Joe Biden Is a Stronger Candidate Than You Might Think

Former American vice president Joe Biden campaigns in Iowa City, Iowa, May 1
Former American vice president Joe Biden campaigns in Iowa City, Iowa, May 1 (Biden for President)

Joe Biden might look out of sync with today’s Democratic Party. 76 years old, Biden is a Third Way-style liberal who used to be “tough on crime”, voted for the Iraq War and now faces his own #MeToo accusations.

Yet he is the frontrunner for the party’s presidential nomination.

RealClearPolitics has Biden’s support at 39 percent, 23 points ahead of the runner-up, Bernie Sanders.

We’re still almost a year away from the first primaries. Polls are usually not predictive at this point in the contest and say more about name recognition. But Biden is also ahead in the endorsement primary, as measured by FiveThirtyEight. The former vice president has already convinced eighty prominent Democrats to support him against 55 for California senator Kamala Harris. (Who I think is actually the second strongest candidate at this point. Read Frank Bruni’s column about her in The New York Times.)

What explains Biden’s popularity? Read more

Do Good Men Have What It Takes to Be President?

American vice president Joe Biden appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, September 10
American vice president Joe Biden appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, September 10 (CBS/John Paul Filo)

A great politician isn’t necessarily a presidential one. This week, Americans saw one of their greatest politicians frankly sharing his doubts about running for the highest office and another drop out of the race.

In an emotional interview with The Late Show‘s Stephen Colbert on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden reminisced about speaking to military families shortly after losing his son, Beau, to brain cancer in May when a soldier stood up and announced himself as having served with the younger Biden in Iraq.

“I lost it,” Biden said. “You can’t do that.”

“I don’t think any man or woman should run for president,” he continued, “unless they can look at folks out there and say, ‘I promise you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy and my passion.’ I’d be lying if I said that I knew I was there.”

It’s no wonder Biden is one of America’s most beloved politicians. It seems no one can speak frankly like him — if sometimes to the embarrassment of himself and others — and survive in national politics.

The Democrat spoke about that as well, wondering, “why in God’s name would you want the job if you couldn’t say what you believed?”

But a leader shouldn’t always say what’s on his mind. It’s not just that the media and voters can be unforgiving when a politician slips — although Biden seems uniquely immune to scandal. If that politician is the president or a cabinet member, a gaffe can have real-world repercussions.

John Dickerson writes at Slate that when politicians show authenticity — anger, fear, uncertainty, weakness — it often turns into a liability. The vice president, by contrast, offers the power of his personal example: “people can actually use what they see in another person to sustain them in their own lives.”

As much as his candor, his charity and his empathy make Biden an inspiring figure and sadly a rarity in politics, his aren’t necessarily the qualities of a president, however.

Biden knows that. It’s why he’s not running for president a third time.

On the Republican side, former Texas governor Rick Perry also found out that charity and empathy are not all it takes.

Matt Mackowiak relays a powerful anecdote from the last time Perry sought his party’s presidential nomination four years ago at Townhall. During one of the primary debates, candidates were seated around a table and furiously making notes while others were talking to remind themselves of a point they wanted to make.

One candidate, former US senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, noticed that Perry wasn’t writing very much. Through the course of the debate, Santorum told the story of the tremendous health challenges that his daughter Bella, who suffers from a rare disease, had faced through her life. It was a touching story. As the debate ended, the candidates stood up and shook hands. Santorum walked over to Perry and glanced down at his paper and saw just three words: Pray for Bella.

I don’t know how you can read that and not choke up.

When he announced he was suspending his presidential campaign on Friday, Perry said he shared the news with no regrets. As “I approach the next chapter in life,” he said, “I do so with the love of my life by my side, Anita Perry.”

We have our house in the country, we have two beautiful children and two adorable grandchildren, four dogs and the best sunset from our front porch that you could ever imagine. Life is good. And I am a blessed man.

Biden and Perry have both been enormously successful in politics. Although the former joked with Colbert about the respect the vice presidency deserves (very little, he suggested), Biden has been one of Barack Obama’s most important advisors and played a key role in the administration’s relations with a Republican Congress. Before he became vice president, Biden had a long and distinguished career as a senator. Perry has been Texas’ longest-serving governor and seen to it that his state is one of the economically most vibrant in America. Those are proud records and both men deserve (or deserved, in Perry’s case) to be taken seriously as presidential contenders.

But some of the very qualities that make them such good men should also give voters pause about their presidential ambitions.

The American presidency is probably the toughest job on Earth. The power and responsibility that come with it are too much to ask from most people. Like a surgeon who cannot let his personal affection for a patient get in the way of the job at hand, the president of the United States must be able to make life-and-death decisions without personal feelings interfering, or at least not too much.

Scientists say that people cannot do empathy and problem-solving equally well at the same time. A good president has the capacity for both. But when push comes to shove, Americans will often demand a man or a woman who’s better at the latter than the former, as they should.

It’s why former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, for all her perceived lack of authenticity, is still by far the favorite to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination next year and why real-estate mogul Donald Trump, despite his high poll ratings, is extremely unlikely to win the Republican nomination.

Americans like their politicians affable and folksy. But few would mistake those qualities for competence.

Biden: India, United States Want to Quadruple Bilateral Trade

American vice president Joe Biden gives a speech on board the USS Freedom in Singapore, July 27
American vice president Joe Biden gives a speech on board the USS Freedom in Singapore, July 27 (USN/Karolina A. Oseguera)

Vice President Joe Biden, the first to visit India in three decades, spoke of the two countries’ mutual desire to quadruple bilateral trade at a speech given in Delhi last week.

“Our bilateral trade has increased fivefold to $100 billion over the past thirteen years. We see tremendous opportunities (in India) and there is no reason that if our two countries make the right choices, trade cannot grow fivefold or more,” Biden said.

However, he acknowledged a lot needed to be done to remove trade barriers and that India needed to address its “inconsistent” tax system and barriers to market access.

Biden also stated that India has the full support of the United States for securing a seat on the United Nations Security Council and that Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh has been invited to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama at the end of September to discuss this particular topic, on top of other trade related issues.

In terms of immigration and education, Biden announced that the United States Congress is considering increasing the number of temporary visas available to skilled Indian nationals to come to the United States to live, study and work.

Biden later spoke at the Bombay Stock Exchange where he again stressed the need for Indian and American businessmen to work more closely together. Focusing on the need for greater ease in doing business with India, he called for further economic reforms, highlighting the frustrations many American businesses have had as they seek to tap into India’s potentially huge consumer market.

“India is no longer an economic island and will continue to rise as an economic power,” Biden said as he extolled the economic growth of the country. “However, significant challenges and problems persist. It is time we take this relationship to a new level to achieve our shared vision.”

“Imagine what our two countries can achieve together, not only for one another but for the economic and political stability of the region,” Biden added, while stressing the shared common values between the United States and India — democracy, human rights and an independent judiciary.

In the course of Biden’s two day visit, he was expected to meet with leading Indian industrialists and business people and to attend an event at the Indian Institute of Technology before flying on to Singapore.

The United States and India have a double tax treaty in place and although it dates back to 1991, it is still a useful tool to examine for tax benefits that American companies may enjoy when considering business in India.

“I have raised the issue of updating the Indo-American DTA with the American commercial attaché in Delhi and we understand that this is something that is being considered. American trade and investment in India is significantly increasing and we have already seen the likes of Ford commit to manufacturing vehicles in India for both the domestic market and export,” comments Chris Devonshire-Ellis, managing partner for Dezan Shira & Associates in India. “India remains a huge potential target for American investors both looking for market access and for export manufacturing. We welcome Vice President Biden’s comments and look forward to the development of American trade and investment with India.”

This story first appeared at India Briefing, July 25, 2013.

Biden Reiterates Uncompromising Iran Policy

President Barack Obama reviews the troops before an inaugural parade through Washington DC, January 21
American president Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden review the troops before an inaugural parade through Washington DC, January 21 (White House/Rick McKay)

One year ago, President Barack Obama received a standing ovation from the pro-Israel lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) when he sternly committed to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Containment of Iran, the president said, is not an option, adding that on his watch, Tehran would never be allowed to construct a nuclear device without dealing with the threat of military force first.

Twelve months later, Vice President Joe Biden laid out the same policy to an AIPAC conference. As if to underscore just how serious the United States consider a nuclear armed Iran, Biden framed his remarks in a blunt but strong tone: American policy is, and will continue to be, “to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Period. Period. End of discussion.” Read more

After Obama Win, Democrats Look for Successor

Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama speak with officials in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, September 11, 2012
Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama speak with officials in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, September 11, 2012 (White House/Pete Souza)

Even if Barack Obama was reelected mere days ago, his Democratic Party has already to look for presidential candidates to run in 2016.

One of the reasons for Republicans’ poor showing in the 2008 election was that George W. Bush didn’t have a successor. His vice president, Dick Cheney, had always ruled out a presidential run of his own. Several high-profile Republicans, including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Arizona senator John McCain and Mitt Romney, tried to secure the nomination. McCain won but failed to enthuse conservatives.

Romney, similarly, was nominated after a long primary battle this year and without fully winning the confidence of his party’s base.

Obama proved in 2008 that a long and divisive primary campaign hasn’t to stop a candidate from the winning in the general election while Al Gore’s defeat in 2000 showed that an orderly succession isn’t a guarantee for victory.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to have a presumptive nominee early, especially if the other party is locked in a fierce nominating contest as Republicans could well be again in less than four years’ time.

In a country where 40 percent of voters identifies as “moderate,” the Democratic candidate wouldn’t want to be hampered from appealing to the center while vying for left-wing primary votes. Settling on a candidate early in the process should help Democrats position themselves as the natural ruling party for the twenty-first century while chastising Republicans as old fashioned and out-of-touch as Barack Obama’s reelection campaign did successfully this year. Read more

American Middle Class Has Been Buried

A suburban home in New Jersey, August 23, 2009
A suburban home in New Jersey, August 23, 2009 (Flickr/vonSchnauzer)

Vice President Joe Biden last month now infamously said that the American middle class had been “buried” in the last four years. While Republicans were quick to frame Biden’s comment as a repudiation of President Barack Obama’s administration, the collapse of the middle class has more to do with the financial and housing crisis that started before the Democrats took office. Read more

“General Motors is Alive” But at What Cost?

Vice President Joe Biden’s case for reelecting Barack Obama in November is simple. “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.” He reiterated that message at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday.

The president, said Biden, “saved more than a million American jobs” He added, “If the president didn’t act immediately, there wouldn’t be any industry left to save.” The former statement is true, at least in the short term, but the latter is patently false.

When Barack Obama took office in January 2009, automakers Chrysler and General Motors were on the brink of bankruptcy. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney famously wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in which he argued that the two companies had to go through bankruptcy to reduce employment costs and replace management. A “managed bankruptcy,” he wrote, “would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs.”

But don’t ask Washington to give shareholders and bondholders a free pass — they bet on management and they lost.

The libertarian Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole agreed and takes issue with Biden’s claim that there “wouldn’t be an industry left” if it hadn’t been for President Obama’s intervention. If Chrysler and General Motors had gone through bankruptcy, “most of their factories would have stayed open and they would have continued making and selling cars.” Read more