The Self-Deprecating Joe Biden

President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden met in Philadelphia this past Tuesday with a bipartisan delegation of governors from around the country hosted by the National Governors Association. The Vice-President-elect was to make a few opening remarks.

This is what he was to suppose to say:

And Governor Palin, your being here today sends a powerful message that when campaigns end, we are all partners in progress. Thank you."

But he actually said:

"And Governor Palin, I want to thank you particularly. I might point out, as I told you, we walked in. Since the race is over, no one pays attention to me at all. So I'm -- maybe you will walk outside with me or something later and say hello to me."

Frankly, few paid attention to Senator Biden during the campaign though I did because I actually like Joe Biden apart from a few reservations. Still his comments are the perfect foil for a question that I have been pondering this week. Now that Obama has assembled the A-Team of foreign policy, just what is Joe Biden's role in an Obama Administration?

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The War Next Door

Thirty seven people were killed in the border city of Tijuana this past weekend in the latest spate of drug related violence. Overall, the death toll in Mexico's drug wars have now surpassed 4,000 for the year, up about 50% over 2007.

It's increasingly clear that Mexico's drug violence is reaching epic proportions and President Calderon's efforts seem insufficient to date in dealing with the drug violence that is growing both in scope and in tenor. Mexico now looks like Colombia did back in 1983, aware that there is a problem and yet beyond noting the mounting death toll seemingly unable to stem it. Colombia has made strides in fighting the drug trade but 25 years on, Colombians are still fighting it and not terribly pleased about it. And now Mexico is looming as a foreign policy challenge for the incoming Obama Administration and Latin America seems largely off Obama's radar. Then again, the Bush Administration was hardly engaged in the region either.

To combat the rising tide of drugs, the Bush Administration has proposed the Merida Initiative:

The Initiative's Scope The Merida Initiative is a multi-year program to provide equipment, training, and technical assistance to support law enforcement operations and for long-term reform and oversight of security agencies. This year, Congress approved an initial $400 million for Mexico and $65 million for Central America, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which was passed in the FY08 Supplemental. The President's FY09 budget proposal for the Merida Initiative includes $450 million for Mexico and $100 million for Central America.
Drugs, Violence, and Gangs in the United States The effects of Mexican drug trafficking organizations and Central American criminal gangs are felt in nearly all parts of the United States. Many state and local governments are diverting scarce resources from key areas, including education and housing, to focus countering the effects of Mexican and Central American gangs and trafficking organizations. An estimated 30,000 transnational gang members operating in the United States engage in serious crimes such as murder, drug trafficking, extortion, human smuggling, and prostitution. Mexican drug trafficking organizations operate on both sides of the border, resulting in violent gun battles which have killed or wounded dozens.

$400 million is a start but I suspect it will require hundreds of millions more in assistance. Or we could think outside the box and perhaps starting looking at drug addiction as a medical problem and not just a criminal one. At some point, the United States has to start taking responsibility for the demand side of the equation. It isn't always a supply issue. When it comes to the drug equation, demand seems to be off the table.

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Joe The Author & The American Dream

Actually, it's more like Joe with ghost author Thomas N. Tabback who has one work of historical fiction with a religious bent to his name but whatever. Joe's book, Joe The Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream isn't as yet available but being the one-man marketing machine that Joe is, you can pre-order it. Buy it now and you can chat with Joe on his up-coming blog, plus you'll get a one year subscription to "Joe The Blogger" Newsletter. But wait there's more, act now we'll throw in free shipping on all "Shop Joe" merchandise. Thankfully, his shelves are bare for a quick perusal of his on-line store reveals not a single item beyond the aforementioned upcoming book.

Joe, however, does have a dream and a website Secure Our Dream. Here's his message to President-elect Obama:

Congratulations to Barack Obama. The American electorate has decided that he will be our next president. As I have stated, I will honor and support my president, but there will be no free ride. When President-Elect Obama takes office in January, his term of service to the American people begins. We wish our new president blessings of wisdom and good judgment, and we pray he hearkens to our voice if ever we feel our American Dream is being threatened. It will be a loud voice, so good luck trying to ignore it.

Since we have launched this website, tens of thousands of you have expressed your desire to join this movement. I am truly humbled by your support, your kind words of encouragement and your becoming a part of something that I believe we all feel can truly change the course of this country for the better.

For those of you just visiting this website, remember that real change in America will only begin if the backbone of this country becomes personally involved in demanding more from our elected officials, and by helping one another in times of need. This is our mission. This is our fight. This is our time to secure our American Dream.

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'Political Archaeologists' Find 'A Hell of an Empire'

"For a bunch of small-government Republicans," one former denizen of the White House who has now stepped back inside for the first time in eight years, "these guys built a hell of an empire."

The political archaeologists in this case being former Clinton staffers returning to survey their once and future home only to discover an infrastructure of government several magnitudes greater even as the Republic which it governed lays in waste. The former Clinton staffers soon to be Obama staffers are dumbstruck by size of the enterprise they are about to inherit but I say wait until they uncover the not yet fully visible damage that the Republicans have wrought. I am sure as the Democrats regain the levers of power and bring to the full light of day all that has transpired since January 20, 2001, we will find ourselves in shock and disbelief if not outraged, perplexed and angered. Who knows the full extent of the damage that the Bush Administration has wrought?

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The Energetic General James L. Jones

It's official. Obama's choice for National Security Adviser is  General James L. Jones. I must admit that of all of Obama's choices, I find this one the most compelling because of General Jones' breadth of experience. During his military career service, General Jones served as NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and Commander of the U.S. European Command from January 2003 to February 2007. Previously, General Jones served as the 32nd Commandant of the United States Marine Corps from July 1999 to January 2003. All this is well known. Less widely known is that since March 2007, General Jones has served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. General Jones selection as the NSA thus bridges two key components of US national security that must be included in our national security debate going forward -- military and energy. As the Institute's website notes:

Energy underpins America's economic prosperity, national security, and global competitiveness. Yet our nation lacks a comprehensive energy strategy. Policies are often based on short-sighted objectives, complacency, or contradictory rules and objectives. The Institute is committed to putting the best ideas forward for an all-encompassing, long-term plan that can put the United States on a path to a secure, prosperous, diverse, and clean energy future.

The Institute has just unveiled its Transition Plan for Securing America's Energy Future, an energy policy roadmap with 88 concrete recommendations and detailed timelines for President-elect Barack Obama and the 111th Congress. From the preamble Solutions for Securing America's Energy Future:

Global demand (for energy) will increase by more than 50% between now and 2030 - and perhaps by as much as 30% here in the United States. We must develop new, affordable, diverse, and clean sources of energy that will underpin our nation's economy and keep us strong both at home and abroad. Our energy future must address growing shortfalls in infrastructure capacity and emerging environmental issues. And looking ahead, even the most optimistic among us must conclude that we are not well positioned to anticipate nor prepared to meet tomorrow's energy needs.

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