Our featured Presidential candidate for today is Democratic Senator Joe Biden.
I first heard of Joe Biden in 1989, when I was thumbing through the World Almanac. There was a section that narrated the events of the 1988 Presidential election, and it mentioned that Biden was one of the candidates for the Democratic nomination. I honestly did not remember him. I didn’t even know what he looked like. I remembered Dukakis (eyebrows) and Gore (nice suit) and Gephardt (pompous) and Paul Simon (bow-tie, funny looking ears) and Jesse Jackson (again?) and Gary Hart (hot supermodel), but I could not recall who Biden was. Apparently, he dropped out before the race got going. The almanac said that he cancelled his candidacy because he was accused of plagiarism. I don’t exactly dislike him for that. I mean, seriously, what was he supposed to do? Distribute endnotes and a bibliography whenever he delivered a stump speech?
Over the years, I saw Biden on television every now and then. I remember him mainly from the Clarence Thomas hearings, when he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I watched some of the hearings, and they were okay, but I particularly liked Kevin Nealon’s portrayal of Biden on Saturday Night Live, in which Biden and the rest of the panel were giving Clarence Thomas some dating tips.
Do I like Biden? Not particularly. I think he comes across as a jerk. He’s not as bad as Gore, mind you, but he still comes across as a jerk. I watched the Roberts hearings, and I recall Biden greeting Roberts with “Hiyah, judge” and continually interrupting him as he tried to answer questions. That wasn’t very respectful, in my opinion. At one of the debates, Biden referred to one question as “stupid.” I think the first time that I saw the humanity of Joe Biden was when I was reading Jesse Helms’ autobiography. To my surprise, Jesse Helms said that he and Biden actually got along, but he also mentioned that Biden lost his wife and daughter in a car accident. I really felt horrible for Biden when I read that. My political worldview divides the world into good guys and bad guys, but I should remember that even the figures I politically oppose are people who can suffer.
As far as his political stances are concerned, his record is somewhat mixed. Let’s start with abortion. He wants the government to be neutral on abortion, meaning that he opposes federal funding for the practice. And, on some level, his record actually backs up his rhetoric, for he voted on July 22, 1997 to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortions. At the same time, he wants abortion to be an option in taxpayer-funded military hospitals. He thinks that the U.S. should fund foreign non-governmental organizations, even when they perform abortions. He wants the government to subsidize stem-cell research. He may sincerely believe that the government should be neutral on abortion, but some of his votes achieve the opposite effect. He deserves praise for his vote to ban partial-birth abortion, yet his continual and prominent opposition to conservative judicial nominees indicates that preserving Roe vs. Wade is a priority of his. This, even though he agrees with the Catholic Church that life begins at conception.
On economic policy, he opposes all sorts of tax cuts. There is one bright spot on his record, for he voted to eliminate the marriage penalty. But, overall, his record on taxes is horrible. On spending, Biden supports a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. A President Biden would probably give us a balanced budget, but most likely through tax increases.
On foreign policy, he has been a hawk on certain wars. He helped persuade Bill Clinton to use military force in the former Yugoslavia, and, today, he wants American troops in Darfur. On Iraq, he is pragmatic enough not to call for immediate troop withdrawal, but, overall, he prefers a non-violent solution. One proposal that he is working on with Senator Brownback (R-KS) would divide Iraq into Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish regions, splitting the oil revenues among them. I thought that was a good idea when I first heard Senator Biden propose it, even though I didn’t care much for Senator Biden. As far as his hawkishness goes, I’m not sure if I support using American troops to solve all the world’s human rights problems. I know that I’ve questioned the “negotiation” approach in past posts, but I’m also uncomfortable with America getting involved in more wars, especially ones that we may not win. I wouldn’t want our intervention in Darfur to end up like our action in Somalia.
Most of Senator Biden’s positions are mixtures of right and left, with a greater leftward propensity. One issue on which he is firmly liberal, however, is gun control, prompting the NRA to give him an “F.” Although Biden wrote the 1994 Crime Bill, his approach to gun control is to blame the gun for violence. He wrote the ban on assault weapons, and he also wants to allow lawsuits against gun manufacturers. What is interesting is that he voted against mandatory prison terms for crimes involving firearms. That makes no sense. Who is at fault, the gun or the criminal who fires it?
One more thing that I dislike: he sent his own kids to a private school, yet he voted against school vouchers for the D.C. area. Why can’t other kids have the same choice that he had? At the same time, to his credit, he voted “yes” on education savings accounts that could be used for public or private schools. He also supports merit pay for teachers. So how he got a 91% from the National Education Association, I have no idea!
My sources for this post are wikipedia, Project Vote Smart – Senator Biden – Voting Record, and Joe Biden on the Issues. Have a nice day!