Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biden, Obama and a Democratic Rising

When I first heard that Barack Obama chose Joe Biden as his running mate, I thought: Nice way to bring some expertise in foreign policy to the ticket, even if he does have a reputation for gaffes. But I just watched Obama and Biden speak in Springfield, Illinois today on C-SPAN. And I saw a running mate who can hit all the themes of work, family, and economic inequality that the Democrats need to hammer to win the election. After an August that was rough on Obama's candidacy, I'm suddenly a lot more optimistic.

Up until now, I knew Biden as a senator who was a sound voice on foreign policy with an unfortunate tendency to make stupid remarks. Today, though he sounded like a Democratic warrior. He ripped into the Bush's economic and international policies and relentlessly argued that a McCain presidency will mean more of the same. He hit all the themes of work, family and the American Dream that resonate with working and middle class Americans.

Biden may represent Delaware in the Senate, but today he played up his Pennsylvania roots and his modest origins. At the same time, he reminded listeners that he is a Senator with decades of experience under his belt--especially in international relations.

As my wife, Clara Hemphill, observed, Biden could bring to the ticket all of the strengths of Hillary Clinton with none of her liabilities. If that turns out to be the case, and if Biden spares us too many of his verbal missteps, the Democratic ticket will be strong.

In Springfield today, Obama and Biden presented themselves as the ticket that can lead the Democrats and American to a better future. That's a winning formula in American politics.

I couldn't help noting that they were playing Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising," a song about 9/11 with themes of strength, sacrifice and resurrection, before Obama got up to speak. The themes addressed in "The Rising" have been twisted an abused by the Bush Administration to gild its disastrous policies at home and abroad. Yet the best of Springsteen's songs, and the best of the Democratic Party, summon Americans to live up to the demands of their highest ideals.

The Obama campaign, with its intelligence, idealism, and sense of history, has long needed some muscle and a growl to fully make its case. Today, it introduced a Joe Biden who could bring all of that and more to the ticket. If it works out, "come up for the rising."

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