Sunday, July 20, 2014

An Appreciation of Joe Biden

Cross-posted from Charles Pierce's blog at Esquire:
DETROIT -- Joe Biden, tanned and in very good voice -- which, as we know, is very good voice indeed -- was interrupted briefly during his address to the Netroots Nation confab by some immigration activists who chanted, "Stop deporting our families!" until they were escorted from the hall. As they left, some people applauded.
"You should," said Biden. "You should applaud those young people. Imagine what it must be like to come home one day and find your family gone."
Imagine was a big word for Biden yesterday. Imagine, he asked, a country where domestic violence was no longer called that, was no longer treated as a family matter. "Imagine," he said, " a country where we don't lead with the example of our power but, instead, we lead by the power of our example." There aren't four politicians in America who can pull off that line and not sound like the precinct captain in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. But Biden is so transparently sincere in his bombast that people applauded him. The abiding characteristic of the persona that Joe Biden has created for himself over the last six years is that he draws the principle response of, "Holy god, he really believes this stuff." It is not the Obama-cool talk about being the change you want to be in the world. There's an undercurrent of principled hilarity in what he does, a feeling that he's in on every joke you can tell about him, and that, in fact, he's in on every joke he can tell about himself. He creates no distance, even when he's declaiming, which is often, and even when his fervor outruns his sentences, as it did when he talked about closing down the Earned Income Tax Credit (bad) instead of the Carried Interest Loophole (good). He smiled and held his forehead for a moment, and then he moved right along, because nobody is more amused by Joe Biden Moments than Joe Biden himself.
(There was one jarring note, however. In talking about the battles he fought, he referred to the "fight that kept (Robert) Bork off the court, and the fights to try and keep Thomas, Alito, and Roberts off the court. In fact, in the lowest moment of his career, Biden took a dive on Thomas during the Anita Hill brouhaha, declining to call other women who could testify similarly to Hill as regards Thomas's basic skeeviness, and leaving Hill out there in the wind to twist. Bad days.)
His speech was delayed because, between the downing of the Malaysian jetliner and the fact that Israel had invaded Gaza with ground troops, the world elsewhere was climbing into the handbasket again. He touched on the situation in the Ukraine, briefly, saying that, as far as he could tell, the plane had been "blown out of the sky." After which, he moved on to his address which, like many Biden speeches, was constructed like a beach house whose architect had been very high throughout the planning stages. Themes rolled out, only to come to a complete stop when some other thought struck him. When it was time to declaim and denounce, he declaimed and denounced, even though what he was declaiming was fairly banal, and what he was denouncing was completely unclear. But the message shone through as it always does -- as it did when he confronted Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin, in the vice-presidential debate in 2012, and Ryan started doing his earnest I-Had-Ayn-Rand-In-Preschool student government bit, and Biden simply threw up his hands and laughed. This is the message that always shines through -- Joe Biden loves this sh**.  [This is still a classy blog.]
No kidding. He's one of the last politicians I know who really enjoys getting up and doing this, who really enjoys jumping through the preposterous hoops that are set up for every national candidate. The general feeling here is that Biden will not run for president if Hillary Clinton does. This is unfortunate. If there was ever a contrast to be made with the dour, mechanized, winning-through-effort style of the former Secretary of State, it is Biden's Humphrey-esque joie de pancake breakfast. As much as he deplored the politics of division in this country, which he did throughout the last third of his speech, Biden finds in politics the kind of joy and the kind of outlet for the goofier angels of our nature that have been bred out of our politicians by four generations of political consultants. Biden is Lyndon with his beagles, and FDR with a cocktail shaker. He is the last real eccentric, and he knows it, and he plays it to the hilt because it is so much of what he is. Tattered and worn and old as it is. Joe Biden's freak flag still flies high and proud.

Scott Walker

Cross-posted from Charles Pierce's blog at Esquire:
Any doubts about whether or not there's a presidential campaign a-brewin' on behalf of Scott Walker, the google-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to supervise its Midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, and any doubts about whether he's fearful that his career may be turned to pulp by a hail of writs, were all allayed yesterday. Walker decided that he would play to da crazees in The Base by asking his pet legislature to repeal Wisconsin's commitments to the Common Core standards in education. Wisconsin, it should be noted, has already invested $25 million to implement the standards that Walker now wants to blow up. Fiscal responsibility!
Anyway, this has caught even some Republicans in Wisconsin by surprise, although why anything Walker does at this point surprises anyone is beyond me.
However, the governor's surprise move prompted the state superintendent and a leading lawmaker on education issues - who is a member of the governor's own party - to suggest political motivations. "It may work well for the political end of things, but it's sending messages to our kids that our system is chaotic, and it's not," state Superintendent Tony Evers said late Thursday. "The idea that they'd just be able to replace the standards at the beginning of the legislative session is absurd," said Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake), the chair of the Assembly's Education Committee. "We're in an election season. People desperate to be re-elected will say anything."
There are any number of good reasons to be dubious about Common Core, but this decision fairly reeks of pure politics. Walker is trolling for votes, not from the people who question Common Core's reliance on standardized testing, but from the people who think that Common Core is a multinational plot to indoctrinate their children in the ways of Kenyan one-worldism. Or something. There are a lot of these people who vote Republican in Iowa, and in New Hampshire, and in Wisconsin. To run for president, he's got to get re-elected this fall. This is a two-fer here.