Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Joe Biden - Iraq Glue

Today, former comedian Al Franken was finally certified - whatever side you're on, it's been a long haul - as the winner of a months-long recount, as Minnesota's newest little Senator. Once Minnesota's non-wrestling Governor officially declares it so, Franken will be the best actor outside of Fred Thompson to ever hold an elected office. Scratch that - best professional actor.

Franken's fight has been long, but he's had support as high, at least, as the President. Of the Senate. Joe Biden, whose last name still isn't recognized in Blogger's dictionary, has had even-tempered, well-reasoned things to say for awhile on the situation. Back in May, though, he finally exploded with-

"The election process and recount in Minnesota have lived up to the state's reputation for organization, transparency, and bipartisanship. The officials have been meticulous and every ruling has been unanimous."
Really, Joe?

Okay, it's not that I'm expecting Biden to explode, or that I'm disinterested in the general even tone slowly, but evenly pouring out of the White House of late. Like most people, I am expecting something so honest and poorly-thought-out as to practically be charming. Still, after delving a bit into Joe's political past, starting as one of the youngest Senators in the body's history, I'm curious as to where the fire has gone and why. Maybe he's mellowed out. Maybe it's diplomatic. Maybe that's a good thing?

The Obama Administration announced today that Joe Biden is being sent to Iraq. Six years and three months after the tremendously successful invasion that Joe Biden voted in the majority for, he's being sent there... in a capacity of some kind. "I would hesitate to use the term 'mediator,' " said Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary. Understandable. The Veep, who actually wrote an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times three years ago proposing that we

"...establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security."
doesn't necessarily bring to mind "temperate." He's being involved in Iraq to, as the White House put it, "oversee that we are making progress...." Fair enough. The majority seem to be characterizing it as a natural choice, given his stint on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since 1997, during which time he, among other things, paired with - of all people - Jesse Helms to save the United States' right to vote in the United Nations. And maybe they're right. His foreign policy experience, and his 1 for 2 voting record on Wars Involving Iraq, were undoubtedly things that the Obama Administration looked at when deciding how to use Biden.

Let's think about that for a second... An administration not just FINDING a use for a VP, but thinking about one ahead of time? This isn't unprecedented, but it's certainly a good sign. Maybe he won't just be a ribbon-cutter. Only time will tell.

Looking back at one particular article from The Evening Independent in St. Petersburg, Florida (thank you Google News Archives) that one doesn't assume has any particular reason to stump for Biden in the middle of the summer, I read a brief excerpt of what I'd like to hope Joe Biden was really like at one point. For one, the article begins by calling him 'Fiery Joe' Biden, calling him "The Last of the Red-Hot Angry Democrats," comparing him, appropriately enough, if only now, to Hubert Humphrey.

It describes, in detail, Biden tearing up the Reagan Administration for turning a blind eye to embattled South Africa. There's a heated debate between then-Senator Biden and Secretary of State George Shultz, during which Biden said:

"I'm ashamed of this country that puts out a policy like this, that says nothing, nothing. I'm ashamed of the lack of Moral backbone in this policy... let the South Africa blacks know we stand behind them foursquare."
At which point he was met, rather ineffectively, by Shultz:

"(It's) a complicated situation. Obviously the blacks are repressed... But I don't turn my back on the whites. They are also people."
Biden, then, coolly responded "I speak for the oppressed, whatever they happen to be."

Though a simple "did you hear what you just said?" might have sufficed, the lofty button to
Biden's end of the argument had to have hit home, at least a little. The article goes on to describe Biden's "presidential problem" as having "a style too feverish for the cool television age." Needless to say, the article got me really pumped. About Joe Biden in 1986, anyway.

The question then remains - is that fire still there? Is it the same fire that seems to come out in badly-timed or ill-conceived spurts? Perhaps a chance to put a country back together - a country, it's important to point out, that he's had a somewhat unprecedented chance to affect in a large way over the years - is the thing to bring back 'Fiery Joe.' If he's learned the lesson of his vote for the war in Iraq, and if he still, indeed "speaks for the oppressed," maybe Joe Biden will be, if not the glue, at least the clamps that hold it together until the glue dries. Yes, I just compared modern-day, war-torn Iraq to a woodshop project.

- Jason C. Klamm

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