quits, what's left for him? Go back to the Senate, with no seniority? (In any case, they'd have to heave Tom Carper out of his seat to get Biden back in this year.) The Won certainly won't appoint him to any Executive branch office in the manner of Ike suggesting to Nixon in 56 that Nixon take on the Defense Department. So what's left for him? Lobbying for loot? I can't see anyone willing to give Joe a big payday, even for quitting. So all Biden has to do is take the tongue lashing, and then say, Mr. Prez, I accept all you say, and I'll do better, just as you've done better in not saying that there's 57 states or wondering if they speak Austrian in Austria. Now let's get out there and fight!
What's The Won gonna do? He can, it is true, simply say, No Joe, you aren't gonna be on the ticket this time, and make it stick. But if he does, what incentive does Joe have to behave? As I've pointed out, Joe has nothing to look forward to that compares to being Veep (with its permanent membership in "The Prez Has Had An Accident Mr. Veep, Please Raise Your Right Hand and Repeat After Me" club.) If he's booted, he's permanently humiliated, with no way to come back. Why not stand and fight for what he has?Losing election as part of the ticket isn't nearly so humiliating, and he can always, justly, blame The Won for the defeat. If he's forced out, he can turn kamikaze and bring The Won down with him. Consider this as well: The Won steps out of the Oval Office with his bloody ax(elrod) and offers to Hillary. Why should she take this poisoned chalice? Having to take on her new task by standing on Joe's corpse can't be pleasant. No, best to bow out, saying we're behind you all the way, Won---farther and farther behind.
This is a gaudy show, but I stand pat on my bet for a Won-Slow ticket this fall.
Whatever other consequences might flow from Obama picking a different Veep nominee to run with him in 2012, and whatever someone like Hillary might bring to the ticket that Biden cannot, the one thing that Obama can be reasonably certain of is this: Dropping Joe Biden won't cost Obama a single electoral vote.
I disagree; I believe it would cost Barack "You didn't build that" Obama a great many popular votes, which might well translate into electoral votes. Depending who he picks, dropping Biden might also gain p-votes and e-votes; there's really no way to guess whether the two would balance or result in a large net gain or loss of e-votes (which are all that matter in the end): too many unspecified variables.
Why would dumping Biden cost p-votes? Because it would demonstrate:
- Disloyalty to his own pick for VP.
- Desperation and recklessness, dumping Biden just three weeks before the Democratic National Convention.
- That Obama is simply reacting to the stellar pick of Paul Ryan by Mitt Romney, not in command at all.
- A tacit admission that his reelection is shaky.
- If he picks Hillary, that would demonstrate an unseemly eruption of self-worship (I mean another in the long series of such chest-thumpings): the desire to be the first president with a female vice president. (Plus a stab at getting a few married women to vote for him.)
- And bad judgment, cynicism, lack of seriousness, or even foolishness in selecting Biden in the first place. "I made a dreadful mistake!"
Not every Democrat is a frenzied acolyte of the One; a great many support him solely because "he's the Democrat," or because he's black, or because he's a socialist... and many support him only because they're somewhat afraid (but not terrified to the point of gibbering) of the "radicalism" of the Right.
That last is the category most likely to react negatively to Obama dumping Joe Biden without ceremony or believable explanation, which might seem pure opportunism and the rankest form of pandering to them. By dumping Biden -- who is considered a moderate within the Democratic Party, since he voted for the Iraq war and since he didn't call for a radical transformation of America until he became the Veep -- Obama alerts these squishy supporters that he plans to go whole-hog transformer on them. And that may scare the bejesus out of them even more than the reforms of R & R.
If these soft Dems are left-leaning independents, that would make it even easier for them to become right-leaning independents, followed by becoming Republican voters in the election. But either way, going full-on rogue can't help but drive away establishmentarian supporters, who generally make up the bulk of political support in any campaign.
Dafydd: Good points all, but small ones, in my judgment, that don't come close to outweighing either (a) the detriment from keeping Biden or (b) the potential benefits to the ticket of replacing Biden with Hillary. Obama admits to nothing, ever; and those who are capable and inclined to draw inferences about him regarding his judgment or loyalty already have way more than ample examples from which to reach the same negative judgments about him. When has Obama ever been sensitive about seeming to pander? His whole presidency is based on pandering! And FDR didn't seem to suffer from any of the detriments you hypothesize. I just don't agree that a pro-Joe backlash would switch a single state; to the contrary, on any rational calculation of net benefits, adding Hillary is likely to help Obama in every state. (Women live in all of them, for one thing.)
Mr. Koster: Joe Biden is certainly aware that he's never going to hold elected office, nor any significant appointed position, ever again. All that's needed is some fig leaf, which he will gratefully grasp, and then he will cooperate fully. So Biden will make him Ambassador Plenipotentiary to NATO, or appoint him to head the next commission to find ways to save Social Security and Medicare, or whatever. Biden's alternative is that the last people who are pretending he's competent — Obama and his minions — drop that pretense, meaning Biden goes down as the biggest joke in the history of the vice presidency. (That's no small achievement, but right now he's still tied with several others.) And if he does get angry or make a fuss, again, who cares? He has no constituency, neither geographic nor otherwise. But for the fact that he's a heartbeat from the presidency, he's already a political eunuch. Unless he knows some impeachment-causing or election-losing skeleton in Obama's closet, he's no threat.
(4) Milhouse made the following comment | Aug 17, 2012 1:30:01 PM | Permalink
And FDR didn't seem to suffer from any of the detriments you hypothesize.
Do you mean when he dumped Garner for Wallace, or Wallace for Truman? Garner ran against FDR in 1940, openly opposed his policies, and was against anyone having a third term, so there was no way he was going to be asked to stay on the ticket, or that he could accept if asked. Wallace's dumping was forced on FDR, because all the D insiders knew that he was unlikely to live through the term, and the D powerbrokers refused to allow a communist president.
I don't think FDR suffered from dumping either Garner (whose description of the vice presidency still defines the office) or Wallace.
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