Monday, June 19, 2006

Part II: Biden Time For Omama

My first choice as the person who can reawaken the Democratic Dragon is Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, but he needs more seasoning and should wait until 2012 to run for president, if then.

My default reawakener is Sen. Joe Biden.

Biden, the veteran Delaware Democrat, is an all-around good guy and very strong foreign policy and homeland security credentials.

I’ve followed Biden's career closely since he came out of nowhere to upset a long tenured Senate Republican in 1972 only to have tragedy strike when his wife and daughter were killed and his two sons critically injured when their car was T-boned by a speeding motorist. I have driven through that intersection, which is not too far from Kiko’s House, many times and invariably think of Biden’s loss.

Biden decided to refuse to be sworn in so he could stay at home as his sons recuperated, but was talked out of that by his future mentor, Sen. Mike Mansfield, the legendary Democratic foreign policy guru, and his own father, who was a friend of my parents and another all-around good guy.

Biden went on to be sworn in, but returned home to his sons from the Capitol every night. He continues to commute from his Delaware home to this day.

So I know a thing or two about Joe Biden. It matters less that, for the most part, he stands for what I stand for. It's because he’s made of sturdy stuff and is the real deal in a town full of phonies. (It doesn't hurt that his hair weave has been remarkably successful, but I digress.)

More to the subject, Biden has been a rare if erratic voice of thoughtful dissent on foreign policy and homeland security in an era when President Bush, his administration and Republican congressional majority have pretty much had their way with the Democrats.


Back in February, I listened to Biden for the better part of an hour on Terry Gross’s “Fresh Air” on National Public Radio and it was a revelation. Not a happy one, mind you, but a relevation nonetheless, because it revealed Biden's and his party's key weakness.

As Biden and Gross segued from the war in Iraq to nukes in Iran to the NSA spying program controversy to domestic politics to his own presidential aspirations, I was struck by how he was quick to criticize Bush but unable to offer concrete alternatives to the status quo beyond trite but wishy-washy comments like the need for the next president to be a uniter and not, as Bush has been, a divider. (To read a transcript or listen to the interview, go here.)

So this, my friends, is the Democrats’ biggest problem as they slouch toward the mid-term elections: The whole bunch of them, including Biden, are unable to effectively exploit the Republicans’ many vulnerabilities because they don’t have diddly to offer in the way of alternatives.

Poll after polls show that most Americans think the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction. What then should the Democratic message be?

It is time to take back Amercia from a party that is corrupt and incompetent, has fought the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place, made homeland security a joke, brought the middle class to its financial knees and saddled the next generation with enormous debt.

The Democrats will make the homeland truly safer by making its security the priority. The Democrats will push through energy independence, universal healthcare modeled on the Massachusetts plan, and balance the budget.

The Democrats will take America back.

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