Nine days before Obama must have announced his running mate, it seems that most speculation is focusing on Joe Biden. I have four categories I tend to lump VP possibilities into: the sublime (John Kitzhaber, Vic Snyder), the very good (Jack Reed, Kathleen Sebelius), the unacceptable (Tim Kaine, Chet Edwards) and the outrageously unacceptable (Evan Bayh, Sam Nunn). Biden falls somewhere a little short of the "very good" category. I generally like him a lot on foreign policy, and even though he voted for the AUMF, he did try to pass a much more limited authorization for force, and he talked before the war in much more cautious, measured, and even prescient terms than Bayh or other war supporters did. His record on the Balkans (via Jon Cohn) is damn near perfect, and very in sync with the kind of advice Sam Power will be giving Obama. And, of course, there's hardly a more effective surrogate on foreign policy in the entire Democratic party.
Most of his negatives have been mentioned over and over: the plagiarism scandal, his vote for the bankruptcy bill, his long-windedness, his tendency toward gaffes. And these are all real issues; I think he's done a good job of deflecting the plagiarism issue with humor, and that the Senator from Delaware deserves a little slack on issues regarding the credit card industry, but they're real marks against him all the same. Also, I worry about the message that picking a 36-year Senate veteran who's chaired two of the body's most powerful committees (Judiciary and Foreign Relations) sends about Obama. Rather than reassuring voters nervous about Obama's relative inexperience, it could focus attention on that perceived flaw. This is pretty petty, but I also am concerned about who Obama would pick as his Secretary of State if Biden's the running mate. With Tony Lake out of the running, John Kerry and Dick Holbrooke seem like the top contenders. Holbrooke would be godawful, and I'm lukewarm on Kerry at best.
All that being said, if Obama can't pick Sebelius because Georgia and Musharraf's resignation put foreign policy back at center stage, and Jack Reed really is (*tear*) off the list, Biden's about as good as they come. Obama could do a lot worse.
P.S. If Obama does pick Biden, though, I think they're going to have to have a talk about this:
Listening to a bloviating colleague at his first meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Obama slipped a three-word note to a member of his staff: "Shoot. Me. Now."