Joe Biden: June 17, 2006; Dover, NH

Commentary by Timothy Horrigan; June 18, 2006

On a beautiful summer night, I joined about 200 party activists in a stuffy room in the basement of an elderly housing complex in Dover. The guest of honor was the inimitable Sen. Joseph Biden of Deleware. He made no bones about the fact he is indeed running for President, "flat out," although the event was free of campaign trappings. He doesn't even have a logo yet.

The event was sponsored by the New Hampshire Democratic Party and was ostensibly a forum on Health Care for the residents of the complex. However, only a few seniors came downstairs and health care was by no means the main theme of the talk. His presentation was well-received, but hardly anyone went ahead and endorsed him. But I am sure he (and just as importantly his sister, who is his campaign manager) understand that it is very early in the game. (The exact date of the 2008 New Hampshire Primary is not set, but it is likely to be in mid-January 2008, though it might get moved up to the late fall of 2007.)

Sen. Joe Biden; Dover, NH; June 17, 2006

Here is a blog entry I wrote for my local Rockingham-Strafford County DFA meetup group:

Senator Joe Biden came to Dover, along with his sister and campaign manager Valerie. Even though it was a perfect summer Saturday evening, just before the summer solstice, he managed to attract over 200 activists (including at least two Congressional candidates) to a rather homely meeting room in the basement of a senior housing complex in Dover. And even hardly anyone has actually decided to support him yet, he did hold the audience's attention for two hours straight.

Biden frequently referred to his Irish-American ancestry, and he did fit one stereotype to a "T": he certainly has the gift of gab. He comes across much better in person than on TV: when we see him on C-SPAN he comes across as long-winded, especially when (as is the case all too often, he is in the position of obstructing Republican legislation or judicial nominations.) In a smaller setting, he still talks for a long time, but he is a spellbinding performer. He took an interesting approach to addressing the audience: he wore a wireless mike while he walked up and down the center aisle.

It is fashionable for politicians to claim to not be politicians. Biden can't do this because he is literally a career Senator. He was just a few weeks past his 30th birthday when he took office. He is the fifth youngest Senator ever (and that total includes three who violated the minimum age limit in the Constitution.) He is still a reasonably young man, though not as young as he looks. (He is 63 and looks about 45. He looks so young it is a little surprising to hear him talk about his adult children, the oldest of whom is 34.)

He does make an effort to establish that he is a regular guy even if he has spent most of his life in the Senate. He jokes about the fact that he was named "the poorest man in the Senate," because he has been living off a Senator's salary all these years. One of the first things he mentions in his capsule bio is that he never moved to Washington, DC: he has been commuting from Wilmington to DC all these years.

I haven't said anything yet about his message. To some extent, this is because he is one of those politicians who can rattle off paragraph after paragraph of poetic-sounding prose-- but when he's finished you remember the sound of his voice much more vividly than the content of what he says. His views are very much in the mainstream of the Democratic Party. His most memorable point was that we shouldn't be too smug about the Bushites. They may be incompetent when it comes to actually governing, but they are very smart and very committed to their ideology. He also pointed out that it is not enough to simply win one more state in 2008: to get the country moving in the right direction, the party needs to regain the support of the common people in the "Red States." He is the ranking member of the Foreign Policy Committee which means he has to deal with the fallout from the War in Iraq a lot. He sidestepped the issue of whether or not he is in fact in favor of the war or not (even though he has a personal interest in the war, since his son is an officer in the National Guard.) However, he was at least forthright about saying that if we are going to fight a war we should pay for it out of tax revenues rather than by borrowing (mostly from foreign bankers.) He also came out in favor of reducing our dependence on oil.

His position on taxes would be problematic if he got nominated, especially since he has presumably voted for hundreds of tax increases. Fiscally, his position makes sense, since the only alternative to direct taxation is to borrow the money, which raises interest rates and places us at the mercy of the institutions which buy federal debt.

The event was a benefit for the New Hampshire Democratic Party. (Biden's PAC paid for the event.) It was free of campaign trappings, aside from the presence of his sister in the back of the room, but he did come out and say (to Mayme Trumble who happened to be sitting in the nearest aisle seat) that he definitely is going to run for President.

I mentioned that two Congressional candidates showed up. These were the two leading insurgents: Carol Shea-Porter and Peter Sullivan. The candidate recently anointed by the DCCC didn't show up. Biden made a point of greeting both Carol & Peter after the event, without actually endorsing one or the other. (Biden is active with the equivalent committee on the Senate side of Capital Hill, the DSCC.)

--Timothy Horrigan

Although I stated that Biden "sidestepped" the issue of the war in Iraq in his Dover talk, he did recently (May 1, 2006) publish a paper entitled "Iraq— A Way Forward." His plan is basically to establish a federal system where each of the three warring ethnic groups— Sunnis, Shi'ites, and Kurds— would have their own autonomous regions. The central government would, however, remain in charge of the oil supply (as well as border security and defense.) He would pull out US forces, except for a small contingent, by 2008.

See also:

Biden in Dover NH

Sen. Biden with Joan Ashwell (Strafford County Democratic chairperson) & State Rep. Baldwin "Dom" Domingo

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