Sunday, August 17, 2008

Joe Biden: Foreign Policy Heavyweight?

Conventional wisdom has it that Joe Biden is a foreign policy heavyweight whose presence on the Democratic ticket would help compensate for Obama's relative inexperience in foreign policy. Marc Ambinder even called Biden "Obama's foreign policy arm-candy." I have to wonder though: does Biden really have the foreign policy credentials to be considered a "foreign policy heavyweight" by the public? He has been on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 35 years, chairing the committee for 5 years and serving as ranking member for 4 years. He was also instrumental (and prominent) in handling the Bosnia situation in the '90s. But that's it. He never served in the diplomatic corps, or in any other capacity at the State Department. Most importantly from the public's perspective, he never served in the military—the general public has always conflated military experience with foreign policy experience (see: McCain, John). I'm not sure Biden's long-time position on Senate Foreign Relations is enough, by itself, to convince voters that he's a true foreign policy heavyweight. The general public doesn't know what committees do, nor do they particularly care. The McCain campaign would definitely push the fact that Biden never served in the military, and would try to frame him as an armchair diplomat who never leaves the Beltway. To be clear, Biden's reputation as a serious foreign policy expert is absolutely justified, and his 35 years on Senate Foreign Relations is very significant experience. I'm just not sure the Obama campaign can convince voters of this much. Of the potential running-mates still in consideration, Biden is my first choice for Vice President, but Tim Kaine is my first choice for Vice Presidential nominee (followed closely by Jack Reed). Biden's just too risky on the campaign trail.


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Biden is a lightweight.