Copyrighted material


by Alexander Cockburn

Biden, Iraq, and Obama's Betrayal

"Change" and "hope" are not words one associates with Sen. Joe Biden, a man so ripely symbolic of everything that is unchanging and hopeless about our political system that a computer simulation of the corporate-political paradigm senator in Congress would turn out "Biden" in a nanosecond.

The first duty of any senator from Delaware is to do the bidding of the banks and large corporations that use the tiny state as a drop box and legal sanctuary. Biden has never failed his masters in this primary task. Find any bill that sticks it to the ordinary folk on behalf of the Money Power and you'll likely detect Biden's hand at work. The bankruptcy act of 2005 was just one sample. In concert with his fellow corporate serf Sen. Tom Carper, Biden blocked all efforts to hinder bankrupt corporations from fleeing from their real locations to the legal sanctuary of Delaware. Since Obama is himself a corporate serf and from day one in the Senate has been attentive to the same masters that employ Biden, the ticket is well balanced.

Another shining moment in Biden's progress in the current presidential term was his conduct in the hearings on Judge Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court. From the opening moments of the Judiciary Committee's sessions in January 2006, it became clear that Alito faced no serious opposition. On that first ludicrous morning, Sen. Pat Leahy sank his head into his hands, shaking it in unbelieving despair as Biden blathered out a self-serving and inane monologue lasting a full 20 minutes before he even asked Alito one question. In his allotted half hour, Biden managed to pose only five questions, all of them ineptly phrased. He did pose two questions about Alito's membership in a racist society at Princeton but had already undercut them in his monologue by calling Alito "a man of integrity," not once but twice, and further trivialized the interrogation by reaching under the dais to pull out a Princeton cap and put it on.

Biden is a notorious flapjaw. His vanity deludes him into believing that every word that drops from his mouth, even when he has actually plagiarized them from someone else, is minted in the golden currency of Pericles. His "experience" in foreign affairs consists in absolute fidelity to the conventions of Cold War liberalism, the efficient elder brother of raffish "neo-conservatism."

Obama opposed the launching of the U.S. attack on Iraq in 2003. He was not yet in the Senate, but since having arrived there in 2005 he has voted unhesitatingly for all appropriations of the vast sums required for the war's prosecution. Biden himself voted enthusiastically for the attack, declaring in the Senate debate in October 2002: "I do not believe this is a rush to war. I believe it is a march to peace and security. For two decades, Saddam Hussein has relentlessly pursued weapons of mass destruction. There is a broad agreement that he retains chemical and biological weapons, the means to manufacture those weapons and modified Scud missiles."

In step with his futile bid for the Democratic nomination, Biden changed his mind on the war, and part of his mandate will be to shore up the credentials of the Democratic ticket as being composed of "responsible" helmsmen of Empire, stressing that any diminution of the U.S. presence in Iraq will be measured and thus extremely slow, balanced by all the usual imperial ventures elsewhere around the globe.

Why did Obama choose Biden? One important constituency pressing for Biden was no doubt the Israel lobby inside the Democratic Party. Obama, no matter how fervent his proclamations of support for Israel, has always been viewed with some suspicion by the lobby. For half the lifespan of the state of Israel, Biden has been its unswerving acolyte in the Senate.

And Obama also picked Biden for the same reason Michael Dukakis chose Sen. Lloyd Bentsen in 1988: the marriage of youth and experience, which is so reassuring to uncertain voters but most of all to the elites that nothing unexpected will discommode business as usual. Another parallel would be Kennedy's pick of Lyndon Johnson in 1960, LBJ being a political rival and a seasoned senator. Kennedy and Johnson didn't like each other, and surely after Biden's racist remarks about "clean" blacks, Obama cannot greatly care for Biden. It seems he would have preferred Chris Dodd but the latter was disqualified because of his VIP loans from Countrywide.

© Creators Syndicate

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor   August 30, 2008   (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to use in any format.