Karl Miller -- a terrific blogger and thinker who I've been fortunate enough to get to know through my extracurricular activities -- has got a post up about Delaware Senator and vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, that's worth a long look in advance of his speech tonight at the Democratic National Convention. In it, Miller reflects on a key moment in Biden's recent past that deserves highlighting.
Enter Joe Biden. I remember feeling instant admiration for the man when, channel-surfing four years ago, I saw him in a C-SPAN clip (is there any better way to catch C-SPAN?). It was during one of his Judiciary Committee hearings and he was smacking around John Ashcroft for defending Abu Ghraib. At the time, there wasn't much of a formal debate about torture. This was well before Cheney attempted publicly to codify torture and toss out the Geneva Conventions. The theatrical sadists of Abu Ghraib were defended and dismissed as bad-apple frat house kids. And unlike Cheney's subsequent row with Congress, there was no specific policy at stake and therefore no focal point for sustained discussion. We swallowed the shame and re-elected Bush. But for a brief moment, our cruelty and hypocrisy were held in lyric suspension by the most powerful image to cross the national Imaginary since the panoramic hellscape of 9/11...
Joe Biden was one of a few people to correctly intuit and loudly decry the basic moral failure of Abu Ghraib. Instead of making it another pissy bullet point for Bush's managerial incompetence, he made it a deeply personal issue of right and wrong. As the father of a soldier, he knew that the horrors of Abu Ghraib now gave the enemy license to practice the same indignity on his son. Held to this fatherly imperative, the Bushies didn't look tough or confident anymore -- they looked like pube-less bullies playing dress-up with dad's clothing.
The clip that Miller is referring to was one I don't think I'll ever forget. Biden was straight righteous that day, barely keeping his anger at the diseased reign of torturing brigands that have so sullied the name of this great nation in check. Up to that moment, I'll admit, I harbored my fair share of misgivings about the man. But against the backdrop of Abu Ghraib, and the plain truth of Biden's words, I couldn't hold those misgivings anymore. They seemed extremely petty. And you know what? Compared to the grievous sin of torture -- committed in our name, endangering our fighting men and women -- they were.
Jon Stewart knew that attention must be paid:
That's the man that you'll see speaking tonight on the convention floor. He's the guy Barack Obama picked for the campaign against the man who never lets you forget how he got tortured, all the while hoping you'll not remember how he punked out when his moment came to say: "No way, no how, no torture." For all the talk that he's the sort of guy who might say the wrong thing, on this regard, Joe Biden is speaking very loud and clear. Tell your friends.