Dr. John Lott is a famed author, educator, scholar and blogger. He has also been a friend of this blog and has always displayed an academic open mindedness that I have always admired and that many professors should try to emulate. Lott worked with Senator Obama at the University of Chicago.
Dr. Lott penned an editorial praising Senator Biden’s refusal to let his partisanship exceed his sense of decency. According to Dr. Lott, this has caused Biden to come into conflict with the leadership of his party on several occasions. It has been my experience that dedicated leftist ideologues often display “situational ethics” and a certain ruthlessness. If Senator Biden is a man who exercises some restraint in how he conducts himself, if there are lines he will not cross, my respect for him just went up.
Lott includes this story as an example:
Back in late May 2001, when the Senate was evenly divided with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, every vote counted in trying to pass President Bush’s tax bill. Senator James Jeffords hadn’t yet officially become an independent. Democrats were putting up amendment after amendment to try to defeat the tax bill, and the debate was lasting late into the evening.
Senator Joseph Biden noticed that 98-year-old Republican Senator Strom Thurmond was looking quite ill. But Thurmond couldn’t leave because the Republicans needed his vote. Biden, seeing the predicament, offered a solution. He offered to “pair” his votes with Thurmond. Biden promised not to vote while Thurmond left the floor so that the passage of amendments would remain unchanged. It was the decent thing to do.
But Biden’s offer created a scene on the Senate floor where Senators Tom Daschle and Hillary Clinton talked to Biden and convinced him not to go through with his offer. Possibly only those involved in the conversation know what happened, but it seemed like a lively discussion, so I can only assume that Biden did not back down that easily, and I have no idea what arguments were made against his proposal.
Presumably, the other Democrats felt that if the vote simply lasted long enough into the evening Thurmond would collapse or simply be unable to go on, giving the Democrats the majority on the floor. This was an opportunity too good to miss.
Even though they could hardly have been more different politically, Thurmond genuinely liked Biden and requested that Biden give one of the the eulogies at his funeral.
I have watched Senator Biden for many years as I have followed politics. He is often called “the gaffmaster” by the press because he has a habit of making highly in-artful and insensitive comments; this also includes a habit of using racially insensitive humor and self praising, condescending, rhetoric. This has all been well reported and now that Biden is the VP pick, expect the youtube clips of Biden’s gaffe’s to become a staple of this campaign.
While Senator Biden maybe many things, I have never known him to be a liar. While Obama’s flip-flops and reversals crossed the line into rank dishonesty some time ago as we have cataloged in detail on this blog, perhaps Biden’s presence will bring a much needed, maturing influence on Obama’s campaign.
Lott also commented on Barack Obama and the years they spent together at the University of Chicago:
Hopefully, Biden will balance off Barack Obama’s partisan tendencies. The Obama that I knew while we were both at the University of Chicago Law School during the 1990s was someone who disliked talking to people with whom he disagreed. Possibly it was just his extreme dislike of gun ownership, but I had more than one occasion when my attempts to talk to him ended in him turning his back and walking away.
The media’s portrayal of Obama as willing to work with those who disagree with him is not the person that I remember from a decade ago.
Obama’s voting record also displays this pattern. It has been often reported that Obama has the most left wing and partisan voting record in the Senate. Bipartisanship, while a major theme for Obama’s campaign, has never been a “virtue” displayed in his political career. While Obama was a state senator in Illinois, he voted to not allow people to defend themselves with a firearm in their own home. He also voted to protect late term abortions that, according to polls, most pro-choice voters believe should be restricted.