If elected, Biden will carry on Obama’s policies in the Middle East
Washington - Speculation is rife in Washington that US Vice-President Joe Biden is leaning towards entering the race to be the next president. His decision is predicated on family matters and how Hillary Clinton’s legal troubles unfold.
If he does enter the race, Biden would have a formidable job dislodging the Clinton campaign but his folksy appeal and scandal-free background will probably allow him to prevail over Clinton and possibly the eventual Republican nominee.
Prior to this summer, the betting in Washington was that Clinton was the clear favourite to capture the Democratic Party nomination. She had name recognition, an influential political machine — led by husband and former president Bill Clinton — and she generated enthusiasm from parts of the Democratic Party base, such as women’s groups.
But things started to change during the past several months. For one, a rumpled Democratic socialist, US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, entered the race and started to draw huge crowds from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party who liked his diatribes against Wall Street. Sanders is running slightly ahead of Clinton among Democrats in New Hampshire, the state where the first presidential primary will be held. Despite her political networks Clinton has not been able to draw such large crowds.
Second, Clinton has not been able to deflect legal troubles related to her email use while secretary of state. Leaving aside the Benghazi affair — Republicans still accuse her of covering up alleged misdeeds during that tragic episode and question her claim that she only deleted personal emails during that period — her more serious travails have to do with her possible use of classified material on an unclassified computer server.
This issue is being investigated by the FBI and could result in criminal charges.
After being flip about her email problems, Clinton has acknowledged she should not have used a private email server while at the State Department but she insists she did nothing legally wrong.
This potential scandal has hurt her reputation with the electorate and her negative ratings are higher than her positive ratings. In a recent poll, 61% of respondents said Clinton was not “honest and trustworthy’. Granted, the poll was conducted among Democrats, independents and Republicans, and the latter would naturally have a bias against her, but this high, negative perception among voters is deeply troubling to Democrats ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Enter Joe Biden. Although in late 2008 Biden said he was satisfied with becoming vice-president and was no longer interested in the presidency, he has long coveted the Oval Office, having run for it twice before. Given Clinton’s problems and Sanders’s slim chance of winning a general election (it is hard to imagine a self-declared socialist winning the White House), many Democrats are urging Biden to run.
Biden’s positives are his intelligence, his long record of public service and his ability to connect with ordinary Americans. He is also scandal free (his only political mishap occurring in 1988 when he plagiarised a speech of British Labour party leader Neil Kinnock). His negatives are his long-windedness when he gives speeches but he is clever enough to use self-deprecating humour to deflect this criticism.
The major issue for Biden is whether he and his family are up to a long and gruelling campaign. The death of his son, Beau Biden, in May, has naturally had a profound effect on him but this tragedy has cut two ways.
According to Maureen Dowd, columnist for the New York Times, on his deathbed Beau urged his father to run for president and many of his son’s friends are encouraging him to do so.
On the other hand, Biden and his extended family are still grieving and may not be emotionally ready for a campaign.
Biden has strong foreign policy credentials, having served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. While an expert on Europe, he has extensive knowledge of the Middle East and has frequently travelled to the region. He has been a loyal lieutenant to US President Barack Obama and, if elected, would probably carry on Obama’s policies in the Middle East.
For example, as a believer in the importance of alliances, Biden supported the P5+1 approach to Iran and has supported the Iran nuclear deal, as well as the alliance approach to combating the Islamic State (ISIS). On the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, Biden, like Obama, is a strong supporter of Israel but has had his share of problems with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over settlements and other issues.
Biden is expected to make his decision to run in a few weeks.