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Vice president’s job important, matters



Published: Fri, August 22, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Karen Heller

Time to discard the John Nance Garner jokes comparing the vice presidency to “a warm bucket of spit” and calling taking the position “the worst damn fool mistake I ever made.” The job matters.

Those who argue otherwise don’t know squat. By now, sadly, the rest of us do.

Dick Cheney transformed the vice presidency into a fiefdom with uncharted powers. His selection revealed that, if little else, George W. Bush recognized his own weaknesses and the need for a strong man for backup. Alas, what we got was a beast of an ideologue with a shattered moral compass.

America once courted greatness in its leaders, picking generals, constitutional framers and statesmen, who towered above the masses.

Now, the country wants to date. Many Americans opt for the candidate they “most want to have a beer with.” That’s still a polling question.

In that case, the selection of the vice-presidential candidate is the chance to see who the guy we want to date wants to date.

And I want Barack Obama to date Sen. Joe Biden.

The reasons? Plenty. Biden will put mighty Delaware on the map. Why should boisterous Rhode Island hog all the attention? Beautiful Delaware greets visitors with a sign proclaiming “tax-free shopping,” but the First State also gave America Tyvek. It’s rich in crabs, chemicals, registered incorporations and poultry. Sussex County alone has 230 times more chickens than the entire state has residents.

Biden resides in Wilmington. He was born in Scranton, Pa. He’s ours.

If all politics is local, it’s high time national politics came here.

Biden has plenty of foreign policy expertise, which Obama lacks and none of the other frequently mentioned contenders have.

Experience

He brings experience to the ticket, having served in the U.S. Senate since 1973, the time of the last oil crisis and the year Obama was in sixth grade.

Biden’s been a senator 14 years longer than McCain, yet is six years his junior, thereby trumping the presumptive Republican nominee with gravitas while being able to call him Pops.

Biden is so given to straight talk, he makes John McCain look like a great equivocator. He’s tan, rested and, thanks to exquisite teeth and some excellent hair plugs, camera-ready.

He’s funny and fearless. During the Democratic debate in Philadelphia, Biden delivered the finest dart of the primary season, declaring that Rudy Giuliani’s entire campaign message consists of “a noun, a verb and 9/11.” There should be awards for such quips.

Biden’s a reporter’s dream, the microphone’s best friend. He gives superb quotes while being prone to sticking wingtip in mouth.

Biden has said Delaware was a “slave state that fought beside the North. That’s only because we couldn’t figure out how to get to the South. There were a couple of states in the way.”

He has said: “You cannot go into a 7-11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts without an Indian accent.”

He has said of Obama: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.” Which must have won him big love from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

When Gentleman’s Quarterly profiled the senator two years ago, the headline read “Joe Biden Can’t Shut Up.”

This may seem entirely selfish on my part, but you benefit, too. Biden could keep Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, columnists and cartoonists happy for years to come while Obama, based on his error-defying learning curve ... not so much.

If McCain is listening, please select former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge — more national politics going local — and we’ll throw in some extra duct tape.

X Karen Heller is a columnist for Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


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