I think Ezra Klein is largely right in his case for Joe Biden as Vice President.
In the 2008 election, he was the only Democrat who really figured out how to talk about Republicans and foreign policy. All the other candidates on the stage started from the presumption that Republicans were strong on national security, and voters needed to be convinced of their failures and then led to a place of support for a Democratic alternative. Biden dispensed with all that. He started from the position that Republicans had been catastrophic failures on foreign policy, and their ongoing claims to competence and leadership should be laughed at, and even mocked.
When Rudy Giuliani said, simply, “America will be safer with a Republican president,” Obama responded with a traditional, more-in-sadness-than-in-anger statement. “Rudy Giuliani today has taken the politics of fear to a new low and I believe Americans are ready to reject those kind of politics. America’s mayor should know that when it comes to 9/11 and fighting terrorists, America is united.” The release goes on in this way for eight more lines.
Biden, by contrast, laughed at Giuliani. He mocked him. “The irony is, Rudy Giuliani, probably the most underqualified man since George Bush to seek the presidency, is here talking about any of the people here,” said Biden at one of the debates. “Rudy Giuliani… I mean, think about it! Rudy Giuliani. There’s only three things he mentions in a sentence — a noun, a verb, and 9/11. There’s nothing else!”
That’s Biden’s great strength. He’s the single best foreign policy advocate the Democrats have. Obama has some of these strengths as well. He’s the most confident Democratic presidential candidate on foreign policy issues in a generation, perhaps since Johnson. But its is hard for Obama to be an attack dog. It just isn’t his personality.
But it is Biden’s. He’s made a point of it recently, going after McCain on warrantless wiretapping, Lieberman on the Democratic foreign policy tradition and Bush on appeasement. He revels in being an attack dog. He skewers Republican foreign policy arguments with gusto and is completely comfortable doing it. Plus, as Ezra points out, he has a long, and mostly positive, relationship with the press, who universally regard him as a foreign policy expert.
To me, the case for Biden boils down to the fact that the only real chance McCain has at winning the general election is making it all about foreign policy. Biden helps neutralize that. He allows Obama to outline his own positive vision of American foreign policy, while outsourcing the most virulent attacks to Biden, who is better than any other Democrat at it.
Biden does have downsides. His plagiarism of Niel Kinnock would inevitably come up, he is old, he has a reputation as being gaffe prone, he wouldn’t do anything to help expand the map and he isn’t the greatest campaigner. But Biden has a single big strength, which may well overwhelm all his weaknesses; his ability to attack on foreign policy.