Category Archives: Joe Biden

Tenenbaum: Using private email account was clearly against federal rules

Another little contact report

Talking with Inez Tenenbaum this morning about her support of Joe Biden, I changed the subject to Hillary Clinton and asked, somewhat facetiously, whether Inez used two email accounts when she was in Washington as head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“No,” she said. “I was told emphatically… that all federal business had to be conducted on federal email addresses.”inez-tenenbaum

“We had lawyers that did nothing but ethics” at her agency, and they let her know “we could not use our own private email.”

And if by any chance she did use private email for public business, it would be treated as public — she was told such communications would all be subject to Freedom of Information requests.

When I asked why she thought Hillary Clinton doesn’t seem to have gotten the same message, she declined to go there.

I had called Inez because she has been named to co-chair (along with Sen. Gerald Malloy) the Draft Biden effort in South Carolina.

She had no news on that front. “I don’t know” whether he’s going to run or not. “It could go either way.”

But she’s ready to support him if he does. And in explaining why, she talks more about a personal connection than anything having to do with politics or policy. “He has been a friend of ours, and we have had a close relationship with him.”

While she cordially knows Hillary Clinton as well, she just has “a much closer relationship” with Biden. “And I just have so much respect for him” as someone who has “serve the country for 40 years.”

If you’ll recall, the last time around (in 2007) she came out early for Barack Obama, while her husband Samuel was backing Biden. Samuel is not in a position now to endorse candidates because of his job, but as an attorney in private practice, Inez has no such barriers to contend with.

I asked whether she’s gotten any pushback from the Clinton campaign. No, she said. “I got lots of calls from the Hillary people early on” seeking her support. But even though there was no serious anticipation at that point that Biden would get in, she said she felt an obligation to him to wait until he said definitively whether he was running or not.

As to whether he should, “One part of me wants him to get into it… one part of me understands” why he might decide not to go through that grinder.

I asked her to keep me in mind if she hears anything…

Yeah, but a ‘long conversation’ with Biden means nothing

Had to smile at this report on Salon, which cites the above Boston Globe video thusly:

Biden has reportedly said he will make a decision on a bid for the White House by summer’s end and when Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who recently met with Biden, was asked if their discussion included any talk of a potential Biden/Warren ticket, she only offered that “it was a long conversation.”

Well, that doesn’t tell us anything. I’ve had a few conversations with Joe Biden myself over the years, and the only one I can recall that was not “long” was a brief chat at the Galivants Ferry Stump Meeting in 2006.

Joe does go on…

OK, there’s ONE reason I might prefer Hillary to Joe Biden


Generally, I’ve been happy, even a little excited, to hear that Joe Biden might challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Part of it is the unsavory side of the presumed front-runner that her email mess reveals, day after day. Actually, not so much “reveals” as “reminds us of.” We are reminded of the control freak, the Nixonian figure who can’t see legitimate criticism as anything other than another attempt by her enemies in the “vast right-wing conspiracy” to trump up a way to do her in.

Whereas I’ve always liked Joe. He was my fave on the Democratic side in the 2008 campaign until he dropped out. It’s hard not to like Biden; he’s just so chock-full of the best kind of Joe-ness. (What is Joe-ness? Oh, it’s many things. One example: Earlier this morning I was talking to Samuel Tenenbaum, and told him to say hi to Inez and tell her I want to talk with her about Biden. That caused Samuel to tell me about Biden calling him to wish him a happy birthday a couple of weeks back. They got to talking about books they had read recently. Samuel, who loves to share books with friends, mentioned he had wanted to send a book to the veep but couldn’t get past his staff. According to Samuel, Biden said, “My staff and the Secret Service can be a pain in the ass.” That’s one type of Joe-ness.)

However it turns out, I’ll be happy to see him get into it, if he does.

But… all of that said, I read a column this morning in The State that reminds me of at least one reason I might prefer Hillary as a commander-in-chief.

It was by Doyle McManus of the L.A. Times. In part, it said:

Biden and Clinton aren’t far apart when it comes to domestic issues, but that’s decidedly not true when it comes to international affairs.

Clinton was on the hawkish side of Obama’s team. She supported a big surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan in 2009; Obama opted for a smaller surge, with a time limit. In 2011, she called for U.S. military intervention in Libya; Obama went along. In 2012, she urged him to send military aid to Syrian rebels; Obama resisted (after Clinton left office, he changed his mind).

Biden was on the opposite end of all three debates. He didn’t think adding U.S. military force in Afghanistan would solve the country’s problems. He didn’t think Libya was central enough to U.S. interests to justify airstrikes. And he was skeptical about the idea of arming Syrian rebels.

The two even disagreed over whether the president should launch the secret 2011 raid in Pakistan that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Clinton “concluded that this was a rare opportunity and believed we should seize it,” then-CIA Director Leon Panetta wrote in his memoir. “Biden argued that we still did not have enough confidence that Bin Laden was in the compound [where the CIA believed he was living], and he came out firmly in favor of waiting for more information.”

There’s a clear pattern here. Each time, Clinton argued in favor of U.S. intervention. Each time, Biden was a skeptic, warning Obama that the risks outweighed the potential gains….

This piece reminds me that one of the thing I’ve always liked about Hillary is that she is on “the hawkish side of Obama’s team.” It’s not that I’m such a hawk, as many of you believe. It’s just that I’m definitely, without question, to the hawkish side of the current POTUS. More than that, she understands America’s role in the world, that the United States is, as Madeleine Albright used to say, “the indispensable nation.”

And Joe even tried to put the brakes on the Abbottabad operation? OK, it wasn’t unreasonable to want to be more certain about Osama bin Laden being in that compound. Anyone would. Certainty is a nice thing to have. But as it turned out, Obama made the right call in going ahead, and it stands as one of the wisest decisions of his presidency.

So where do we stand here? Definitely, I prefer Joe on a personal level — he passes the “would you want to have a beer with him” test with flying colors. But there’s a lot to be said for Hillary’s approach to national and collective security — which is, you know, kinda important when picking a POTUS.

The bin Laden mission: Biden was the cautious one.

The bin Laden mission: Biden was the cautious one.

James Smith is among those waiting for Joe Biden to run

James Smith, shouting over the band in conversation with our own Lynn Teague at the second flag rally this summer.

James Smith, shouting over the band in conversation with our own Lynn Teague at the second flag rally this summer.

Bryan was dismissing the idea that a South Carolina Democrat endorsing Hillary Clinton was news, and I begged to differ — in South Carolina, there are a number of prominent Democrats waiting for Joe Biden to get into it.

After that exchange with Bryan, I picked up the phone to talk with one: Rep. James Smith.

James was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as someone urging the Veep to run just the other day, which was a change of pace, as it seems to me that the person most quoted on the subject by national media has been Dick Harpootlian. And of course, South Carolina was where Biden chose to get away from it all last week and ponder the matter. His ties to South Carolina, and not just to SC Democrats, are noteworthy.

As James told me, it’s not just about him and Dick. “We have a long list of Biden supporters… community faith leaders, business leaders and elected leaders.” And he said “We’re building an organization, on the chance” that he’ll jump into the race.

Why Biden? Smith starts with his broad experience, with issues both foreign and domestic. He said Biden is “the leader we need for these times,” someone “respected across the spectrum,” particularly in the Senate.

“The rest are just very polarizing figures, like something from a bad reality TV show.”

I could see why he’d say that about some of the GOP candidates, but Hillary Clinton, who will likely head up his party’s ticket next November? “She can be a very polarizing figure,” he insisted.

Smith said the time at Kiawah was “a very important week” for Biden, and he seemed hopeful.

But isn’t it too late for anyone to mount a serious challenge to Hillary’s inevitability? That’s what The Fix said yesterday, in a piece headlined, “It’s too late for Democrats to start rethinking Clinton’s 2016 viability.” Aren’t the important fund-raisers and others are taken now?

“I promise you that is not the case,” Rep. Smith said. He didn’t get into specifics, but implied that some fund-raisers have indicated their enthusiasm for a Biden candidacy.

So, there you have it — a South Carolina Democrat who is definitely not endorsing Hillary Clinton at this time. And he is not alone…

I knew Strom Thurmond. And Joe Biden is no Strom Thurmond (yet)

Washington is abuzz with how Joe Biden has apparently devolved from good ol’ Uncle Joe to the “Creepy Uncle.”

The latest cause of these musings — and perhaps the last straw, some are indicating — is the incident in which the veep was all over the wife of Ashton Carter while the new SecDef was being sworn in:

This has led the media, both new and old, to recall similar incidents. New York magazine has put together a slideshow. Enjoy.

The Washington Post has run a fun piece imagining an intervention in which everyone Joe knows — “Jill, Barack, Michelle, Sasha and Malia, John (Kerry), John (McCain) and several women he recognizes only from having told them, once, in passing ‘No dates ’til you’re 30!'” stage an intervention to put an end to his pawing and whispering. An excerpt:

“Do any of these women look comfortable?” Sasha asks. She produces the most recent picture.

Joe squints at the picture. “Looks pretty comfortable to me,” he says. “Jill, that’s a comfortable face, right? That face says ‘I’m comfortable around this suave man.’”

“No,” Jill says….

Then there’s the Top Ten list of what Biden may have whispered to Stephanie Carter, courtesy of David Letterman:

10. “Let me know when this gets weird.”
9. “What is that, Pert Plus?”
8. “You have the clavicle of a much younger woman.”
7. “Have you seen ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’?”
6. “Is that the necklace I gave you?”
5. “I haven’t heard a word your husband said.”
4. “You look like young Jeanne Kirkpatrick.”
3. “Ever heard of a second Second Lady?”
2. “I don’t have a time machine but I do have a hot tub.”
1. “In the words of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, ‘I’m not 100 percent sober.'”

Not everyone is taking it lightly, though. Here’s a more serious piece setting out why our gregarious vice president should “probably” cut it out.

Yet Joe is a piker, a paragon of 21st-century Proximity Correctness, compared to his old friend Strom Thurmond, whom he famously eulogized so eloquently right here in Columbia.

Just to give you an idea of the difference, let’s turn again to the pages of New York magazine, which, in a piece about Sally Quinn, quoted from a book about Strom by our own Jack Bass:

Washington writer Sally Quinn told of a 1950s reception where: “My mother and I headed for the buffet table. As we were reaching for the shrimp, both of us jumped and let out a shriek. Senator Strom Thurmond, grinning from ear to ear, had one hand on my behind and the other on my mother’s. As I recall, we were both quite flattered, and thought it terribly funny and wicked of Ol’ Strom.”…

Perhaps we should stage the actual intervention sometime before Joe reverts to that standard of groping…


ISIL’s in trouble now! They got Joe Biden riled up…

Here’s what the Veep had to say on the subject today:

“The American people are so much stronger, so much more resolved than any enemy can fully understand,” Biden said. “As a nation we are united and when people harm Americans we don’t retreat, we don’t forget. We take care of those who are grieving and when that’s finished, they should know we will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice because hell is where they will reside.”…

Meanwhile, POTUS is talking tougher. Perhaps in response to such critics as Lindsey Graham — who say if he can’t set out a strategy, at least he should be able to state a goal — he has now said that the nation’s goal is to “degrade and destroy” the jihadist army.

Tough talk — and encouraging to hear — but Joe’s “gates of hell” locution seems more likely to grab the public imagination…

Yeah, Joe, but is it a BFD? If not, forget it…

Got this fund-raising email this morning from Joe Biden (really, from the DCCC):

Brad —
This is serious:
House Republicans just passed the most radical budget we’ve ever seen. That’s not hyperbole. It’s a direct attack on President Obama’s second term agenda — and a slap in the face to the middle class.
Right now, we need your help to fight back.
The deadline in 48 hours is the most important yet. We need 24,700 donations behind the campaign to win a Democratic House and put an end to this Republican nonsense. Will you chip in $5 or more right now?

Yeah, Joe, it may be “serious,” but is it a BFD? If not, why are you bothering me?

Not that I’d ever donate anyway…

Joe Biden apparently can’t think of Hillary Clinton’s name

… because, you know, that’s the one reason most of us can think of for Joe not to run.

Anyway, watch the video, in which he tells CNN’s Kate Bolduan why “there’s no obvious reason for me why I think I should not run” for the top job in 2016.

Personally, I’d like to see Joe run, and not just because he’s fun. But, if you’ll excuse a locution even more convoluted than the Veep’s, I’m certainly not at a loss for coming up with a reason why he would decide not to.

Of COURSE she has a ‘commanding lead,’ when no one can think of another Democrat

Thought this headline on an email alert from The Washington Post kinda odd:

Hillary Clinton (has a) commanding lead over Democrats for 2016, poll finds

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropWell, yeah. Duh. I mean, since I can’t think of a single other Democrat being seriously spoken of as a 2016 candidate, one would assume she would have a “commanding lead.”

OK, yeah, Joe Biden. But we already knew she would swamp Joe Biden. I mean, I like Joe, but let’s be serious.

The Post further reports:

The race for the Republican nomination, in contrast, is wide open, with six prospective candidates registering 10 percent to 20 percent support….

What that means is that there is someone who has had a lead (if not a “commanding” one) over on the GOP side, too, but he’s in a lot of trouble.

And so, my little fantasy of having two acceptable people who were shoo-ins for their nominations, possibly avoiding the tears and flapdoodle of the sort of musical chairs game the Republicans played last time around, is to remain a fantasy. As, of course, I knew it would.

Democracy is so… messy

Glad to see the administration on board with Colombia trade

Some of y’all — those who carry grudges — will recall that one of my reasons for endorsing John McCain in 2008 was that he supported the Colombian Free Trade Agreement. This caused some Obamaphiles to freak out, it just seemed so esoteric to them.

But to me, it was important to cite. First, the large portion of my childhood spent in South America causes me to care more about that part of the world than do most people in this country. I find Yankee indifference to the rest of the hemisphere pretty appalling, frankly. One reason I got into reading British publications years ago was that they actually covered news events in Latin America. Most media in this country do not, for the simple reason that their readers and viewers aren’t interested.

I also saw this as a little-discussed microcosm of a difference in judgment and decision-making with regard to foreign policy in general, one that for me made McCain look better.

I went into why I thought it was important in this post.

Anyway, spin forward more than four years, and I’m pleased to read this piece by Joe Biden in The Wall Street Journal, headlined “The Americas Ascendant.” It begins:

Last week, during a five-day trip through Latin America and the Caribbean, I visited a cut-flower farm outside Bogota, Colombia, an hour’s drive from downtown that would have been impossibly dangerous 10 years ago. Along the way I passed office parks, movie theaters and subdivisions, interspersed with small ranches and family businesses. At the flower farm, one-quarter of the workers are female heads of households. The carnations and roses they were clipping would arrive in U.S. stores within days, duty free.

What I saw on the flower farm was just one sign of the economic blossoming in the year since a U.S. free-trade agreement with Colombia went into force. Over that period, American exports to the country are up 20%…

Yeah, and we could have been enjoying that increase in trade years earlier, had not Sens. Obama and Clinton opposed it, to the gratification of Big Labor.

But hey, welcome aboard. I’m glad the administration gets it now.

I thought it particularly interesting that the vice president focused on the cut-flower trade. So did Nicholas Kristof in an April 24, 2008, piece that had helped focus my attention on the need for the agreement. It began:

BOGOTÁ, Colombia

For seven years, Democrats have rightfully complained that President Bush has gratuitously antagonized the world, exasperating our allies and eroding America’s standing and influence.

But now the Democrats are doing the same thing on trade. In Latin America, it is Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton who are seen as the go-it-alone cowboys, by opposing the United States’  free-trade agreement with Colombia….

That piece, too, focused on the cut-flower industry in Colombia. The headline was “Better Roses Than Cocaine.” Indeed.

The vice president today writes,

There is enormous potential—economically, politically and socially—for the U.S. in its relations with countries of the Western Hemisphere. And so the Obama administration has launched the most sustained period of U.S. engagement with the Americas in a long, long time—including the president’s travel to Mexico and Costa Rica last month; my own recent trip to Colombia, Trinidad, and Brazil; Secretary of State Kerry’s participation in the Organization of American States’ annual meeting in Guatemala; the president of Chile’s visit to Washington this week and a planned visit to Washington by the president of Peru. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff arrives in Washington in October for the first state visit of the second term.

As leaders across the region work to lift their citizens out of poverty and to diversify their economies from commodity-led growth, the U.S. believes that the greatest promise—for Americans and for our neighbors—lies in deeper economic integration and openness.growth, the U.S. believes that the greatest promise—for Americans and for our neighbors—lies in deeper economic integration and openness.

I agree. And welcome aboard, Mr. Obama.

Biden says Obama will issue executive order on guns

Wow. I don’t know whether Joe Biden is being — excuse the seeming pun — a loose cannon again, or whether the president is really considering this (or both), but I pass it on:

(Reuters) – Vice President Joe Biden said on Wednesday the White House is determined to act quickly to curb gun violence and will explore all avenues – including executive orders that would not require approval by Congress – to try to prevent incidents like last month’s massacre at a Connecticut school.

Kicking off a series of meetings on gun violence, Biden said the administration would work with gun-control advocates and gun-rights supporters to build a consensus on restrictions. But he made clear thatPresident Barack Obama is prepared to act on his own if necessary.

“We are not going to get caught up in the notion that unless we can do everything, we’re going to do nothing. It’s critically important that we act,” said Biden, who will meet on Thursday with pro-gun groups including the National Rifle Association, which claims 4 million members and is the gun lobby’s most powerful organization…

“There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken. We haven’t decided what that is yet,” Biden said, adding that Obama is conferring with Attorney General Eric Holder on potential action…

It this is true, this would be a stunningly bold move by the president on an issue of great concern to the nation that our Congress has demonstrated for decades that it is unwilling or unable to address.

But, wow: The reaction he would likely engender from the really serious pro-gun people out there hardly bears thinking about. On the one hand, this shouldn’t be a shock to them, since they (and only they) have believed all along that “That Obama’s gonna come after our guns” — even though, before Newtown and his pledge to do something in response to it, the president has shown little or no interest in their guns. Which is why they went on a gun-and-ammo shopping spree after he was elected.

But that doesn’t mean their reaction won’t be visceral to any unilateral action by the president, however limited. It would be, to them, the realization of their darkest forebodings.

So is the president really willing to go down that road? Maybe. And maybe Joe doesn’t know what he’s talking about…

Wait a second. That was the Reuters story. In The Washington Post, Biden sounds a lot more definite about this:

Vice President Biden vowed Wednesday that President Obama will use executive action where he can to help stop gun violence as part of  the White House’s response to the mass shootings in Newtown, Conn.

“The president is going to act,” Biden said during brief remarks to reporters before meeting with victims of gun violence and firearm safety groups…

Meanwhile, Cardinal Dolan spanked the Democrats on their home field

My favorite moment in either convention came late last night, when one of the commentators on PBS used the word “exegesis” in describing what he’d just heard.

He was referring to Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s benediction right after President Obama’s speech. I had not heard it, whether because PBS didn’t show it or I was out of the room, I can’t recall. But C-SPAN had it, as you see above.

The commenter — I think it was Ray Suarez — was saying that the Cardinal had delivered “a riff” on something. Then he corrected himself, saying perhaps the word “exegesis” was more appropriate. His colleagues were impressed.

I very much appreciate that the Democrats gave the cardinal this forum, only about an hour after ostensible Catholic Joe Biden had roared out his approval of the party’s embrace of abortion. The cardinal said, among other things:

Thus do we praise you for the gift of life. Grant us to defend it. Life, without which no other rights are secure. We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected…

At the end of his prayer, the assembled Democrats responded with a strong “amen,” which was a settler for all those Republicans who think they’re just a bunch of heathens. To what extent all had been listening carefully, I don’t know. But the fact is that as with most public prayers, most of the words were ones they would most likely have agreed with.

The coverage came later, after the assembled media caught their breath.

The cardinal was the one person who spoke at both conventions, by the way.

Oh, what did I mean by my headline above? Well, this morning I saw a Tweet from the Charleston paper that said, “Bishop England beats Porter-Gaud. Story: .” So I couldn’t resist responding, “… And Cardinal Dolan thrashes the Democrats. Big night for the Catholics…”

Mackerel-snappers had a big one the night before, too. Among the non-headliners, I thought the speech by Sister Simone of “Nuns on the Bus” probably the most uplifting, least off-putting of the two weeks. Her delivery was beatific, but pulled no punches: After taking apart the budget of another dubious Catholic, Paul Ryan, she said to fervent cheers, “This is part of my pro-life stance, and the right thing to do.”

Both of them expressed what I believe. Which is a big reason why I’m so uncomfortable with both parties.

Obama provides strong finish to successful convention

OK, the quick, overall assessment: However this election turns out, in the short term the Democrats will likely get the bigger convention bounce. They earned it these last two nights.

Yes, there was just as much irritating nonsense at this convention as at the one last week — I turned down the sound and picked up a book to spare myself the aggravation just as many times. But the headliners were stronger. They showed greater conviction, presented more compelling ideas (and, alas, emotions), and I believe did a better job of engaging not only the true believers in the room, but the more important audience at home.

Doubt me? Honestly, now, whatever your political persuasion — do you really think Mitt Romney truly believes all the things he said as much as Barack Obama does, whether you agree with the president or not? And sincerity sells; it connects.

Of course, it didn’t hurt the president a bit that veteran Bill Clinton left him a five-run lead going into the last inning. He just had to hold on to it, and he actually did better than that.

But I’m just repeating what I already said on Twitter. So here are my Tweets as they came to me, starting at 9:02 p.m.:

  • David Brooks just made the good point that if you talk to both sides’ advisors, there’s not that much polarization over national security…
  • Biden says Romney & Obama bring vastly different values to the contest. I wish they didn’t. This nation so badly needs sensible consensus.
  • Tim Kelly ‏@tdkelly Drinking a Red Hoptober by @newbelgium —
  • One ping. One ping only, Vasily…
  • The Daily Beast ‏@thedailybeast Biden: Conviction, Resolve, Barack Obama. That’s what saved the automobile industry.
  • “The finest soldiers in the history of the world.” Hooah, Joe, Hooah.
  • This may be the first time in my life that talk of whacking a guy was applause line at a national convention. Not criticizing, just noting.
  • Benjy Sarlin ‏@BenjySarlin Clinton was about policy. Biden speech entirely about character, through policy lens. Different but very effective approaches.
  • Yeah, but only under a yellow sun… “@scott_english: Biden on Obama: “A spine of steel.” And adamantium claws? #wolverine
  • Coo-coo-ca-choo… “@TheFix: Biden’s call outs of people in the audience — “Mrs. Robinson” — is hilarious. #dnc2012
  • Even tho admiral advised against. “@alexcast: Per joe biden, Barack Obama is a man of courage. must be. He gave Biden a live mic.#cnn2012
  • God love him… “@JKuenzie: Biden says “look” at least as often as “literally.” #DNC2012
  • Sometimes I get tired of hearing about all the people who lost their jobs in the Great Recession. And I’m one of them…
  • I was gonna say “what are VMAs?” but I looked it up. Oh. “@BlondeScientist: Why in the hell are the VMAs on tonight?!?!”
  • Forrest L. Alton ‏@YoungGunCEO come on Brad, you know you’re a VMA kinda’ guy.
  • I’m not an ANY kind of pop culture awards guy. And I quit watching MTV when they quit showing videos 24/7.
  • I love movies, but hate the Oscars…
  • Commenter on PBS said it looks like Biden WILL stay on the ticket now. Funny thing was, she didn’t sound entirely, 100% certain…
  • I kid about Joe Biden, but I’ve always really liked the guy. And tonight, his performance was full of Joeness…
  • Was that George Clooney just then? The voice?
  • Dan Cook ‏@DanCookSC yes
  • So was that what we got tonight instead of Eastwood?
  • Let the man talk! [during prolonged applause when Obama came out]
  • That critique was dead-on. A philosophy that responds to every situation with a tax cut is surreal, and moronic.. .
  • “Our problems can be solved.” The candidate who more confidently asserts that is the one who wins. Or should win, anyway…
  • Cars going twice as far on a gallon of gas is at least less grandiose than lowering the oceans. Magical, but more achievable-sounding.
  • This is not, and probably won’t be, as exciting as Clinton’s speech. But then, I don’t think it really has to be. POTUS should be cooler…
  • “… and Osama bin Laden is dead.” Matter-of-fact, not cheerleading. As befits the office. More Michael than Santino
  • “My opponent and his running mate are.. . new… to foreign policy.” Excellent timing.
  • As one who sees POTUS in terms of international relations, I didn’t like that “nation-building at home” bit of pandering.
  • Nothing against nation-building at home, but don’t suggest we’ll do it by turning our backs on the world…
  • “This is what this election comes down to”… Have a feeling we’ll hear that as voiceover on an ad…
  • “Citizenship.” That’s the most welcome word I’ve heard these two weeks.
  • Roll Call ‏@rollcall Obama: We don’t think government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems.
  • “Responsibilities as well as rights.” Wow. Pure communitarianism in a presidential acceptance speech! Who wrote this, Amitai Etzioni?
  • This isn’t Bill Clinton, but it’s solid, even masterful. More to the point, it’s more powerful, easily, than Romney’s speech.
  • There was much irritating nonsense in this convention, just as in GOP’s. But the Democrats’ headliners have been stronger, more engaging…
  • I don’t know how this ends up, but the Democrats seem sure to get the bigger convention bounce. The headliners were more inspiring, engaging
  • … of course, it helped that Bill Clinton left the closer a five-run lead going into the last inning…
  • One big difference between Obama and Romney, for good or ill, is that you know Obama really believes the things he’s telling us…
  • Yeah. Sorta glad I didn’t end up going up there tonight… “@JKuenzie: And now, the traffic. #DNC2012

You know Joe Biden’s gone off the rails when even Sarah Palin can see it

Enjoyed this blog post by Alexandra Petri over at the WashPost:

On Fox News, commenting on Joe Biden’s Danville “Put Y’all Back in Chains” gaffe, Sarah Palin observed: “If that’s not the nail in the coffin, really, the strategists there in the Obama campaign have got to look at a diplomatic way of replacing Joe Biden on the ticket with Hillary.”

It is seldom that you get such good quotes from the pot about the color of the kettle.

Then again, you know you’ve made a gaffe when Sarah Palin is suggesting you might have chosen your words more judiciously. That’s like Charlie Sheen suggesting you might have a substance problem.

But perhaps we should cut her some slack. Vice presidential candidates whose comments prompt everyone in the vicinity to wince uncontrollably for several minutes is a subject no one knows better than Palin. Maybe she and Biden were better matched than we thought.

After the selection of Paul Ryan to fill the VP slot on the ticket (prompting such exciting merchandise as this button!), it is hard not to think back to August 2008, when everyone was cheering Palin as a game-changer. And she was a game-changer, in the sense that Godzilla is a city-changer. Say what you will about Paul Ryan and the potential risks of having to engage in a Serious Mature Debate of his policies, everyone admits one thing about him: He’s no Sarah Palin. If anyone sets off the trademark “Mayday! Mayday! The Veep’s Saying Something” alarm this year, it’s Biden.

And yep, she oughta know. Onion Joe!

$41 million for SC, and everybody’s in on it

You get used to press releases from congressional offices in which Rep. This or Sen. That announces that his district or state is going to get X amount of federal largesse. Even when the member had nothing to do with it, by announcing it, he gets credit. It's routine.

But this one was so big that the president and the veep had to get in on it, which is something new for me:

President Obama, Vice President Biden, U.S. Transportation

Secretary LaHood, Announce Availability of Nearly $41.2 million in Public Transportation Investments for South Carolina

More than $8 Billion Made Available
Across the Country for Mass Transit

President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced the availability of $41,154,218 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for South Carolina in public transportation funding.  The funding was part of $8.4 billion made available to repair and build America’s public transportation infrastructure.
    “All over the country, resources are being put to work not only creating jobs now – but also investing in the future. A future that strengthens our transit system, makes us more energy efficient and increases safety,” said Vice President Joe Biden.  “With this recovery package, we will be creating jobs, saving jobs, and putting money in people’s pockets. And with these resources, we’ll not only be rebuilding roads and bridges and schools, we’ll be rebuilding America.”
    “Investments in public transportation put people to work, but they also get people to work in a way that moves us towards our long term goals of energy security and a better quality of life,” said Secretary LaHood.  “That is why transit funding was included in the ARRA and why we think it is a key part of America’s transportation future.”
    The U.S. Department of Transportation has already committed $540 million in federally financed loans, about one-third of the total cost, for the intermodal center, which is proceeding on time and on budget.
    The U.S. Department of Transportation will monitor state compliance and track job creation. The projects will be web-posted for the public to see with information on projects accessible at


Joe Biden, prophet

Charles Krauhammer made the point most clearly, in his column for today:

The Biden prophecy has come to pass. Our wacky veep, momentarily inspired, had predicted last October that “it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama.'' Biden probably had in mind an eve-of-the-apocalypse drama like the Cuban Missile Crisis. Instead, Obama's challenges have come in smaller bites. Some are deliberate threats to U.S. interests, others mere probes to ascertain whether the new president has any spine.
   Preliminary X-rays are not very encouraging.
   Consider the long list of brazen Russian provocations:
   (a) Pressuring Kyrgyzstan to shut down the U.S. air base in Manas, an absolutely cru-cial NATO conduit into Afghanistan.
   (b) Announcing the formation of a “rapid reaction force'' with six former Soviet re-publics, a regional Russian-led strike force meant to reassert Russian hegemony in the Muslim belt north of Afghanistan.
   (c) Planning to establish a Black Sea naval base in Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia, conquered by Moscow last summer.
   (d) Declaring Russia's intention to deploy offensive Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad if Poland and the Czech Republic go ahead with plans to station an American (anti-Iranian) missile defense system.

But you know what? I didn't use the Krauthammer piece on today's page. After all, you sort of expect Charles Krauthammer to say stuff like that. Folks like bud are more likely to be persuaded by Joel Brinkley, who is the kind of guy who writes stuff like this:

    Even with all the anti-American sentiment everywhere these days, most people worldwide know America to be a decent, honest state. For all the justified criticism over the invasion of Iraq, the United States is now beginning to pull its troops out. For all the international anger and hatred of George Bush, the American people elected a man who is his antithesis.

Set aside the silliness of saying Obama is Bush's "antithesis" — I point you to all the evidence of "continuity we can believe in," such as here and here — and consider my point, which is that Joel Brinkley is decidedly not Charles Krauthammer. Anyway, here's some of what Mr. Brinkley said, in the column that appears on today's page, about how Obama is being tested, although he managed to say it without being snarky about Joe Biden:

    America’s competitors and adversaries are certainly not greeting President Obama with open arms. During his first month in office, many have given him the stiff arm.
    Pakistan made a deal with the Taliban to give it a huge swath of territory in the middle of the country for a new safe haven.
    North Korea is threatening war with the South.
    Many in the Arab world who had welcomed Obama are now attacking him because he did not denounce Israel’s invasion of Gaza.
    Iran launched a satellite into space, demonstrating that it has the ability to construct an inter-continental ballistic missile to match up with the nuclear weapons it is apparently trying to build.
    There’s more, but none of it can match the sheer gall behind Russia’s open challenge to Washington.

Just to give you yet another perspective that I did NOT use on today's page, here's what Philly's Trudy Rubin had to say about that deal that Pakistan cut with the Taliban:

       The deal was cut with an older insurgent leader, Sufi Mohammed. Supposedly, he will persuade tougher Taliban, such as his estranged son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah, to lay down arms. Pakistani defense analyst Ikram Sehgal told me by phone from Karachi, "They are trying to isolate the hard-core terrorists from the moderate militants. I think it is a time of trial, to see if this works."
       Critics say the deal is a desperation move, made by a weak civilian government and an army that doesn't know how to fight the insurgents. "The Pakistani army has been remarkably ineffective," said Dan Markey, a South Asia expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. He said the army, which is trained to fight land wars against India, lacks the counterinsurgency skills to "hit bad guys and not good guys."
       As a result, many innocent civilians are killed, leading locals to accept the Taliban as the lesser of two evils. (That may account for the warm welcome Sufi Mohammed re-ceived in Swat after the deal; poor people are desperate for the violence to stop, whatever it takes.)

So wherever you are on the political spectrum, if you follow and understand foreign affairs, you know that Obama is indeed being tested. Big-time. And it remains to be seen whether he passes the tests. I certainly hope he does.

Just glowing with happiness

Well, now, here‘s a congratulatory message I wouldn’t have anticipated:

“The nuclear energy industry congratulates Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden
on their election. One of the most important and compelling challenges facing
their administration is to put in place a national energy policy to achieve
energy security and to protect the U.S. economy and the

“If the United States is going to meet the
predicted 25 percent growth in electricity demand by the year 2030, as well as
achieve its environmental goals, we must begin that work now. And we must
recognize as a nation that we cannot reach our energy goals without the
reliable, affordable and carbon-free electricity that nuclear power plants
generate to power our homes, businesses, telecommunications, military and
transportation infrastructure. Senator Obama recognized this linkage early in
his campaign by noting, ‘It is unlikely we can meet our aggressive climate goals
if we eliminate nuclear power as an option.’

“The development of U.S. energy policy must
transcend partisan politics. There must be a bipartisan effort to develop a
diverse portfolio of energy resources, including nuclear energy, which is the
only large-scale source of carbon-free electricity that can be expanded to meet
our nation’s electricity needs. Building new nuclear power plants will expand
U.S. industry and manufacturing, creating thousands of green jobs and enabling
America over the long term to electrify its transportation sector. Affordable
around-the-clock electricity also helps to strengthen the U.S economy and
protect America’s neediest citizens.

“The executive and legislative branches have
shown considerable support across the political spectrum to work with the
nuclear industry in a public/private partnership to enable the construction of
new-generation nuclear plants and to move ahead with
scientifically sound solutions for used
nuclear fuel storage and disposal. We will work with the new administration to
pursue an integrated used fuel management strategy that includes interim storage
of used nuclear fuel, research and development into advanced technologies for
recycling used fuel without contributing to proliferation concerns, and
development of an appropriate geologic repository for permanent disposal of the
used-fuel content that can’t be recycled.

“It is crucial for the new administration to
continue with these and other efforts to shape a comprehensive energy policy
that recognizes the value of nuclear energy and other low-emission electricity
sources. We look forward to working with the Obama-Biden administration and
Congress to assure that nuclear energy continues to be recognized as a key tool
to deepen economic prosperity and achieve enduring environmental


The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy
industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear
energy are available at

Mind you — my jocular headline aside ("Doh!") — I’m a big fan of getting as many nuclear power plants up and running as we can, as fast as we can. But last time I checked, I don’t think Obama shared my eagerness. Or did I miss that?

The latest Fey-as-Palin SNL skit

orry to be late posting this. I had a busy weekend, and actually didn’t go back to watch this until this morning. Saturday the wife and I and several of our descendants participated in the Walk for Life, Saturday night I was at a belated 70th birthday party for my former boss Tom McLean out in Blythewood, and Sunday we celebrated both my 55th birthday, and my younger son’s 28th. Busy, busy. How was your weekend?

Anyway, as for the Biden-Palin skit from Saturday night — very funny, very much above the show’s standard for the last couple of decades, but ya know, nothing is going to hit me with the freshness of that first Palin-Hillary skit. After that, they’ve so far just been good sequels. The true genius was in the first one.

But just so you’ll appreciate the latest such sequel, the below clip from Saturday night’s show is more typical of what we get these days. Don’t bother watching past the first few seconds. It doesn’t get any better…

Breathless over Sarah (column version)

Poor Joe Biden. He likes attention, and he deserves it. He’s smart, experienced, engaging, witty, and has a smile that, could its brightness be tapped, would give the nation a nice start toward energy independence.
    But he can’t get any. Attention, I mean. He certainly couldn’t when he sought the presidential nomination. And then, even after he got picked for the team, when his big moment came — it was all about Sarah.
    I think I can speak for much of America here when I say Sarah Palin had me breathless Thursday night. I don’t mean “breathless” the way Kathleen Parker meant it when she described the way she felt watching the veep candidate in her earlier interviews, pulling for her “like so many” women (this was before she decided Mrs. Palin was a “problem” and should drop out).
    Nor was I breathless in the sense that David Brooks meant it in The New York Times Friday, when he wrote of “Republicans around the country crouched nervously behind their sofas,” afraid for their gal. First, I’m not a Republican (or a Democrat). Second, as much as I admire and respect John McCain, and have for years, I was not enchanted by his choice. It was like, If I can’t have Joe Lieberman, I don’t care WHO it is; if this is what the base wants, they can have her. Which is not a good way to pick a potential future president.
    Nor was it that she’s a “babe,” as I have learned not to say on my blog. She’s pretty, but not to the point of constricting one’s breath.
    No, I realized Thursday night that I was getting light-headed whenever she spoke for the same reason that some movies and TV shows are painful to watch. You know how you can tell when something’s about to happen that will be enormously embarrassing to the character on the screen, and even if you don’t like the character (although it’s worse if they’re likable, and Gov. Palin is that), you cringe, because you don’t want to see it. You get embarrassed for the human race; you empathize no matter how much you try not to.
    Think of the boss character on “The Office,” in almost any scene.
    Often at such moments, I leave the room. Life is painful enough without having your nose rubbed in contrived discomfort. But I had to keep watching the debate, on account of it being my job.
    Fortunately, it went fine for all concerned. Sarah did fine. There were moments, of course, such as her repeated demonstrations that she learned to pronounce “nuclear” by listening to the current president (he oughta know, right?). And if she had said “maverick” just one more time
    (I had reached my saturation point on that word during the convention. At least there it had the appeal of being extremely ironic, since the hall was full of people who hated him for being a… you know. Yes, he is one of those, and I like that about him; just don’t say it again. Try “nonconformist,” or even “iconoclast.” Sure, it doesn’t sound as macho, and maybe lots of folks don’t know what it means, and those who do may not like its anti-religious roots. But gosh darn it, if Sarah Palin started saying “iconoclast,” hockey moms all over the lower 48 would start sayin’ it, and first thing ya know it would be as American as snowmobiles.)
    But she did fine. And Joe did fine. And in the end I was fine, because I was breathing again.
    You may say, “of course Joe did fine,” but things could have gone very badly for him. He likes to show how smart he is, and up against an opponent that much of America is worried for, regardless of how they’ll vote (a friend who had described Gov. Palin’s convention speech to me as “venomous” confided Friday morning that he, too, had been breathless,) he was crossing a minefield.
    At this point, you may justly wonder, “Was there substance in this debate, or is it just about how it made you feel?” Suitably chastened, I would admit that there probably was. There was all that talk about Iraq, for instance. And come to think of it, by my lights, Sarah Palin had the right of it, and Joe Biden was wrong. But then, she was just channeling what John McCain has always said — that we can’t afford to lose there. Come to think of it, Sen. Biden was reflecting what Barack Obama, and the folks who swept him to the nomination, believe about Iraq. Joe Biden knows better. Or at least, he used to.
    And I don’t know which was more unsettling — the idea of Sarah Palin suddenly becoming president (as she said, “heaven forbid”), or Joe Biden’s intimation that we didn’t need to worry, he’d be there in the Oval Office at all times keeping an eye on that fine young fellow he’s running with (although he quickly added, “He’s president, not me…”).
    Not that a Palin presidency wouldn’t be interesting. Imagine the State of the Union delivered in the voice of Frances McDormand in “Fargo,” but speaking lines from an Andy Hardy movie: “We’ll reduce the deficit by puttin’ on a show in the barn! You betcha!”
    Forgive me. I get carried away. But I find that we’re in a strange and unexpected place. I had expected to be pretty pumped right about now, because the two guys I wanted to win their respective nominations did so, and I don’t remember that having happened before. But I wasn’t exactly blown away by the first presidential debate; it seemed overshadowed by the Wall Street implosion, which wasn’t the kind of dominant theme I had expected. Nor, apparently, had the nominees.
    So we turned to the vice presidential debate, which actually turned out to be more interesting and engaging, to the credit of Mr. Biden and Mrs. Palin.
    Still, I don’t think it helped anyone make up their minds — even if it did, for a brief time, have some of us breathless.

Go to

What did you think of the debate?

My own quick take on it — WAY more interesting than the presidential debate. Higher energy, and more engaging.

Both did well. Of course, that means more in the case of Sarah Palin, because we knew Joe knew his stuff. Joe’s greatest danger was coming off as superior or condescending or ungentlemanly. Sarah’s greatest danger was coming off as she did with Katie Couric. She didn’t, and he didn’t. They both did a fine job.

But what do YOU think?