09/20/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bid'n his Time: If it's Joe, Don't Ignore his Constitutional Gravitas

Unlike the Republicans, who could not even find a qualified candidate for president, much less VP, the Democrats have a very deep bench. I have written about Bill Richardson (still my favorite), Wes Clark, and even Robert Rubin. If, as the punditocracy seems to be certain, the nomination goes to Joe Biden, we will have a very bright, very knowledgeable, very accomplished, and very effective VP-candidate.

Most importantly, he will help Obama govern effectively.

This article, however, focuses on how Biden helps the ticket in the election.

Everyone knows Biden's expertise in foreign policy. It has overshadowed his equal expertise on the law, the Constitution, and the Judiciary. It should not.

Joe Biden has been in the Senate for 4 decades, and of course is best known for his expertise in foreign policy as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has been a hard worker, a good student, and a thoughtful analyst. Few could match his knowledge and expertise. He has apologized for his vote on the Iraq War.

Foreign policy looms large in this election because of the wars into which Bush/McCain have plunged the country, the weakening of the US defense and economic posture around the world, and the impetus those policies have provided to worsen the threat of terrorism.

Together, these issues produce a great deal of generalized anxiety and unease among the American people that are not well-reflected in polling because, with the exception of Iraq, they are not as concrete as gasoline prices, and thus more difficult to articulate at a conscious level.

Joe Biden's expertise can be a soothing antidote to reduce some of that anxiety.

Another part of that generalized anxiety is also that the Bushes and McCains have broken faith with the American people, changing the fabric of the country from one of honored Constitutional processes, to a growing executive dictatorship. Torture, lying, hiding from accountability, invading privacy -- none of these sit too well with the American people. It may not show up in many polls either because the questions usually are framed as the extent to which one is willing to abandon American principles and processes to improve one's personal safety, as if there were such a one-to-one tradeoff. Again, like terrorism -- real, but amorphous compared to gasoline prices -- the anxiety does not easily emerge from polling, but it is there.

Barack Obama has taught Constitutional Law. In the earlier stages of the campaign, he used to ask aloud whether it were not time for someone who actually taught the Constitution to be executing it again. He serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Joe Biden has also been on the Judiciary Committee, for decades. He has dealt with issues from the Constitution itself to crime, and has been directly involved in assessing the fitness of thousands of judges, and probably all the Justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court.

Biden's expertise in this area can also be a soothing antidote to some of the generalized anxiety that we are losing our way as a country, and need to get on path back.

If Joe is the VP-choice, the Obama campaign ought to emphasize Biden's Constitutional expertise and experience not just his better known role as a foreign policy expert. That would provide two shots at addressing the anxiety and unease affecting the American people.

Reducing someone's generalized anxiety is a good way of getting that person's vote.