Home -> Law Blog Directory -> Legal Commentary Blogs -> Prawfs
(866) 635-2689 for Personal Injury or (866) 635-9402 for Criminal Defense
Find a Local Lawyer
Divorce (866) 635-6190
Personal Injury (866) 635-2689
Criminal Defense (866) 635-9402
Legal Commentary: Prawfs
In Defense of Biden: A Reply
By Dan Markel, Ethan Leib, Rick Garnett, Matt Bodie, Paul Horwitz , Steve Vladeck, and Orly Lobel
Wes Oliver, a former Biden campaigner and a prawf at Widener, writes in with the following response to my post on Biden. Here's his reaction, which I also respond to after the jump:
First, let me say that I appreciate the invitation to respond. Much like the candidate I went to Iowa to support, I appreciate hard-hitting yet respectful debates. Before I respond to your specific points, let me just offer a couple of observations about Joe Biden that may not be apparent to folks who only watched the meager coverage he received in the coverage of the primary. This is one charismatic campaigner ? with an extraordinary depth of knowledge -- two characteristics that manage to display themselves simultaneously. Previous campaigns have led us to believe that a very sophisticated discussion of policy is not something candidates are supposed to do ? that the public will be turned off. The problem has been that the candidates who have taught us this ?lesson? were not blessed with a great measure of charisma in the first place. Joe Biden has the remarkable ability to be fired up ? and fire up a crowd ? while he is explaining details about a matter of national security or economic policy.
quick example ? the one that first made me a Biden
fan: On September 10, 2001, I was sitting in an apartment in Portland,
Maine flipping channels and saw Biden on C-SPAN. I always thought he
insightful, so I stopped and watch. Biden began explaining that we
prepared to meet the threats of the Cold War era, but that our defense
did not account for the threats of the modern era ? that a small
cell terrorist group like al Qaida, not the threat of thermo-nuclear
posed the greatest threat to American security. I was drawn in and I
not a foreign policy guy ? his account made sense and it was gripping and conveyed a real sense
of urgency. Anyone could get his head around what Biden was saying and yet
his analysis lacked nothing in sophistication. THEN, he said, ?the
next attack on this nation will come in the hull of a ship or the belly of a
plane.? My second thought after the towers came down: ?My
God, Joe Biden was right.? (My first thought was the same mix of
horror, anger, sadness and disbelief that I am certain I shared with everyone
reading this.) This is, of course, a dramatic example, but I?ve
seen him hold an audience of ordinary, hard-working Iowans in the palm of his
hand as he dissected Bush?s Roadmap to Peace in the Middle East or
explained how government development of infrastructure is the key to economic
revitalization. He is the rare politician who can take complicated,
important ideas, make them accessible and make people who lack expertise in the
area he?s describing care passionately about the ideas. He does it
without dumbing down his discussion ? he teaches using the advice Oliver
Houck gave me when I started teaching ? teach with enthusiasm, everything
else will take care of itself. To address the specifics of Dan?s post. And Dan,
while I like and respect you greatly, I strongly disagree on your points,
offering the specifics that follow:
To address the specifics of Dan?s post. And Dan, while I like and respect you greatly, I strongly disagree on your points, offering the specifics that follow:
1) Biden?s ?support? for the war has been caricatured. True, Biden voted for the Authorization to Use Military Force but he and Richard Lugar proposed an amendment (the Biden-Lugar Amendment) which would have required a UN Authorization OR the president to personally certify that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States, not just its allies, before using force. This would have effectively prevented the Iraq invasion, or ensured that we did it with the support of the international community, which wasn?t likely, but would have created a very different international climate. (The amendment had wide bi-partisan support but Joe Lieberman shut down this amendment by moving for a cloture vote.) Biden was then perhaps the greatest critic of the way we were planning to go to war. He may have been the one to have coined the phrase ?we can win the war, but we are not prepared to win the peace.? Every night or so I saw him on tv saying this. Biden was, at every turn, an opponent to the way we were carrying out this operation. And he was the first to offer a reasonable political solution to get us out without leaving chaos behind ? a proposal accepted by 75 members of the US Senate to create three states within the country.
2) As to what Dan describes as the boneheaded comment about Obama. He did say Obama was clean and articulate. Context, however, is everything. In that same quote he described him as brilliant and used the color metaphor ?lightening in a jar.? (What would give to have a student describe you as ?lightening in a jar??) This was an off-the-cuff comment that, when looked at in context, had no malice ? quite the contrary. He has gotten so much grief for leaving the word ?cut? off of clean. And for the articulate comment ? I understand the objection, but I am certain he meant, by the standards of presidential candidates, Obama is articulate and exceedingly so ? and is he ever. He sure can fire up a crowd with sharp and soaring rhetoric ? Joe Biden wasn?t saying Barack could conjugate. If anyone should be offended by this, it would be, I guess, Barack Obama. And Obama thinks that, other than himself, the best qualified person in America to be president is Joe Biden. Obama said at an Iowa debate that he knew Biden?s heart and that he knew that was not a racially animated statement. Does Biden gaffe? Sure. The flip side of Biden?s gaffes is that he is exceedingly candid and THAT comes across in spades.
3) The plagiarism point. Is it is honesty or dedication to learning that you?re questioning here? His entire life since that moment has been dedicated to the scholarly understanding of issues and presenting them unvarnished to the American public. Biden did more than any candidate in the primaries to explain the complexities of the issues facing this country without dumbing down the issues. (See discussion above.) Maybe it is my Baptist upbringing, but I still believe in redemption ? and if this isn?t a redemption story, I don?t know that I?ve heard of one.
Thanks for allowing me to respond.
Wes, thanks for the response. To my mind on point 1, Biden's support of the AUMF is not an inherently obvious mistake--given the intelligence stories from many credible sources, I'm sure I would have been inclined to do the same, even though like Biden, and many Republicans too, I have grave reservations about the way the war was conducted. FWIW, Biden opposed the surge. At the time, I believed the surge was the right thing to do; once we mangled another country, we have some strong obligation to fix it or at least provide the conditions of security to help the citizens of that country rebuild it. So far, it's proven its worth and so that's another major issue Biden's been on the wrong side of, though again, reasonable people may disagree about that.
As to the gaffes, though they are plentiful I don't for a minute think he's an evil or malicious person; he's just insensitive to various social cues and norms [said the professor who gets chastised by his wife for that on a daily basis; of course I'm not on a ticket for VPOTUS]. The significance of the plagiarism during law school seems more problematic than the Kinnock-cribbing, b/c he used to credit Kinnock in previous iterations and probably innocently forgot to during the stump speech. But lifting 5 pages from a law review article that's not yours, if true, is more than just a blunder. In any event, I hope I'm wrong about his gifts and remain open-minded. Thanks for your response, Wes
Search Blog Directory: