2008 Biden’s Cred
posted by August 23 at 14:00 PMon
You have to hand it to the Obama camp, and to Joe Biden himself, whose comment to reporters earlier this week—“I’m not the guy”—seemed to take him safely out of the running. Every newspaper in the world has been sitting on drafts of stories about the potential VPs (a draft of an Evan Bayh story, a draft of a Tim Kaine story, a draft of a Chet Edwards story, a draft of a snowballs-in-hell Clinton story) but there isn’t anyone at The Stranger who thought it was gong to be Biden. Yesterday a couple of us had settled on Chet Edwards—a Texan, a white guy, an Army guy, had “authored the largest increase in veterans funding in the 77-year history of the Veterans Administration”—and Brendan Kiley was walking around the office talking about the glorious little turn of the knife in the fact that Edwards represents the district that includes Bush’s home in Crawford. That was a beautiful little detail. It was decided, we all decided.
And then, in the earliest minutes of this morning, there was Biden’s name everywhere, all over Google News and at the top of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times and the AP, and it seemed like a mistake. What about “I’m not the guy”? What about the promised text message, which practically inspired me to duct tape my phone to my arm and which still hadn’t come?
The unreality of it, the disappointment of it, dissipated during that rally on TV just now. He’s got a good story, that Biden, and there’s nothing human beings love more than a good story (cf., Vietnam, McCain’s trials as prisoner of war in). Obama said stuff about standing on the steps of the state capitol and visiting farms and factories and the time of change and we need a fighter and Biden was born in Scranton and he loves firefighters and etc., etc., but—fantastic mind for narrative that he has—he moved quickly to the part in the story where Biden’s wife and daughter were killed in a car wreck and his two sons were badly injured. On the day he should have been at the Capitol being sworn in as senator, he was standing by his two sons in the hospital. He was 30 at the time.
Obama went on:
Tragedy tests us—it tests our fortitude and it tests our faith. Here’s how Joe Biden responded. He never moved to Washington. Instead, night after night, week after week, year after year, he returned home to Wilmington on a lonely Amtrak train when his Senate business was done. He raised his boys—first as a single dad, then alongside his wonderful wife Jill, who works as a teacher. He had a beautiful daughter. Now his children are grown and Joe is blessed with five grandchildren. He instilled in them such a sense of public service that his son, Beau, who is now Delaware’s Attorney General, is getting ready to deploy to Iraq. And he still takes that train back to Wilmington every night. Out of the heartbreak of that unspeakable accident, he did more than become a Senator—he raised a family. That is the measure of the man standing next to me. That is the character of Joe Biden.
It might be because my grandpa was in the Marines, my dad was in the Air Force, my other brother is in the Navy, and one of my younger brothers is in the Army, and but this little passage worked on me. Then Obama introduced Biden as “the next president of the United States,” and immediately corrected himself—“the next vice president of the United States”—and then Biden came out and talked about Scranton, how he’s from Scranton, how he loves firefighters including firefighters in Scranton, how there isn’t a problem the American people (including the people in Scranton) can’t solve if we put our minds to it (exact line: “There’s not a single, solitary challenge we cannot face if we level with the American people”), and then he ate a cheeseburger, did a keg stand, and started cheering, “Scran-ton! Scran-ton! Scran-ton!”
But they sure did mention Scranton a lot. (I kept thinking of the American version of The Office. The branch is drolly set in Scranton.)
Seriously, Biden did say some good stuff, about how John McCain has been his friend for years and has been so disappointing in his fleeing to the Bush line and the far right, how “in all my years in the Senate I’ve never seen Washington so broken,” about how ordinary Americans are sitting at the kitchen table these days trying to figure out how they’re going to pay their mortgages and that this isn’t a problem McCain knows anything about: “He’d have to figure out which of seven kitchen tables to sit at.” (Best line of the day. Please say it a hundred more times before November, Joe.)
And, really, the Scranton cred is only going to help in the Obama-likes-to-nibble-arugula-and-fancy-protein-bars department, and Biden’s weird, sorta bad way of talking—clunky metaphors clunkily delivered—can’t hurt. He brings the polish way down. He’s a dude. He mentions his wife, and then slides in a mention of how drop-dead gorgeous she is, and then she comes out and—holy fuck!—he was leveling with us: she’s drop-dead gorgeous. And Michelle Obama ain’t so bad herself. They look good together, these four.
Brendan Kiley called while I was watching the rally, and I told him I was watching it, and he said, “I’m a little sad about Biden.” Meaning, he really wanted Chet Edwards.
I was a little sad all morning, but I’m not now.