Friday, December 28, 2007

Not Just A Candidate, But A Role Model

This is the weekly frontpage post I make about Joe Biden at

The big news this week is obviously the tragic assassination of Benzair Bhutto, so I should probably make this weekly campaign blogger post about Pakistan. Joe Biden has been warning for years that it is the world's most dangerous nation, was pushing Musharraf to offer Bhutto more security, and has proposed the most detailed and forward-thinking policy for dealing with Pakistan. But this is also the final week before the Iowa caucus. As such, I'll just direct you to the Pakistan post I made yesterday, and focus on an even larger issue: why, in my heart of hearts, I support Joe Biden for president.

Fourth months ago, I made my first frontpage post, laying out the five basic reasons I support Joe. Those five reasons haven't changed in the months since, but two other things have. One is that Biden has had made many more impressive speeches, interviews, and debate wins. Two, as is the case with any presidential candidate, he has released dozens more proposals and plans than had been previously articulated. I find myself in amazement that almost every time he says something new, be it policy or politics, I agree with him. This makes it much harder to write a concise why-I-support-Joe post than before. Where do I begin? How in the world do I cut myself off?

I am currently a junior at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. I have respected Biden since I became aware of him seven years ago, in eighth grade. Even with this long-standing respect, my admiration for him has grown exponentially these past four months. This September, I read his memoirs and talked with him for the second time. Between those experiences and watching him in forum after forum, I have come to realize that not only is he my preferred candidate, he is also is the type of man I hope to be in thirty years - not for his career path, but for his values and honor. Biden is the 99th richest Senator, and has commuted home from DC to Delaware every night since 1972. This has prevented him from developing an inside-the-Beltway mentality, and kept him committed to that which matters most: family. His boys rave about their upbringing, his sister (the boy's surrogate mother) runs all his campaigns, and he can't seem to go ten minutes without quoting a parent or grandparent. Maybe this focus on the family - the real kind, not the Dobson kind - comes from his upbringing, or maybe it comes from the accident that took his wife and infant daughter in 1972 (something he did not openly talk about much until this year, when his publisher convinced him to write about it). Remembering also the 1988 brain aneurysms that nearly killed him, and you see why he has a unique perspective on health care, financial security, and more. Biden has a reputation as a talker, and I can't dispute that, but he's no blowhard, and he's not your typical long-time corrupt salon. His family focus and personal background constantly remind him why the issues he gets paid to fight for matter.

And when Biden fights, he fights hard. He is a devote Catholic, and says his faith informs his politics as it shows him you never let the powerful abuse the poor. At the September Dartmouth debate, he said his favorite Bible passages are those where Jesus confronts the Pharisees. This is the Christ I know: fighting for the people, standing up to the corrupt temple leaders and oppressive Roman imperialists. Biden expounds on this in his memoirs, writing that his father taught him never to pick on anyone smaller or weaker than himself. In politics, this means you fight for the little guy, for the middle class. It means you stand up to dictators, to corrupt or incompetent US politicians, and to corporate greed (this is why he has so few major donors).

Biden's values have turned into action. He got into politics because of civil rights, earned accolades on the issue from his fellow candidates at the final Iowa debate, and consistently receives the high ratings from the NAACP. Though his long career has included many accomplishments - stopping the Robert Bork nomination, authoring what would become the Clinton Crime Bill, helping write the original FISA bill - he is most proud of helping stop genocide in the Balkans and of writing the Violence Against Women Act. Most of all, he never loses focus. After bringing VAWA from empty subcommittee hearings to unanimous Senate passage, he did not declare victory, but instead continued fighting on behalf of women. He spent years working to strengthen alimony laws, introduced the International Violence Against Women Act in the Senate this year, and has proposed the National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act (say that three times fast) to improve resources available to victims of domestic violence.

When I joined his New Hampshire Steering Committee in February, I knew he was an honest guy, but I didn't know how much of a straight shooter he really was. Funny what the national spotlight brings out in a guy. With Biden, we see the McCain of 2000, Democratic style. He won't go negative on his fellow candidates, but he rarely falls into the trap of parroting conventional wisdom, either. Pundit after pundit has applauded his straight talk and his blunt frankness. We see passion on Darfur, fresh clarity on executive power, blunt challenges to Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson, constant humor, a genuine attachment to the middle class, and above all, candor.

I also agree with Biden on foreign policy. I already mentioned his strength on Pakistan. No one has shown more passion on Darfur. He can talk for hours about climate change, energy independence, and foreign oil, and has spent years pushing for a renewed focus on Afghanistan. And there is, of course, his plan for Iraq. I know many progressives would rather pull out yesterday than stick around a few extra months to implement a political solution, but how else are we to prevent the Iraq civil war from escalating to the levels of those in Congo or Sudan? Remember, his plan - a detailed, three-state federal solution - is the only plan to gain a veto-proof majority in the Senate. Some say the plan won't work - but what other candidate is offering such anything else? Others argue that it is arrogant for us to force anything onto the Iraqis. Perhaps, but we don't need to force this solution on them. For one, it is rooted in their Constitution, and two, it can be proposed as the centerpiece of a diplomatic push. If the Iraqis don't want it, they don't have to take it, but there's no reason we shouldn't call a major regional diplomatic summit and offer our concerted help in making it happen.

You already knew Biden is an experienced leader, but I hope you can also see the same role model I do. I hope my faith always guides me, and that when I'm 60, I am also still fighting for the weak and downtrodden, for underdogs everywhere. May I always be so connected to my own children and grandchildren. I pray I never forget the middle class background I come from. I hope I always respect those who disagree with me - that instead of sticking my head in the sand, I'll work with the Hagels, Lugars, and even Brownbacks, too. I hope to be like Joe Biden.

Normally I pepper my posts with YouTubes and new links, and borrow liberally from campaign talking points. They are certainly talking points worth repeating - most recently, the campaign has been arguing that this election is not primarily about change or experience, but about action. Not tonight. Tonight, I am writing straight from the heart. This is a candidate and a cause I believe in. This is a man worth following. He may be a darkhorse, and arguing on his behalf at MyDD and Daily Kos may not make me the most popular blogger, but I don't regret for a single instant throwing myself into this campaign. Those 16 state legislature endorsements only go so far: Joe can win, if Iowans will caucus for him, and if voters in New Hampshire and South Carolina will follow.

I will leave you with two further articles, and as many videos (one short, one long), for your final consideration:

The Concord Monitor: Joe Biden: a pragmatist rich with experience

McClatchy Newspapers: Biden overcame tragedy and became an expert on world affairs

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