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Obama's Organ Transplant

I spent the weekend frantically asking everyone I met if they knew of anyone in their entire life who had ever voted for president on the basis of who the vice presidential candidate was. After a while, I started to offer a reward for the name of such a voter and I was reminded that Lyndon Johnson carried Texas for John F. Kennedy – but that was virtually in the middle of the last century when things in Texas were, not to put too fine a point on it, different. Since then, no vice presidential candidate has been able to add anything to the ticket and that will include Joseph Biden of Delaware.

But now, something new is happening. Instead of balancing the ticket in the conventional sense –north, south, liberal conservative -- the Biden is being discussed as if he fills out Barack Obama himself. He’s sort of like an organ transplant. Biden’s years of experience in the senate will somehow be transferred to Barack Obama. His affability will become Obama’s own. His foreign policy expertise – those trips overseas, all those hearings, all those books and monographs and soporific audiences with foreign leaders with double-consonant names -- will somehow inure to the benefit of Obama. Biden will not, as in the old days, balance the ticket, he will morph into someone else: Barack Biden. Joe Obama. Barry Biden Obama. Mamma Mia!

This is all nonsense. Joe Biden is a good choice in a prosaic but necessary way. He is fit to be president. But he does not fill in the blanks in Obama’s resume and it is silly to say that in choosing Biden questions about Obama’s lack of experience have been put to rest. If anything, the choice of Biden highlights what Obama lacks just as his overseas trip did not fool anyone into thinking that his brief summer semester aboard has suddenly made him into a foreign policy hand. It’s good that Biden may someday be down the hall in the White House, but for the moment, the only thing he brings to the ticket is a head start in Delaware. You can Google it. It’s a state.

By Richard Cohen  | August 25, 2008; 10:18 AM ET
Categories:  Cohen  | Tags:  Richard Cohen  
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Comments

If Cheney and Rove can be Bush's brain, I don't see why Biden can't round out Obama's ticket.

Posted by: Sara B. | August 25, 2008 10:42 AM | Report abuse

One of Obama's biggest strengths should be obvious by now: he surrounds himself with people who can make a difference and get a job done. His campaign has been virtually flawless because he's a good leader and inspires loyalty and he chooses people who know what they're doing. Biden was a wonderful choice: someone who's had a lifetime of brave and fierce service - in the way that we need it now - not military, but here on the home front. I'm impressed and proud to be supporting Obama/Biden!

Posted by: Diane | August 25, 2008 10:59 AM | Report abuse

I don't like Cohen. Don't like him, don't like him, don't like him at all.

Sick of reading his prejudiced pieces. If you have made up your mind for or against some one already, how the hell are you EVER going to write an objective piece.

Why not go cover the RNC?

Posted by: Neerja | August 25, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Brilliant! Will vote for Obama, but agree with the sentiments.

Posted by: James | August 25, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Interesting use of the name "Barry", just like the wingnuts. What's next Richie, calling him "Osama"? By the ways, with your vast, vaunted experience, why were you scurrying around this weekend? A quick call to your buddy Carl Rove should have been enough.

Posted by: Craigjjs | August 25, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Just what America needs, one more cynical scribe. Why waste the money on this guy? Any drunk sophomore with a curled lip could replace him.

Posted by: emptyk | August 25, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Thank you thank you for this article. I was beginning to think I was alone in the universe for thinking Biden is an organ transplant. Not for the Democratic party--for the presumptive nominee. Biden was selected to "fill in" foreign policy deficits, years of experience deficits, and he comes with the beer-drinking, gun loving,religious dude persona so distained BUT NEEDED by DNC elitists. This article was brillliant.

Posted by: zaney8 | August 25, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

This snide comment from Cohen makes me wonder about the name of this new section of WaPo: "PostPartisan". I guess it was too much to hope that it actually means what it seems to mean -- i.e. an attempt to be post-partisan. Instead it's a bait and switch -- not beyond partisanship, but featuring the same old partisan opinions from the same old Post writers. Post Partisan. Ha ha, hilariously empty.

Posted by: varco | August 25, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, RC for putting into words one of the stranger aspects of the Biden choice. Another is, of course, that if Biden is so good...why did he fail so badly in his own bid for the Presidency? If he has all this experience, know-how, background, why isn't the ticket Biden-Obama?

Posted by: Leni | August 25, 2008 11:53 AM | Report abuse

cohen knows no other approach. his brand of "journalism" or "punditry" is no longer effective. wapo has operated with the assumption that the great unwashed cannot access information so whatever they throw out there will be considered the "truth". no more. cohen reveals himself as a pompous fear mongering stenographer with no credibility as usual.

Posted by: preAmerikkkan | August 25, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me , but just exactly what is McCain's foreign policy experience? His stupid statements and misplaced geography don't seem to demonstrate some vast wealth(sorry) of knowledge or understanding of foreign governments or people.
Obama's selection of Biden shows that he can select people who will help him GOVERN, not just win an election. I WANT a president knows that difference. I WANT a president who is WAY smarter than most of the country, much more than I want a president who would be good to have a beer with. You see where THAT attribute got us.

Posted by: jmsbh | August 25, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Good article, and spot on, too. The DNC made a bad mistake by forcing Obama down our throats.

Posted by: Lassair | August 25, 2008 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Cohen;

What exactly are the blanks in Obama's resumee?

Posted by: johnbear1 | August 25, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Interesting that Obama's choice is torturously depicted less as another wise judgment than as a tacit admission of some Obama weakness.

Posted by: First Mouse | August 25, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

"Excuse me , but just exactly what is McCain's foreign policy experience?"

What rock have you been living under? McCain/Lieberman were just busy undercutting Bush and Rice while they were negotiating a cease-fire. I can’t wait for McCain to be elected and for the wars to start against Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Mexico, Canada, Switzerland, UK and probably 80 other countries….and that will be after his first week in office.

I think Americans now consider foreign policy to be based on “shoot now ask questions later”.

Posted by: Southeasterner | August 25, 2008 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Sara B makes a good point. In 2000, Bush's weaknesses in, well, everything were answered by pointing out what a great and experienced team he had. Cheney, along with the presumption that Rumsfeld, Powell, etc would come along got him elected. We all knew he didn't have any experience, didn't know who the leader of Pakistan was, but his team was going to be so good that he would make a great pick.


That worked out pretty great, huh?

Posted by: acofspades | August 25, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Besides Lieberman, whose only interest is war with Iran, who is McCain surrounding himself with that we should have any bit of confidence in? Do any top Republicans actually want to serve for McCain?

Posted by: McCain/Liberman 1808 | August 25, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Everyone who knows Joe Biden testifies to how nice a guy he is, how genuine, how decent. But those qualities, devoutly to be wished for in a friend or neighbor, are no guarantee that he will help the ticket or help to govern wisely. He has attracted embarrassingly little support from Democrats in prior runs for the presidential nomination and is ranked as the third most liberal senator, Obama being the first. His so-called foreign policy experience dwarfs that of Obama, but conveys little confidence that his judgment is commensurate with his years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Many of his positions over the years are downright Carteresque, betraying a fear to employ strength when called for, trusting more in the combined wisdom of European allies known more for hand-wringing than sagacity. In the Democratic foreign policy catechism, losing as a team appears preferable to going it alone. If Obama prevails in this election, he will do so because of his unique skill set and not because a warmed-over senator from Delaware with a negligible record of achievement save for being re-elected every six years helps him.

Posted by: Paul Bloustein | August 25, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Choke on your ugly glasses, cohen.

Posted by: jeffp | August 25, 2008 1:31 PM | Report abuse

These posts reflect the dark side of the internet age. Many of them sneering, vitriolic, dripping with venom. They communicate nothing other than how much you hate the writer. One post even froths: "I don't like Cohen. Don't like him, don't like him, don't like him at all." This is discourse?

Posted by: SoutherExile | August 25, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Johnson and Kennedy didn't work all that well together, (Kennedy went to Dallas against Johnson's advice, to mend fences that LBJ said were his own business) but they DID work together. Dick and George don't really work together, Dock tells George what he wants done and George does it.

But Carter and Mondale, Clinton and Gore were well coordinated teams. Both improved the economy, and dealt honorably with the problems they faced. GB1 had a VP that mostly embarrassed his President, other than that DQ was owned by big business, who told him what to do through the Vice Presidents Committee on Economic Competitiveness, which was where the business interests got to over rule Congress on regulative affairs.

Joe Biden "Fills in" Barack Obama, because Obama notably listens to his advisers, not just to his owner and the yes men. His knowledge, skills, and abilities are a good complement to Obama's drives. Together they make a well rounded executive. Especially since Biden is under no delusion that he is some kind of Tertium Quid.

Posted by: ceflynline@msn.com | August 25, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Well Cohen is entitled to his opinion and I won’t begrudge him that… but I say this: My hats off to Obama, he could have easily selected Hillary Clinton to be his running mate and he would have harness all the Clinton supporters; that’s tons and tons of votes and key states. Instead, he selected a candidate that could fill in some of the holes he may be weaker at, call Biden an organ donor if you like but the ticket is stronger with him on board than Hillary…in my humble opinion, thus a stronger face for America. Me I would have went for the WIN and selected Hillary but let’s face facts, Hillary’s 8 years in the White House is really not experience besides the pillow talk with Bill I don’t think she was in the Situation Room when the Joint Chiefs of staff were convening. Therefore, she is just as green as Obama if we are talking experience (except for the numerous shopping trips she took to overseas locations). I say this and I like Hillary, hell I use to fly with her on the shopping trips. And to those who question Obama’s capability to lead I would remind them that John F. Kennedy was pretty new to politics and has gone down as one of the best Presidents in United States history.

Posted by: Cobra1469 | August 25, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

My goodness Richard, did you really expect anything but BS from the master of snake oil Obama?

Obama got his second degree in flip flopping -- he was class leader!

And how in the world did an honest evaluation get passed the waPo editors?

Posted by: William | August 25, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I am pretty sure Mr. Cohen can afford another 4 years of Bush but I am certain that I can not!!! If we have to suffer another 4 years I can guarantee at least the following (1) hundreds of thousands of more Americans will be homeless via foreclosures; (2) gas prices will be up to about $7 per gallon; (3) progress made regarding the environment will be a distant memory; and (4) we will be at war with at least two other countries. I dont know about the rest of America but I can't afford another 4 years of the same. I could care less at this point who Obama's running mate is going to be. This economy is in need of a transplant!!! For instance, I went overseas last year to London and forgot that I didnt go to the exchange and attempted to pay US at the Starbucks at Heathrow; the lady laughed at me and stated, "we do not accept US currency here." If we keep this up we will here this from Mexico...

Posted by: Terrie | August 25, 2008 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Richard Cohen is so wise and astute. After all, he was spot on about the run-up to the Iraq invasion! Keep up the great work, Mr. Cohen.

Posted by: Larry Bellinger | August 25, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Biden would do anything to be No.2
since he didn't even come close to the front of the pack since the 70's. That is pretty sad when also grown men hug like they were relatives. And what has he done in foreign affairs that stand out, really? Can any one remember off the cuff? I am disgusted with DNC for not really fighting for Hillary. Now I am an independant. Thank God.

Posted by: pat | August 25, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

No organ donor program here?... Sorry McCain, no more dependency on Liberman's brains!

Posted by: maggie | August 25, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

First, let's all admit that if Obama had selected someone without lots of foreign policy expertise, his opponents would have cited that fact against him. The same sort of gotcha will be in evidence when McCain unveils his running mate in a few days.

I am curious as to why Mr. Cohen never seems to even consider that perhaps Obama was in fact interested in 2 things- a) someone who could adequately fulfill the responsibilities of President if called upon, and b) actually having at his side someone with complementary excpertise, who wouold help in governing rather than simply in electioneering.

I am of course not privy to Obama's thought processes, but perhaps Cohen might consider that the selection of Biden as a running mate is in fact an example of his desire to attack things differently.

Just a thought- but if McCain chooses a running mate who is not an old, White, wealthy, male career politician, I hope you have the grace to run the same column, with names changed.

Posted by: more spin | August 25, 2008 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Look! Communists under your bed?

Aw, never mind. They're just disaffected readers who are tired of reading senseless drivel...

Posted by: ibc | August 25, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

What does Colonel Sanders know about politics anyway?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 25, 2008 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Sorry we failed you, Hillary. We should had worked harder - we should had worked smarter. Now we must accept Obama (the modern JFK) as our Commander-In-Chief, tutored by Biden (our new Dick Cheney) ... then again, perhaps not ... and I do approve this message.

Posted by: Louie | August 25, 2008 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Mr Cohen, I had stopped reading your columns because I couldn't take it - they seemed quite ridiculous. So this one - it's fabulous. I completely agree (which is not why I stopped reading - I read columnists I disagree with all the time).

The problem with Biden (as well as Obama) is that neither of them have ever done anything. None of them have run a company, or even been an employee at a company. Neither of them have any idea what they're talking about when it comes to economics - they are just going to cripple the economy (presidents can't really do much - if you think it's bush who is the impetus behind all these foreclosures, well, you just don't know much about what's going on).

So Obama has no idea what the increase in taxes will do to people/companies. It is so insane. There aren't that many people making over $250k - and they are hardly evil - they work hard, they earn money. Why is that such a problem in this world? those who are the top 50% of earners pay something like 97% of taxes - this is absurd. We need to be taxing everyone, so that everyone has a hand in the world (skin in the game...) - i.e., even if it's only $100 per year in taxes that someone who makes $20k pays, it's better than them thinking that they are owed something by our govt...

Posted by: atlmom | August 25, 2008 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Cohen,
It would seem to be in the interest of full disclosure for you to admit your own bias for Mr. McCain prior to writing analysis on the Presidential race for the Post.

While you're entitled to your opinion, I think your allegation that choosing a politician who is different than the candidate for President is somehow a bad idea is itself a strikingly silly idea; considering how rigid uber-uniformity of opinion worked for the last 7.6 years I think that Obama's declaration that he wants someone to argue, discuss, and challenge his own ideas represents a very adult choice for VP. Contrast Obama's approach to governance where he wants to hear dissenting views, and President Bush's governance where he lashes out at perceived "dis-loyalty." Maybe if Bush had been tolerant of dissenting views he might have heard the argument that invading Iraq was a bad idea and he might have actually thought through what the invasion and occupation of a foreign county actually entails.

Like I said, Obama is treating the Presidency like an adult should treat an awesome responsibility, and his VP selection criteria reflects that. Which is in contrast to your criteria which appears to be that any selection of VP by Obama was a bad idea because it wasn't former-POW and beloved Maverick of the Beltway Press, Senator John McCain.

I can't wait for real adults to be running the country again, and people like you, who rely on old cliches, like weak Democrats and strong Republicans, to drive your narratives are finally retired from the mass media and replaced by journalists who can recognize that running the country is an awesome responsibility that requires actual strength of character (as opposed to McCain's constant pandering to the GOP base) and responsible management (as opposed to the Bush/Rove/McCain lobbyist driven machine).
- Tim
A concerned citizen

Posted by: Tim | August 25, 2008 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Organ transplant?? What Obama needs is a backbone transplant so that he will quit flip-flopping on the issues.

Posted by: Rick | August 25, 2008 8:54 PM | Report abuse

atlmom, you know absolutely nothing about economics. For that matter, you seem to have no understanding of fiscal policy either. Vote GOP if you want to, but please go read a book or something before spouting that nonsense you just wrote.

Posted by: Hilary | August 25, 2008 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Biden certainly is "Number 2". And Obama stepped right in it.

Obama's on the defensive, trying to patch up the missing pieces of own resume with an old partisan blowhard, and trying to reformulate his campaign as a Kennedy version of a Clinton message.

If there is one thing that can be said about Obama: he knows how to channel other people, and adopt and patch their affect into his own affectations.

The fundamental lack of substance shall continue to show through, however. Now, the voters have a baseline whereby to track all the versions of himself Obama's been projecting onto the public. As we see bits and pieces of other people creeping into his affectations, the new Obama-Kennedy-Clinton-Biden creature is trying to put too many feet in too many strength areas, none of which he has real claim of substance in.

Obama's reformulating and the convention is marketing that reformulation as letting the public get to know Obama. The problem is that this is not the Obama of the primaries, of the Summer, and it's just assembled from pieces of other politicians.

Posted by: AsperGirl | August 26, 2008 7:36 AM | Report abuse

Obama-He Threw Himself Under The Bus!

Obama's "Biden Organ Transplant"( great observations, Mr. Cohen!) to beef up his
slim resume had a major reaction & the
"organ" was rejected( no poll bounce, perhaps a burb)!

Obama threw himself under the bus!

What he really needs is some kind of
anti-mind zap gun to erase out of voters' minds the cast of extreme, non-mainstream characters and out of touch comments he threw under the bus previously; (e.g. Rev. Wright & his hatefilled Church & congregants, The Ayers', Rezko, the looney Rev. Fleger, Prof. Khalidi, "bitter & frustrated clingons", Wes Clark, and on and on)!

No matter how dazzling his speech is on Thursday night, Obama will not be able to overcome voters' concerns about his resume,
character, judgment, credibility and his friends and associates of the past 20+ years!

Posted by: concerned14 | August 26, 2008 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I think I disagree with the idea that Sen. Biden will not help Sen. Obama's candidacy. Biden's voice--the strength and plain talk of it, and experience in it--is exactly the right voice for this campaign. Obama is losing ground in this race, this early on, partly because of his anemic, professorial demeanor.

Sen. Biden will fill in for that weakness from now until the election. So much so that he will give the voters who are on the fence some comfort about Obama, whom they feel uneasy about.

If you think that vice presidential candidates are not helpful to their ticket, then why all the fuss about them? And why have these candidates actually harmed the ticket in the past? Take Joseph Lieberman, as Al Gore's choice in 2000, to give one example. Had Lieberman not been on the ticket, Al Gore would surely have won in that close race.

Posted by: paul taylor | August 26, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

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