Kensington, NH -
Just a quick turn off of the small, rural Rte. 150, in the heart of the little place we call Lamprey Corners down in the Seacoast region sits a house with Nantucket shingles and a living room with big French doors opening into a view of great, hay-strewn fields and hardwood forests that had recently been put into a conservation easement. The house belonged to Jim Webber, Democratic candidate for state representative from the southeastern most district in the state. Webber was hosting the house party as part of a concurrent event to kick off his general election campaign with the help of Joe Biden and whatever media coverage and excitement that might entail.
Webber nervously began his stump speech, which he repeatedly promised would last less than three minutes, once word had arrived that the Senator was near the house, about a half hour after scheduled. I guess he was too close, or else Jim was too loquacious, or both. Halfway through the presentation, Joe Biden had arrived.
In he walked, from the far side of the room from me, decked out in seersucker pants and a navy polo shirt, with tiny brown wing tips on his feet. "Who's this Jim Webber guy, anyway?" Joe demanded to know with a big smile on his face as he walked up to the center of the room and poked the lesser candidate in the chest before disappearing into the kitchen to let Webber finish his speech. A few minutes later, he emerged sipping a can of Canada Dry ginger ale and munching on a bavarian pretzel. He swallowed, smiled, and announced, "to put it bluntly, I'm here to audition."
And audition he did, talking about the importance of the 2008 election and the need for Americans to pick the best man or woman for the job. "There is no room for error," as the Biden rallying call goes. He spoke of the loose nukes and prevalence of fissile material in the world right now, as well as the de-democratization of South America. As the next President of the United States, Delaware's senior Senator promised, he would restore America's place in the world and re-invigorate the middle class.
Biden immediately went on to talk about the necessity of a political solution in Iraq, touting his own plan as the best and only of such. He talked about the need for a weak federal and strong local way of governing Iraq, and cited the Dayton accords as the best evidence for how political solutions are the only way to solve long-term violence: "The Balkans were the most violent region in the world from Vlad the Impaler to Milosevic. But, knock on wood, there has not been one death at the hands of Nato forces since then."
From there he went on to talk about his vote for funding the war, mention his son's role in the Army Reserves and his recent notification of deployment. Funding the war, he argues, is a misnomer. It really is funding the troops, and Biden sees the only legitimate way to end our role in Iraq is to convince enough GOP senators to get out from behind Bush's shadow and make the right decision. Biden estimated that fewer than twelve Republican senators truly believed that Bush was doing the right thing, and that the rest would come around sooner rather than later. In the meantime he stressed the need to fund the transformation of our military transport vehicles from flat-bottomed death traps to v-shaped IED deflectors. He dismissed the idea of impeachment, saying to loud applause that "history will impeach these guys," and for now it was most important to make the right decisions on the ground.
With the stage now set, full of stories about military brain injuries and the potential horrors of a withdrawal of troops and our responsibility to see it out correctly, Biden became gravely serious, hushing his tone and squinting his eyes. There will be NO margin for error. Our next President had better be smarter than the advisers. It was a chilling moment, from a man whose sense of drama had clearly been concocted over years and years on the stump, and decades worth of firsthand knowledge of what sorts of bad things can come from foreign policy. But chills and spills will only get a candidate so far.
I, for one, left without convincing in spite of the earnest and heartfelt plea of the Great Blue Hen Orator. Despite his recent claim to eat Rudy's lunch in a debate, which he mentioned again (and I tried to get an interrupting round of applause going when he said it but was only joined by one other woman who sat distantly in the kitchen), Joe sounded a little Rudy-esque in his fear mongering. Although I appreciated what appeared to be a real belief in the Biden way to responsibly solve the mess in Iraq, I couldn't help but feel a tad unsettled by what seemed to be his charge that if we pick the wrong person we will be fucked. I've heard it before, from the likes of George W. Bush. I didn't like it then, and I don't really like it now.
Besides, how is he so certain that he won't make an error? If there truly is no margin for error, then aren't we all screwed? No one is infallible, and certainly no Presidential candidates, what with their money-whoring and triangulating. I even have reason to believe that Biden isn't the best on foreign policy, as he likes to think is the position that has been bestowed upon him by the people. So does no margin for error mean that a slight mistake will lead to American deaths beginning in January, 2009? How many more errors can Bush make before we are damaged beyond repair? Certainly there has to be a limit, or it is all a moot point.
Getting on to the 67 votes reasoning of Joe Biden, it is quite possible that he is too caught up in the senatorial way of thinking. 34 years is a long time, and perhaps he doesn't sense the urgency of the American people to get out of Iraq. Or even the mindset of folks like Ron Paul that our continued presence in the Middle East is making it more deadly, v-shaped hummers or not. Or, does he have the true vision that only true knowledge of the system can allow? Joe Biden certainly thinks so, and he'll be on the stump in Iowa and New Hampshire for six more months telling people that they had damn well better make the right choice. The best the rest of us can do is hope that he has made a mistake in his reasoning. It might not be too far-fetched of a hope.
Back on the Sawmill, a Smuttynose and a lot of sweat. Its a hot, hot summer day.