Friday, October 03, 2008

Joe Biden's tragedy

Savannah looking at the statue in the Jefferson Memorial, Washington DC
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

"Almighty God hath created the mind free...All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or [burdens]...are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion...No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion. I know but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively."
- Jefferson in a letter to James Madison, written on the NW interior wall of the memorial

I watched the Vice Presidential debate last night. I had looked forward to it all day, but then realized I didn't know if I really wanted to watch it. I sort of wanted to see Sarah Palin mess up, and then realized that is not a very nice thing to wish for. I think I wanted her to mess up because I want people who support her for what I consider faulty reasoning (because she is a woman, because she seems like a "regular American") to see beyond her smokescreen and realize that she is cramming for something that is way beyond her league, which both Republican and Democratic leaders and analysts have said - and she is memorizing lines, and using strategies for attack rather than simply stating her position and being totally herself (though to be fair, she did come out with a couple things that she disagreed with McCain on and agreed with Biden on, which McCain would not do at all with Obama - and I was impressed she even mentioned global warming!). For an "outsider," she sure has "politics as usual" down pat.

I thought she did not come across as genuine for the most part. And the genuine that does come out, is genuinely ridiculous. I mean, I'm sure she's a nice person but she is way out of her league for VP of the United States of America, and a heartbeat away from the Presidency. It truly scares me for our country - and though I'm an Obama suporter this has nothing to do with any fear of say Republican leadership or John McCain. It's serious fear for our country should she become President. She terrified me with her answer about the role of the VP - to rule over Congress????? A VP is in the Executive Branch!!! Biden called her out when he responded to this by talking about the absolute abuse of power by Dick Cheney in trying to redefine the role of the VP as somehow in the Legislative Branch. Did she not study history or politics before the Bush Administration?

But the most important moment of the debate for me was when Joe Biden got emotional. I had no idea why. Before this debate, I knew that Joe Biden has a lot of foreign policy experience among other things. When he got emotional on stage, I had no idea what that was all about. So I googled him, found his Wikipedia page, and it brought me to tears.

A few weeks after the [1972] election, Biden's wife and year-old daughter were killed in an automobile accident while Christmas shopping in Hockessin, Delaware on December 18, 1972. (Neilia Biden's station wagon was hit by a tractor-trailer as she pulled out from an intersection; the truck driver was cleared of any wrongdoing.) Biden's two sons, Beau and Hunter, were critically injured in the accident, but both eventually made full recoveries. Biden considered resigning in order to care for them; persuaded not to by Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield; he was sworn into office from one of their bedsides. The accident left Biden filled with both anger and religious doubt: "I liked to [walk around seedy neighborhoods] at night when I thought there was a better chance of finding a fight ... I had not known I was capable of such rage ... I felt God had played a horrible trick on me."

Biden began the practice of commuting an hour and a half each day on the train from his home in the Wilmington suburbs to Washington, D.C., which he continues to do. In the aftermath of the accident, he had trouble focusing on work, and appeared to just go through the motions of being a senator. In his memoirs, Biden notes that staffers were taking bets on how long he would last. A single father for five years, Biden left standing orders that he be interrupted in the Senate at any time if his sons called. In remembrance of the accident, Biden does not work on December 18.

And the amazing thing is that Sarah did not even respond in any way to this show of emotion from Joe - it was like she had no idea that his wife and daughter were killed. She clearly did not know his story. Not knowing your opponent is not a good trait to have when you're in politics, and not showing empathy when someone almost breaks down in tears is pretty cold - even if you don't understand why. And here is another sad thing: When Hillary Clinton displayed emotion she was criticized as weak. When Biden does, you feel empathy for the man. It's still a very female-averse culture. But I don't think that has anything to do with why people don't think Sarah Palin is VP (let alone Presidential) material.

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