Had to take a break from my vacation to register my disappointment in Obama’s selection of Biden.
I understand the rationale–Obama wants an attack dog to go after McCain while he appears to be above the fray. Biden also adds some foreign policy and Beltway heft to the ticket. The Beltway CW says this pick was safe, but not particularly bold. I think that’s about right.
But from a policy perspective, it’s a disaster. Biden has sponsored more damaging drug war legislation than any Democrat in Congress. Hate the way federal prosecutors use RICO laws to take aim at drug offenders? Thank Biden. How about the abomination that is federal asset forfeiture laws? Thank Biden. Think federal prosecutors have too much power in drug cases? Thank Biden. Think the title of a “Drug Czar” is sanctimonious and silly? Thank Biden, who helped create the position (and still considers it an accomplishment worth boasting about). Tired of the ridiculous steroids hearings in Congress? Thank Biden, who led the effort to make steroids a Schedule 3 drug, and has been among the blowhardiest of the blowhards when it comes to sports and performance enhancing drugs. Biden voted in favor of using international development aid for drug control (think plan Columbia, plan Afghanistan, and other meddling anti-drug efforts that have only fostered loathing of America, backlash, and unintended consequences). Oh, and he was also the chief sponsor of 2004′s horrendous RAVE Act.
Biden does appear to have eased up a bit in the last couple years, including taking a fairly strong position against federal raids on medical marijuana clinics (though he still opposes making marijuana available for medicinal purposes). But that’s little consolation for all the damage he’s done over the years.
Biden’s record on other criminal justice and civil liberties issues is just as bad. Opponents of the federalization of crime might note that the 1994 crime bill he sponsored created several new federal capital offenses. Biden also wants to expand federal penalties for hate crimes. He supports a federal smoking ban. His position on the federal drinking age is, and I quote, “absolutely do not” lower it to 18. He believes “most violent crime is related to drugs” (if he had said “drug prohibition,” he’d be closer to the truth). Biden also has an almost perfect anti-gun voting record. He said last year he favors “universal national service,” either in the Peace Corps or the military. Sounds like conscription to me. He says he’s opposed to the PATRIOT Act, but he voted for both the original bill and its re-authorization in 2005.
Foreign policy? Biden voted for the war on Iraq. Yes, he’s opposed to it now (and I like the partition plan he pushed in the primaries). But he didn’t vote correctly when it counted most. Biden also voted to send troops into Darfur. He wants to enlarge NATO. He voted in favor of the air strikes in Kosovo. He voted to strengthen the trade embargo against Cuba. His seems to be a meddling, interventionist, Clinton-esque foreign policy. His first instinct seems to be that the U.S. military’s objective include some vague notion of “doing good in the world.” Never mind the disastrous consequences that notion has reaped over the years.
I obviously disagree with Biden on a host of economic and regulatory issues, too (though he does seem to be fairly decent on free trade). But that’s to be expected. My problem with Biden is that he’s not even good on the issues the left is supposed to be good on. He’s an overly ambitious, elitist, tunnel-visioned, Potomac-fevered Beltway dinosaur, with all the trappings. He may well have been the worst possible pick among congressional Democrats when it comes to the drug war and criminal justice.
Your humble Agitator predicted the Biden pick last February. It was a prediction made mostly from cynicism. I wish I had been wrong.
On principle, Obama stumbles badly, here. I guess we’ll have to wait to see how it plays out on the electoral map.