Thursday, October 15, 2009

Should VP Biden Resign?

While Arianna Huffington, the founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post (which, I will admit, is one of my favorite websites to frequent), wrote a verbose and thought-provoking piece on Wednesday arguing that Vice President Joe Biden should resign because of his convictions if President Obama escalates military operations in Afghanistan, the question begs asking:

Is Huffington off-base in her suggestion, or is she onto something?

Part of her reasoning is Vice President Biden's reservations regarding the war in Afghanistan, which President Obama called the "war of necessity" in last year's campaign. It is also based partially on an in-depth feature on the vice president in this week's edition of Newsweek. According to Huffington, an intelligent and well-mannered media voice in a landscape sorely lacking in both, Biden would be better served to resign due to his convictions than keep his job and write a mea-culpa tell-all after the fact.

Which might be a valid argument, if Vice President Biden was being silent in his dissent. This isn't like former White House press secretary Scott McClellan, who kept his mouth shut as the Bush administration pushed its flawed case for the war in Iraq, only to later issue his own mea culpa in his book What Happened (which, incidentally, is a thought-provoking and well-written book).

Biden has been outspoken throughout the entire process, as outlined in the Newsweek article. So even if he didn't resign, his conscience would largely be clear, because he will have made his case known to the rest of the administration, even if he would ultimately support whatever decision President Obama made.

Dissent is not necessarily betrayal or a sign of weakness within the ranks; President Obama has made it known on multiple occasions he doesn't want an administration full of people who agree with everything he says or does. Healthy disagreement and debate are helpful to the process, and it's nice to have a President in the White House who realizes and embraces this fact. I wouldn't read that much into Vice President Biden's reservations regarding troop increases as suggested by Gen. Stanley McChrystal; Biden has been in Washington long enough to understand how the game is played, and his foreign policy experience has been and will likely continue to prove vital to President Obama.

I argued when John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his vice presidential candidate that a good candidate picked a VP that was strong where the presidential candidate was weak; since McCain's weakness was the economy, it would've behooved him to pick a running mate who was well-versed in economic policy. Instead, McCain went with Caribou Barbie, who wound up being Rush Limbaugh in a skirt.

Meanwhile, Obama selected Biden, in large part because of his foreign policy experience (and his penchant for speaking the truth, which a lot of Washington insiders don't like). Though Biden's role is less visible than Obama's, and there are times where Biden's frankness has spelled trouble, his presence pays dividends, as he's able to say things and ask questions and take hard stances so President Obama doesn't personally have to.

Make no mistake; this is not Vice President Cheney, who was notorious for trying to operate a shadow presidency and was fond of keeping his lips sealed. If Vice President Biden holds a certain opinion or disagrees with a course of action, he will let all interested parties know. I think Biden would be better served staying on, if for no other reason than for his own, and the administration's, credibility.

Think about it; if Biden were to resign, that would give Republicans plenty of ammunition for election advertisement attacks. Considering all the grief Palin got for resigning as governor of Alaska, the heat on Biden -- and by extension, President Obama -- would be nearly unbearable. Considering how vehement the right wing is in its attacks on this administration when it's not provoked, I'm not keen on giving them any more ammunition.

Not to mention ... say Biden were to resign. Wouldn't that adversely affect any criticism he would have from this point forward? Politically, where would Biden go from the White House? His Senate seat has already been filled, and it would be quite the undertaking for him to run for that seat again. If he resigned, anything Biden would say in the future would be met with cynicism and his credibility would be shot.

It's not like Biden disagrees with the administration on everything; he's expressed disagreement and reseverations about the war in Afghanistan. Is that one instance really grounds for leaving the vice presidency? Are we really that intent on surrounding President Obama with yes men? I realize Obama faces a ton of criticism and some part of us believes he shouldn't have to face it within his own administration, but really?

If Biden stays on board as the Vice President, as I expect he will, his beliefs and criticisms will not be automatically discounted; as Vice President, Biden has access to the President that few others enjoy; Biden would not be able to shape policy nearly as effectively from the outside as he can currently.

I respect Huffington for her intelligence and the work she does on her website, but in this instance, I respectly think she's horribly off-base. Joe Biden resigning the vice presidency over the war in Afghanistan would help no one -- expect maybe the Republican Party.

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