A bad week for a run­ning mate

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

The rap on Joe Bi­den is that he’s bright, well-mean­ing and ami­able, and when he opens his mouth you never know what’s likely to fly out. But some­times he comes up with in­ter­est­ing ideas.

Joe thinks that Barack Obama, clearly rat­tled by the Sarah surge, should find a skirt to get be­hind as the run­ners fi­nally make the club­house turn and head down the home­stretch. Whose skirt is wider that Hil­lary Clin­ton’s? Chang­ing run­ning mates in mid-cam­paign, for no other rea­son than the first run­ning mate was a big mis­take, would in­vite dis­be­lief and bi­par­ti­san hi­lar­ity. Ge­orge McGovern kicked Tom Ea­gle­ton off the train in 1972, or un­der the bus or out of the plane — choose your on-the-road metaphor. The kindly and agree­able Mr. McGoo never re­cov­ered. He might have lost 49 states, any­way, but Democrats were shocked, shocked.

One of our cur­rent run­ning mates has had a sim­i­larly sad week, and it wasn’t Sarah Palin. Joe Bi­den con­tin­ues to en­ter­tain ev­ery­body but per­suade few. The man who boasted that Delaware was a slave state and fought on the wrong side in the War Be­tween the States, who fa­mously de­scribed the first black pres­i­den­tial can­di­date as “bright, clean and ar­tic­u­late,” who pre­scribes us­ing “a slight In­dian ac- cent” for any­one seek­ing a snack at Dunkin’ Donuts or a 7-Eleven in Delaware, last week en­thu­si­as­ti­cally urged a para­plegic state se­na­tor in Mis­souri to “stand up and let the peo­ple see you.” Once he saw that the man couldn’t, he blushed deep red and said: “Oh, God love ya. What am I talk­ing about?”

Good ques­tion, and one no doubt beginning to oc­cur to Barack Obama, who thinks of him­self as a quick learner. A man at a rally last week in New Hamp­shire thought he was say­ing some­thing nice to Joe, telling him: “I’m glad you were picked over Hil­lary not be­cause she’s a woman, but be­cause, look at the things she did in the past.” Joe af­fected to be aghast, but not at un­happy things in Hil­lary’s past. “Hil­lary Clin­ton is as qual­i­fied or more qual­i­fied than I am to be vice pres­i­dent of the United States of Amer­ica,” he scolded the man. “Let’s get that straight. She’s a truly close per­sonal friend, she is qual­i­fied to be the pres­i­dent of the United States of Amer­ica, she’s eas­ily qual­i­fied to be vice pres­i­dent of the United States of Amer­ica, and quite frankly, it might have been a bet­ter pick than me. But she’s first rate, I mean that sin­cerely, she’s first rate, so let’s get that straight.”

Now that we’ve got that straight, we can ask, why would Joe say some­thing like that? Has he de­cided that he wants to get out of here while the get­ting is good, prefer­ably be­fore he has to face Sarah Palin next month in St. Louis? Is he set­ting up the long good­bye? Or is he putting a lit­tle but­ter on the ful­some praise for Hil­lary and Bubba, telling them as plain­tively as he knows how that now is the time for ev­ery good man (and woman) to come to the aid of the party. The ticket clearly needs a lit­tle help from its friends, even if they’re not re­ally his friends. Only a few hours af­ter toss­ing a Valen­tine to Hil­lary, Barack Obama sat down with Bubba in Har­lem to share a baloney sand­wich and a lit­tle au­tumn angst, and to talk about all the things he and Hil­lary could do over the next seven weeks. When the se­na­tor de­parted and a re­porter asked Bubba to pre­dict the out­come of the Novem­ber vot­ing, he replied: “I think Obama will win hand­ily.”

If that’s true Bubba stands al­most alone among Demo­cratic bigs, be­cause ev­ery­body else thinks it will be close at best, and at worst Barack Obama might not make it close. The man who only a fort­night ago was the man we were all wait­ing for is beginning to look at home in the pan­theon of fa­mil­iar Demo­cratic faces who won’t make it to Mount Rush­more: Ge­orge McGovern, Wal­ter Mon­dale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry. Nice guys all, and all fin­ished last.

The only new polls Barack and Joe can take so­lace in are th­ese just in from Europe. The Euro­peans love him, and none more than the French. The frog­gies give him a polling lead of 80 to 12, and John and Sarah aren’t likely to make up enough ground by Novem­ber to avoid ar­rest for loi­ter­ing if they visit Paris. Th­ese are, how­ever, the same French who told other poll­sters last week that the Septem­ber 11 at­tacks were prob­a­bly the work of Amer­ica and Is­rael. The Repub­li­cans can take their so­lace in the knowl­edge that the en­tire Euro­pean Union, though over­flow­ing with righ­teous piety, nev­er­the­less has fewer elec­toral votes than Wy­oming.

Wes­ley Pru­den is ed­i­tor emer­i­tus of The Times.

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