Alex Massie

Hold Your Hour and Have Another*

Text settings

James Poulos is absolutely correct: the Vice-Presidency is a job best filled by the best second-rate politician available. Remember, second-rate does not mean bad.

I sort of had half a sneaky hope that Biden might actually somehow fluke his way to the nomination itself, but that's largely because since I don't expect to agree with any of the candidates on most of the issues** that matter most to me there's something to be said for supporting the fella most likely to provide quality entertainment. In the Democratic race that was, by a mile, Biden.

He's the sort of man I've met many a time in Irish pubs. Biden will tell you, at some length for sure, all about his plans for the future, how he's on the cusp of greatness just waiting for that last piece to fall neatly into place. The fact that  - stubbornly - it has never yet done so deters him not a bit. Next time, lads, next time...UPDATE: See what I mean! Priceless!

He'll often seem as though he's auditioning for the position of Official Pub Bore but then every so often there'll be a flash of wit or a moment of self-deprecation that punctures the bluster and bombast, rendering Biden warm and human.

You can picture him propping up one end of the bar for thirty years; long enough for all to be forgiven, all ancient battles and blunders forgotten as we grow older, more charitable, more sentimental. Biden's the sort of fellow who'll make a wildly inappropriate and suggestive comment about your wife. To your face. On your wedding day. But he'll do so in such a guileless fashion free from any hint of malice that, dash it and almost half despite yourself, you forgive the silly old fool. He was, you realise, probably trying to ay something complimentary.

Heck, even his 1988 disgrace was so preposterous - plagiarising Neil bleedin' Kinnock! - that it seems utterly artless. So bizarre there had to be an innocent, brain-frying explanation for it. Despite all those years in Washington, there's an endearing child-like quality to Biden. Or, to put it another way, observing Biden in full flow is a glorious sight; it's like watching a labrador bound after a bouncing ball even though, being a puppy, it doesn't quite have the co-ordination to grab the ball cleanly. Instead there's a frenzy of yelping delight as the ball carroms around the yard, always tantalisingly just out of reach...

Politically, of course, it also seems smart to pick a running-mate who is, for all his faults or eccentricities, obviously human. This is doubly so given Obama's slightly aloof bearing. Biden biography - the nightly Amtrak commute back to Wilmington especially - is such as to more than compensate for the longevity of his service in Washington. Despite thirty five years in the Senate, he can say, not entirely preposterously, that he's not gone entirely native. It helps that he's one of the few Senators who hasn't become rich (by Washington standards).

And since Obama's lack of Washington and foreign policy experience was always going to be a maor issue for him in November there's no real point in trying to run away form that or pretend it simply doesn't exist. With Webb out of the running, Biden was the best possible pick for Obama to compensate, a la Cheney, for that weakness. This strategy worked for Bush in 2000, I see no real reason why it shouldn't for Obama this time. It is, I think, a realistic and sane pick. You can tell this by the fact that all the hacks at National Review seem to think it a disastrous blunder.

Even Biden's malapropism today was brilliant. I mean, "Barack America"? That's genius.

The good news, then, is that the election just became much more entertaining. Let's hope McCain picks Romney. I'd love to see Biden debate that grinning robot.

*Brendan Behan, obviously.

*Yeah, Biden, for instance, invented the whole ghastly "Drug Tsar" business and I doubt he's anything other than a paid up supporter of the teaching unions. But, like I say, find me the candidate who agrees with me and I'll show you a losing candidate.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleInternational