JOE BIDEN: THE VOICE OF DEMOCRACY
No matter how wrong-headed I consider [Republican] policies
to be – and no matter how I might insist that they be
held accountable for the results of such policies –
I still find it possible, in talking to these men and women,
to understand their motives, and to recognize in them
values I share. *** I can see how, after a certain amount
of time in the capital, it becomes tempting to assume
that those who disagree with you have fundamentally
different values – indeed, that they are motivated by bad faith,
and perhaps are bad people.
Barack Obama, “The Audacity of Hope,” 2006, p. 48.
Perhaps the first presidential debate awakened Obama to the arid topography of any such notions, as expressed in the above-referenced smug assessment of his second book. We now shift to the Vice-Presidential debate, where Joe Biden will, presumably, be free to express traditional Democratic Party values by way of contradistinction to the actual values of the Republican Party. I say “presumably free,” because I remember Hubert Humphrey’s support of the Vietnam War, as a self-defined required determinant of his role as Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President. That is why Humphrey lost. How free will Joe Biden be to say what millions of Democrats are, right now, longing to hear?
A popular reference point, since Biden and Ryan are both devout Roman Catholics, are the positions taken, on the Ryan-Romney, Romney-Ryan federal budget by the American Roman Catholic Bishops, as well as the “Nuns on the Bus.”
On September 12, 2012, Sister Simone Campbell of the Roman Catholic “Nuns on the Bus” blasted the budget proposed by vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
“Paul Ryan claims his budget reflects the principles of our shared Catholic faith,” Sister Simone Campbell told the delegates. “But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, because it would harm families living in poverty.”
“We agree with our bishops, and that's why we went on the road: to stand with struggling families and to lift up our Catholic sisters who serve them,” she added. “Their work to alleviate suffering would be seriously harmed by the Romney-Ryan budget, and that is wrong.”
Sister Campbell, who revealed in a June talk that she is uncomfortable calling herself pro-life, also said that her support of President Barack Obama’s healthcare program is part of her “pro-life stance.”
“We all share responsibility to ensure that this vital health care reform law is properly implemented and that all governors expand Medicaid coverage,” she said. “This is part of my pro-life stance and the right thing to do.”
The U.S. Catholic Bishops had declared that United States recognize the serious deficits our country faces, and acknowledged that Congress must make difficult decisions about how to allocate burdens and sacrifices and balance resources and needs. Lead Bishop Blaire said in his letter to all members of the House of Representatives. “However, deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility efforts must protect and not undermine the needs of poor and vulnerable people. The proposed cuts to programs in the budget reconciliation fail this basic moral test.”
On the domestic front, Vice-President Biden must point to economic gains to be measured not in the abstract, but against the most profound realities encountered by any President since FDR. We all love Ronald Reagan, and we appreciate his ending the Cold War in our favor, but the truth is that whatever economic difficulties he and the nation faced in the 1980’s, he never sought to repeal Medicare nor did he ever seek to privatize Social Security.
The most pressing question on foreign policy to Paul Ryan, as surrogate to Mitt Romney, who seems so anxious to bomb Iran’s centrifuges is whether he can detail the realistically anticipated retaliations toward Israel and toward U.S. personnel and installations BY IRAN, should that bombing eventuate, and how we might successfully meet such responses. The Romney-Ryan, Ryan-Romney approach would be to succumb to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt to isolate Israel and the United States against Iran. The U.S. approach has been to create a coalition of Moslem and non Moslem societies against any Iranian nuclear weapons ambitions. Since the Israelis, themselves, envision Iran with nuclear weapons as a reality about six months into the future, so there is no imminent danger, therefore no need to invoke the War Powers Act, would Biden-Obama, Ryan-Romney be willing to pledge, here and now, that if they deemed the Iranian development of nuclear weapons were a direct threat to the United States, U.S. allies, or U.S. vital interests abroad, as President, either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama would go before Congress and ask for a Declaration of War against Iran, pursuant to Article One, Section 8 of the Constitution the Republicans keep urging us to go back to?
Joe Biden plainly experiences a “high” without benefit of controlled substances, every time he addresses audiences and discusses important questions of the day; every time he debates campaign issues, and every time he answers questions about America’s policies and America’s future. The great hope of the Democratic Party is that next Thursday, Joe Biden will, by way of contrast to last Wednesday, exhibit his characteristic high on life, rather than a descent from (if you will) a stereotypical cocaine high that rendered Obama virtually incapacitated.
Harvard Hollenberg is a writer and an appellate attorney in New York City.
© Copyright Harvard Hollenberg 2012. All rights reserved. No portion of this essay may be reproduced or quoted in any medium without the express permission of the author.